Arsenal have hired Manchester City assistant coach and former Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta to be the club’s next manager. The contract is for three and a half years and is reportedly worth approximately £5 million per season. Per the club announcement, Arteta won’t take charge until Sunday, which means that interim manager Freddie Ljungberg, who stepped in when Unai Emery was fired at the end of November, will be in the dugout for the match against Everton. Arteta is Arsenal’s 20th permanent manager — the club has also had 8 caretaker/interim managers.
Said Arteta: “This is a huge honour. Arsenal is one of the biggest clubs in the world. We need to be competing for the top trophies in the game...I’m realistic enough to know it won’t happen overnight but the current squad has plenty of talent and there is a great pipeline of young players coming through from the academy...My first task will be to get to know the players better and get them playing kind of fast flowing, attacking football that Arsenal supporters around the world want to see.”
As a player, Arteta made 150 appearances in five seasons at Arsenal and was club captain for two. He played alongside current Gunners Héctor Bellerín, Mesut Özil, Calum Chambers, and on-loan Mohamed Elneny, and he overlapped with Reiss Nelson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Matt Macey, and on-loan Eddie Nketiah, who were in the youth system. Two months after retiring in 2016, Arteta joined Pep Guardiola’s coaching staff at Manchester City, where he has been for the last three and a half seasons.
Arteta’s appointment makes him the youngest Premier League manager by almost 4 years and the only one still in his 30’s. Chelsea’s Frank Lampard is the second youngest at 41. Arteta also becomes the fourth youngest manager of a club in a big five league (England, Spain, Germany, France, Italy), about six months older than each of Florian Kohfeldt at Werder Bremen, Thiago Motta at Genoa, Luka Elsner at Amiens. He’s just the fifth manager with no prior head coaching experience to take charge of a “Big Six” club in the Premier League era.
Arsenal have not yet announced who will fill out Arteta’s coaching staff, but there have been rumors that he will be joined on the bench at the Emirates by at least some of the staff from Manchester City. Current City assistants Rodolfo Borrell and Domènec Torrent have been linked by some outlets, and those links have been refuted by others. So who knows.
The bigger question is what will become of Freddie Ljungberg. We probably won’t have an official answer until Arteta’s press conference later today, perhaps not until after the Everton match. There have been reports linking him to the head coach job at Malmö in his native Sweden.
Hiring Arteta is the first step on a very long road back to respectability for Arsenal, and hopefully the more vocal sections of the Arsenal fanbase will realize this and give Arteta the time he needs to build the club he wants to build. Arsenal won’t be fixed overnight; it will still take a while (have you seen that defense?), so hopefully Arteta gets the patience that he will need. As much as I hate this descriptor of a sports team, Arsenal are a project now, and that project requires patience and time to get right.