Sometimes you become so bored of guarantees and assurances and experiences that you yearn for something exciting. Something that has not been tried. Something that is unknown and looks like a gamble. But still, you want it to happen. Arsenal’s appointment of Mikel Arteta is on the same lines. Arsène Wenger managed Arsenal for 22 years. The Frenchman on touchline at Highbury and then at Emirates became a habit. His presence gradually went from being fascinating to frustrating.
As the club moved to the Emirates, tough times came upon everyone involved. Truncated budgets, no big signing, becoming a banter club for the title opponents - the fans started getting frustrated. The murmurs about whether Wenger should leave the club had started to find support. Then Manchester United began to unravel and things changed.
The powers at United wanted a smooth succession plan. They chose a safe option after hugely successful tenure of Sir Alex Ferguson and appointed David Moyes who did pretty well at Everton considering the resources he had there. To make him feel secure, he was given a contract of 6 years. His time was a big disappointment and since then, United was never the same. Louis van Gaal came next and faltered, even José Mourinho could not work his magic. Today, Ole Gunnar Solksjær is managing one of the biggest clubs in the world. Under his managership, Cardiff City was relegated from the Premier League but he has a decent record in his native Norway. That is his pedigree. And yes, he played for United.
As United failed to properly recruit after Sir Alex, Arsenal became more pragmatic. The club already lost the tag of title challengers and were content with Champions League spot (which looks highly ambitious now that it is competing in Europa League and lying in mid-table). In between, Wenger delivered 3 FA cups which came as a shot in the arm for him and the club directors who got little more room before they could decide to bid him adieu. And it happened in 2018.
There were many names thrown forward. The club was conscious about not repeating Manchester United’s mistake. They were patient in their search and among some big names like Max Allegri, Unai Emery was appointed. And the fans were okay with it on a broader scale. While Emery wasn’t exactly the best manager, he did have some pedigree behind him. Managing Valencia and winning 3 consecutive Europa League titles with Sevilla was a testament of his knowledge and nous of the game. Then going on to PSG and winning the domestic titles added gloss to his resume.
Emery started well at Arsenal and went almost all the way in Europa League, failing at the final hurdle. His first domestic campaign, in the opinion of many, was decent enough until he faltered in last few games, thus failing to qualify for the Champions League. But the fans gave him benefit of doubt and with a super summer transfer window, it felt like now is the time for the club to take off in the right direction. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
At time of writing, Arsenal are nearer to relegation zone than Champions League spots. Emery looked clueless before he was sacked. His appearances and conferences lacked confidence.
And so comes Arteta.
The only bright spot in Arteta’s resume was that he was Pep Guardiola's assistant. You do not become his assistant just like that. The Manchester City boss himself has been very vocal about Arteta’s knowledge of the game and his tactical prowess. If Arteta would have been Solkjær’s assistant at United, I am not too sure he would have been sought in the same manner. For the fans, Arteta is an exciting appointment. They have seen more than 2 decades of Wenger - the first being hugely successful and the second a disappointment. During the end of first decade, the game started to change. Wenger was old school; new boys like Roman Abramovich and oil fueled corporations were changing the rules. Emery, as said earlier, was okay by not being in the top league. He was sacked in 18 months. What options did Arsenal have?
Ancelloti? Too old and may be too boring. Allegri? Not available till summer. Pochettino?Young and flamboyant but had Tottenham connections (not a popular thing in this part of North London). So they went for Arteta. Ex-club captain, who spent 5 years and steadied the ship when he came in 2011 after that dreadful 8-2 drubbing by United and, at the cost of repetition, Pep’s assistant. He is only 37 years old with zilch managerial experience but taking charge mid-season; he will be forgiven if Arsenal finished mid-table in this campaign. By next summer, he should know who have in them to stay at Arsenal and who should pack the bags. And that should be exciting times.
People are not expecting too much from Arsenal this season. More than the results, the fans want them to show desire and fight. They fell in love with Arsenal because of free flowing football they played. Today, they are struggling to stitch decent passes. But the Spaniard, with his element of unknown, and the highest of recommendations from Guardiola should bring something new and exciting. Like himself.
Cheers to that!