LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 20: Mikel Arteta the Arsenal Head Coach during his press conference at … [+]
Arsenal FC via Getty Images
At the press conference confirming his appointment as Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta managed to hit the right notes. Given the post-press conference reaction it’s clear that the vast majority of Arsenal supporters are willing to cut the former Arsenal midfielder a lot of slack as he goes about reshaping not only the team, but the culture that pervades Emirates Stadium.
Arteta sketched out some of his priorities and it seems clear that he has a plan. But as Mike Tyson once said, “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
So what are some of the challenges facing Mikel Arteta as he starts a new chapter in his career?
Appointing a backroom staff is not the most glamorous of tasks but it will be one of the most important.
Arteta talked about a change of culture and raising the energy level around the club. To do that he is going to need a staff that is knowledgeable and fully supportive of his choices and decisions.
He also needs to make sure that there are an array of personality types. Upping the energy level is a commendable goal but it doesn’t mean hiring a brigade of energizer bunnies.
His choice of “consigliere” is going to be a very important decision. With no managerial experience Arteta is going to need solid counsel and support at his side.
It’s also worth remembering that Arteta is not going to be able to spend as much time on the training field as he did with Manchester City so he needs a crew that will translate and implement his ideas and plans.
Based on his appearance with Edu and Arteta at Goodison Park on Saturday it looks like Steve Round is going to be Arteta’s trusted lieutenant.
Former Aston Villa Director of Football Steve Round with Arsenal Technical Director Edu with Head … [+]
Arsenal FC via Getty Images
Although it doesn’t fall into the category of backroom staff it will also be telling to see what Arteta does with Emery’s rotating captaincy approach.
It has already become a media theme – what Arteta helped to achieve at Manchester City and how he will take that experience and turn Arsenal into Manchester City mark 2.
Big mistake, in the short term anyway.
The job at Manchester City was to find ways to win. Arteta’s first job is to turn Arsenal into a team that is difficult to beat.
Emery failed at Arsenal for a number of reasons but the biggest failure was an inability fix Arsenal’s atrocious defending.
Instead of getting better after the departure of Arsene Wenger, the situation got worse under Emery and this season it evolved into the Monty Python and the Holy Grail tactic of running away!
With significant daylight already between Arsenal and 4th place in the Premier League, the Europa League may provide the best opportunity for a return to Champions League in 2020/21.
Arsenal plays Olympiacos in the round of 32, February 20 and 27.
LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 15: Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City scores his team’s third goal while … [+]
The Young Ones
Freddie Ljungberg gave some Arsenal youngsters an incredible opportunity on Saturday to show their stuff with Mikel Arteta watching the 0-0 draw against Everton.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith Rowe, and Gabriel Martinelli all started the game while Joe Willock came on as a second half substitute and Matteo Guendouzi remained on the bench.
“Going with the kids” is often the battle-cry when teams are struggling.
It’s an option, but it isn’t a very good one.
Alan Hansen has been mocked for more than 20 years for his “you can’t win anything with kids,” comment about Manchester United at the start of the 1995/96 season. Manchester United went on to complete the domestic double that season.
But Hansen was more right than he was wrong. Although the “Class of ‘92” did step up it was buttressed by solid and very effective veteran players. The average age of the Manchester United squad that season was still over 26 years.
Arteta needs to decide the youngsters who can dig in immediately and become part of Arteta’s Arsenal and those that need more seasoning and perhaps some time away from the Emirates.
For what it’s worth it seems to me that Saka, Martinelli, and Guendouzi have the biggest upside but all three have a long way to go if there are going hit the mark of becoming consistent elite level players.
Saka has great ball skills and quick feet, strength on the ball and is adaptable and can contribute in a variety of positions.
Martinelli is direct, very quick and has good instincts in the penalty box. But he is going to have to add a lot more to his game – cunning, and a greater variety of movement for starters – to become a reliable scoring threat at the very top level.
Guendouzi could be a star but at the moment he lacks tactical and positional discipline and there is a rashness that creeps into his game far too easily. There again, better mistakes in commission rather than through omission.
Pieces That May Not Fit
Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; two consistent and capable goalscorers but two players vying for the same position. Aubameyang was signed when Lacazette was injured during the 2017/18 season. When both play Aubameyang has usually been shifted to a wide position.
Although both have continued to score goals, it seems that instead on 1+1 =2 it is more a case of equaling 1.5. Then you add another big money buy, Nicolas Pépé, the problems multiple. Will Arteta decide to sell Lacazette or Aubameyang or can he find a way to make it all work?
Arteta has to make a decision on the future of Mesut Özil if he hasn’t already. Having the highest earner at the club in limbo as he was in the 18 months under Emery is a distraction and a energy sapper. Time to go, even if it means taking a sizable financial hit, or can he contribute and help the new regime?
Granit Xhaka is another “should he stay or should he go,” decision.
Winter Transfer Window
The opening of the transfer window is only days away. Arsenal spent a lot of money last summer but the payments are spread over the coming seasons and these payments have first call on any transfer budget.
Without selling some players Arsenal may well be checking out the bargain bins with short terms loans a strong possibility. Can Arteta, Edu, and Raúl Sanllehí pull some rabbits out of the hat?