This piece is one of a five-part series breaking down the managerial candidates that have been linked to the upcoming opening at Arsenal.
Mikel Arteta Amatriain
Current Position: Assistant manager at Manchester City
Mikel Arteta is a name that is near and dear to Arsenal fans, one that conjures memories of perfectly coiffed hair, proud captaincy, and a love for the club. When Arsene Wenger announced that he was going to hang up his puffy jacket for good at the end of the current season, it was not long before the managerial carousel began to spin at full speed. It came as a surprise to many that Arteta’s name began to make the rounds as a potential successor to his former boss. So, is he capable of turning this club around?
Arteta’s professional playing career began in Spain in 1999, playing for Barcelona’s C team and B team before being loaned out to Paris Saint-Germain in 2001. Despite a late push by PSG to purchase the young midfielder, they had their offer beaten by Scottish side Rangers in 2002.
His time in Scotland was short but successful, as he developed his skills over the course of two seasons and helped the club win the Scottish Premiership in his first season.
A short and unsuccessful half-season stint at Real Sociedad saw Arteta move onto the English Premier League in the 2005 winter transfer window as he was loaned to Everton. This move proved fruitful, as Arteta soon became a major contributor for Everton, winning Everton Player of the Year in consecutive seasons (2005-2006, 2006-2007) as well as the Sky Sports 2006-2007 Midfielder of the Year award over Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
Unfortunately, injuries began to set in, first with a stomach injury in the end of the 2007-2008 season that required surgery, and then a ligament injury the following season that sidelined him for the rest of the season and the first five months of the 2009-2010 season. A dip in form saw Arteta lose favor with the club, and he was sold to Arsenal in the summer of 2011.
Arteta’s first season with Arsenal was successful. Despite an ankle injury in April of 2012, Arteta managed to make 29 appearances for the Gunners and score 6 goals. The following season, he became Arsenal’s vice-captain. Arteta was the team’s captain for their FA Cup Final victory over Hull City in 2014 and became the club’s captain going foward. Beset with injuries, he featured on 11 times in the 2014-2015 season, and appeared sparsely in the 2015-2016 season, scoring in the season finale against Aston Villa. He ended his professional football career, retiring at the end of the 2015-2016 season.
Player Trophy Case:
- UEFA Intertoto Cup (PSG)
- Scottish Premiership (Rangers)
- Scottish League Cup (Rangers)
- FA Cup x2 (Arsenal)
- Community Shield x2 (Arsenal)
This is where Arteta’s biggest deficiency lies. Compared to the other managers on Arsenal’s short-list, Arteta is the only one without any experience as the head manager of a football club. Over the past two seasons, he has been assistant manager to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, but his exact role and duties, and thus the extent to which he has influenced the product on the pitch, is unknown.
Managerial Trophy case:
- 2017-2018 Premier League Title
Impeccable. Modern. This man knows how to wear a suit. And have you seen his hair?
Oh, right. Managerial style. Gotcha.
Due to his lack of managerial experience, we are left to look at what his current boss, Pep Guardiola, has done at Manchester City in the past two seasons with Arteta under his wing.
Guardiola’s record-breaking Manchester City side has blown the doors off of teams with a high-press, relentless attack that exploits the channels between the opposition’s center-backs and the full-backs. Running primarily out of a 4-3-3 formation, Guardiola keeps his midfield narrow and his forwards wide. This approach allows the offense to spread the defense out enough for the midfielders to attack the channels, which City did with great success all season, scoring over 100 goals. In the midfield, Guardiola utilizes both Kevin De Bruyne and and David Silva as dual free-roaming 8s with Fernandinho as the defensive midfielder sitting deeper to assist the defense. The attack relied on Leroy Sane, Sergio Aguero, and a reborn Raheem Sterling to push forward and keep the opposition’s defense spread out.
Defensively, Guardiola has spent an absurd amount of money to acquire a surplus of world-class defenders, having spent over £220 million on defenders alone in the past two seasons at City. These defenders have lived up to their price tag, however, and helped keep Manchester City’s goal differential nice and wide, as it currently sits at +78 with one game left to play (for comparison’s sake, Arsenal’s is a paltry +22) thanks to the defense’s league-best 27 goals against and the offenses league-best 105 goals for.
If Arteta brings a similar tactical mindset to Arsenal, he would have to acquire a few more pieces - a true CDM (not that we haven’t heard that for the past decade), at least two more high-quality defenders, and another wide attacking player. If Aubameyang, Lacazette, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, and Ramsey can all stay healthy for the majority of a season, the attack could be quite potent with a high-press, channel-attacking offense.
Lineup: Cech, Monreal-Mustafi-CB TO BE NAMED-Bellerin, Ramsey-CDM TO BE NAMED-Ozil, Aubameyang-Lacazette-Mkhitaryan
Right off the bat, Arteta’s familiarity with Arsenal is a major plus. He understands the team, the ownership, and the fans better than almost any candidate - after all, he only left the club two seasons ago. He has felt the pride of winning FA Cups and the Community Shield, as well as the crippling anguish of coming up short year after year. While most managers are former players themselves, not many have had the opportunity to lead their former clubs, especially not ones with the stature of Arsenal.
Another pro to Arteta is his tutelage under Pep Guardiola. Guardiola is considered to be one of, if not the top managers in the world. His lengthy track record of success at the domestic and European level speaks for itself. This year’s record-smashing, title winning season with Manchester City may indeed be his greatest work to date as a manager. If there ever was a manager for Arteta to have learned from, you would be hard pressed to find a better one.
Arteta is also young. At 36 years of age, he is the second youngest candidate on Arsenal’s shortlist, with 30 year old Julian Nagelsmann being the youngest on Arsenal’s shortlist. Arsenal have made it well-known that they are looking for a younger manager to take the reins, and Arteta fits that mold well.
As stated earlier, though, it is hard to overlook Arteta’s lack of experience as a manager. Taking over for a club like Arsenal is a tall task for even the most experienced manager, so it stands to reason that Arteta would potentially be in over his head trying to run a major club in his first managerial role.
Another potential strike against Arteta is the rumor that there were supposedly players on the current Arsenal team who were averse to the idea of Arteta being named manager when it was first discussed. While it was never made clear who in particular was opposed to the appointment, the reason was that Arteta was “too arrogant” for them to want him as their manager.
While the narrative of the former-player-turned-club-savior is one that is sure to give many Arsenal fans the warm fuzzies, Arteta’s lack of managerial experience compared to the other major candidates makes the likelihood of his appointment relatively low. If he had a few more seasons of experience as a head manager like Vieira, his hiring would make more sense, but as of right now, it would not make sense for a team looking for a quick return to the footballing world’s elite to take a chance on a manager with no experience.