Arsene Wenger was known for his cerebral, humanised approach to management. Mikel Arteta is now proving that he is the perfect replacement as Arsenal’s self-aware, emotionally available head coach.
One of the most attractive elements of Arsene Wenger’s time as Arsenal manager was the refreshing approach he took to the job. Le Profesuer as he was known was not built like many managers of the time. He was cerebral, studious, intelligent, spoke on social, economic and world issues.
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Wenger’s presence is what inspired many young fans to fall in love with Arsenal — and football more generally. He played the game with the same insatiable belief in his philosophy and values of life. More than just a football manager, he was a philosopher, a thinker, and there an expectation that the club follows in his ideals even after he departed.
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After a failed experiment with Unai Emery, who was equally as self-aware and admirable from a purely character perspective, the Gunners hired Mikel Arteta to lead them into their new post-Wenger era.
On the pitch, Arteta has made great strides. He has already started to undo the confused mess Emery lest behind, while also beginning to implement his own tactical approaches. He has gotten the best form from previously struggling players and injected a degree of hope for the future of the team.
But like Wenger, there is more to Arteta than just football. The Spaniard is a coach, of course, but he also shows his awareness of current issues, speaks on a human level, treats his players with respect, as people and just sporting commodities.
This week, Arteta ended his self-quarantine after contacting the coronavirus. He conducted a large interview with Arsenal.com upon his return to ‘normal’ life. He spoke at length about the virus, his isolation, what impact it had on his and his family’s life, while also speaking on the situation as a whole. And he did it all with grace, elegance, and an assured awareness that is refreshing to see from a football manager.
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Just read the following quotes:
“Absolutely and I think we are all realising how much we need each other. We are in a world here where everything is social media, everything is a WhatsApp text. But how important is touching each other, feeling each other and hugging each other? I miss that a lot with a lot of people that I love. I cannot do it now and I am sure that will transform a little bit of how people behave with their close ones, with the people that they love and that they care about. We have to be emotionally more open.”
It is extremely reminiscent of how Wenger used to speak, unafraid to comment on issues beyond just football. And while it is obviously not Arteta’s job, and nor was it Wenger’s, as a fan, it is lovely to see Arsenal have a manager who extends themselves beyond just football.
Arteta, then, is the ideal Wenger replacement. He has proven his coaching chops, he is excelling in man-management, turning around many individual players with his communication skills, and is now showing that he represents Wenger’s philosophy on life too.