It’s time for a new era to begin.
Today, Arsenal finally announced the appointment of Mikel Arteta as the club’s new head coach on a three and a half year contract.
Initially, the Spaniard was set to take over from legendary manager Arsene Wenger after his 22-year tenure at the club concluded last year. However, for one reason or another, the club instead opted to appoint Unai Emery at the very last minute. After the 48-year-old consistently failed to live up to expectations, he was finally sacked by the club at the end of November.
In quite poetic fashion, the man that only just missed out on the Arsenal job eighteen months ago became the one to replace the manager that was selected in favour of him.
Following the initial rumours from last summer, I’ll admit that I’ve doubted Arteta’s arrival quite heavily in the past. Yet, over time, I’ve warmed to the idea of him managing the club.
In fact, I even had a very long article prepared for his official unveiling last summer that detailed everything from his entire footballing career to my overall thoughts on him. Unfortunately, Arsenal spoiled everything with the last-minute switch to Emery and that former piece I once wrote now ceases to exist.
If I had more time on my hands, I would’ve replicated that previous piece to the one you’re currently reading right now but I was unable to do so. I wish I just made a copy of it.
Getting back on topic though, I can’t help but admit that I’m thrilled about this move. While I still have my doubts in some areas, Arteta’s career as a coach so far helps create part of this optimism that I currently have.
Since his arrival at Manchester City back in 2017, the Spaniard has always been held in the highest regard by the club. He’s played an integral role in developing and motivating some of their best players, helped the club prepare for certain fixtures, and was even touted by Pep Guardiola himself to replace him in future.
For years, Arteta has always seemed like the type of person that would flourish as a head coach. Prior to his retirement back in 2016, I remember seeing a lot of people joke that he could manage Arsenal one day – and here we are.
In a way, his arrival feels different but right at the same time. It’s strange realising that a football player I used to love watching every week a few years ago is now managing the team I love.
Arteta knows and understands the foundations of this football club and I hope he can restore that sort of feeling and pride to the current squad. Speaking of which, I hope he introduces an attacking-based system. After eighteen months of watching Emery’s football, it’d feel refreshing to see Arsenal once again perform like they once did so many years ago.
In addition, the ambiguity surrounding his arrival allows for a lot of excitement, his greatest weakness is also one of his biggest strengths. Arteta has never managed a team before in any capacity. No one knows what sort of team he wants to build, what tactics he’ll introduce, or what sort of impact he’ll have on the current squad.
But, that’s why it’s so exciting for a majority of Arsenal fans including myself, you never really see deals of this magnitude happen in football anymore. Arsenal has needed a proper rebuild for quite some time and we’re literally going to see it as Arteta’s first managerial role plays out.
At the same time, this idea of a rebuild does concern me when thinking in the short-term. Recent rumours that as much as “half the squad” are considering their futures is quite concerning. While I’d be more than happy to see a majority of players depart, allowing a mass exodus to take place over the next two transfer windows could have a detrimental impact on the overall squad.
I have no idea how Arteta will fare when it comes to motivating players but it’s clear that he has a big challenge on his hands to overcome. Regardless of him saying in the past that he wants everyone to be “120% committed”, actually applying that sort of mentality is completely different to saying it. I just hope he’s able to convince certain players like Bernd Leno and Lucas Torreira to stay at the club and be part of the future.
Earlier in the week, I tweeted that Arsenal’s appointment of Arteta is one of the biggest risks made by any football club this decade and I stand by that. This is the sort of deal that could either shoot the club back to the very top or it could solidify Arsenal’s fate for the foreseeable future as a genuine ‘Europa League club’.
Arsenal could’ve gone down the Emery route once again and opted for another safe appointment like Carlo Ancelotti or Marcelino. But, their dedication to this risk and to Arteta in particular proves just how dedicated the board is to turning the club’s fortunes around.
Elsewhere, it’s worth mentioning that this move is just as big of a risk for Arteta himself.
At Manchester City, the 37-year-old was always in a comfortable position from winning silverware every season to coaching some of the best players in the league.
Rather than stay on and wait for the best job possible, perhaps even with the Citizens themselves, the 37-year-old is jumping into the deep end by taking the Arsenal job. The squad is as inconsistent as ever, his first few games in charge are really challenging and it seems like he’ll have to wait until the summer to properly begin building the team he wants.
Considering how highly some of the best professionals in the game have spoken about him, there’s no doubt that the 37-year-old will be under a lot of pressure to try and live up to these expectations.
What’s important now is for everyone to get behind the new man. Regardless of your thoughts towards him or his appointment, Arteta needs time in order for this project to be a success; the last thing anyone needs right now is even more toxicity.
Let the ‘Mikel Arteta Era’ commence.