Happy Mike Arteta Day for those who celebrate, right?
3 years to the day since he took over the mess Unai Emery, Sven, Raul, and Wenger had left him.
Where are we?
Well, I think we are where I hoped we’d be.
I campaigned for Mikel Arteta twice. The first time he lost out when Raul crowbarred Unai Emery into the interview process via a super agent recco despite the Spaniard not being able to speak a word of English.
The second time, as I understand it, Don Raul stepped back from the process to let Edu make the decision, mostly because he knew he’d need a person to blame if it all went wrong.
Edu made an outrageously bold decision because Arteta is a compelling footballing mind.
My reasons to believe in 2018 and 2019?
We signed someone with a tremendous reputation in the game with a ceiling that was unknown.
There was no point in Carlo, Mourinho, Nuno, or Roberto Martinez because we knew where they were at career-wise. Better to either sign the very best coach in the game, like a Pep or a Klopp, or roll the dice on an unknown quantity that has all the raw elements bar experience.
Every single manager people said we should hire has gone to another club in the Premier League and failed. The only one left is Conte, but let’s be real, who is watching that garbage football crying they would like him in December 22? Just the weirdos.
We hired in someone with Manchester City IP
People laughed when I suggested we should do what tech start-ups do when hunting around for new leaders – hire from places that are the best.
Why should it be different in football?
Mikel Arteta went in at City as a coach and by the end he was sitting next to the greatest coach of our generation. No one does it better than Guardiola. If he thinks you are good enough to sit next to him, you have something special. If you sit next to him for an extended period of time, you are getting the best education there is on offer.
We didn’t just hire in a Pep mk II. We hired in someone who learned the basics under Pep, then evolved the thinking to suit the environment he’s in.
Make sure the person has special sauce
When I was pushing for Arteta, someone from Arsenal told me that he was a bit of a beast, and he could be very harsh when he was playing at Arsenal. That didn’t stop fans calling him a cone boy who wouldn’t be able to handle the toxic dressing room we had.
My response was the guy had played all over the world, worked in all sorts of dressing rooms, and he’d always been seen as a leader. The currency of football today is ideas. If you have big ideas, captain-like leadership, and you have the discipline to stick to your principles… you’ll do ok. Mikel Arteta has the special sauce the top managers in the world have and I think people are finally seeing that. Not too many people come to the Le Grove comments section to snicker with ‘yeah, where’s the special sauce, Pedro’
Do something different with the long term in mind
We could have gone for someone like Allegri or Tuchel, but the demand would have been for the now, and that would have come at a much higher expense. Arsenal had a golden generation of kids coming through the ranks, so the idea of bringing in a manager who was learning at the same time made sense, because they’d have the patience to actually coach.
There was also the byproduct of a young squad: forgiveness from the fans.
Mikel Arteta had a bad run year one of his transfer strategy when he went for some wonky players, but when he realized the passion from the fan base was with likable young players, the whole club pivoted hard into signing players on the cusp of greatness. The fans loved it. They give a shit. There’s no more apathy in the ground. We finally have a group of players we love, playing football that thrills us, and guess what… we’re bringing the noise.
It might not bring home a Premier League this season, but the fact we’re top of the league with the youngest team in the league tells you exactly where we’re heading… 5-6 years of competing for the very biggest trophies in the game. That is a thrilling prospect.
So after 3 years, do we think it was worth going through the pain? How can you say anything other than ‘absolutely.’ The toxic fans have been silenced, the misery in the ground is over, and the club is finally on a path that feels like it has a destination.
I couldn’t be happier. Enjoy the day. We’ll be recording a podcast tomorrow!