So it appears we are on the verge of Tricky Micky Arteta re-joining the club as manager, of all of the noise it to be believed, as pretty much every media outlet is reporting it and has been doing so since last night.
Here’s the thing: I like Mikel Arteta. The noises that come from every corner of the footballing world suggest he’s an accomplished coach and by all accounts is a great man. He’s got Arsenal pedigree behind him and that will also give him some goodwill in the bank when he arrives at the club eventually. But that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to have big concerns about his appointment.
The biggest and most obvious worry is that it represents a risk because he has never been a manager of a team before. He’s had some excellent mentors, of that we can have no doubt, but he himself has never had the hot seat and as time has shown us again and again being in charge and being the one in the firing line does not feel the same as any other position you can hold in football. Years ago Brian Kidd was viewed as an excellent assist manager, was inseparable from Alex Ferguson, but when he left United to take on Blackburn it was pretty much a disaster and the guy quickly went back to being an assistant manager.
Blackburn were a relatively small team, still in the Premier League, but fighting for survival and they took a gamble. It didn’t pay off. Arsenal are not – well, not yet, anyway – fighting for survival, we’re not a small team and so this gamble by the clubs hierarchy feels absolutely massive right now.
Imagine Arteta comes in this week, looks around at the broken pieces of this first team, then is unable to pick us up over the next two weeks. Imagine we get done by Everton, Bournemouth, then at home to Chelski and United. By then we will be in a dogfight and we’ll have a guy who has never been in that position as a manager. How do we know he’ll be able to turn it around?
We don’t, because we don’t have any data to suggest what sort of motivator he could be. Sure, he has a big influence at City and sure, lots of people have said how he does a lot of tactics and team talks, but ultimately Pep is the man with the final say. Ultimately Pep is the one that keeps all of the pressure and has to drive his team on.
That’s why I’m nervous. Not because I don’t like Arteta, or don’t think he is going to be a great manager, but because we are effectively using Arsenal as the ‘test bed environment’ for a manager. It’s a risk and a gamble of epic proportions. The Arsenal hierarchy have already said how much the lack of Champions League football has cost us, yet it looks like they’re ready to go all in on black to borrow a roulette phrase, in the hole that some sort of seismic shift can happen with a group of players who have shown that frankly they are incapable of displaying the mental strength to pull us out of this mire.
Let me try to centre myself a little bit though, because I appreciate I’m coming across a little negative, because “what if?” Of course.
- What if Arteta can replicate the same situation as Arsène when he arrived? After all, Arsène was unknown in England, albeit he joined at 46 and was already a winner from his time in France.
- What if Arteta can get that new manager bounce and that carries us through Christmas. If we had 9 points from the next 12 points available things will be looking very different as we hit January.
- What if he will actually get the backing of the board and be given money to spend so he can bin some of the absolute wasters we’ve got in our team? Particularly in defence…
There’s a lot of variables in this appointment and ultimately it’s a few too many for me to be unequivocally excited and expectant of a new dawn at the club. But at least there is something there in a new coach like Arteta.
The worry I have is also those above him. This Arsenal board may not have the cash to invest in improving this team. They have also shown themselves to be as hesitant as the last regime and the delay in pulling the trigger on Emery was a black mark against them. But so is the fact we’ve not had a new manager for three weeks. If they wanted Arteta, who was a consideration last time, why not go out and get him a couple of weeks ago? What have we achieved by waiting? The only outcome of the boards inaction has been more defeats and more sliding down the table. We sit 10th this morning. We are literally the definition of mid table mediocrity. It’s pitiful and I’m afraid we have to look at those above Emery as well as the players, to see that the problems at Arsenal won’t be resolved with Arteta alone.
But we have to back him. We have to cross everything and hope he can turn this around. To quote a Star Wars reference (given it’s out this week):
He’s our only hope.
Catch you all tomorrow.