Mikel Arteta is now Arsenal’s first-team manager, as opposed to just head coach.
Effectively, he has been granted the title befitting the role he has filled in the last nine months at Arsenal, even more so since the departure of ‘Don Raul’. He’s the first man since Arsene Wenger to wear that badge, and as such, is our legendary Frenchman’s first true successor.
Here’s what Vinai Venkatesham had to say about Arteta’s appointment.
"“Mikel’s been here since the end of December and the last nine months have probably been the most challenging nine months in Arsenal’s history – and we’ve been around for 134 years. Despite all of those challenges, Mikel has been driving this football club forward.He has lifted the spirits and lifted the energy here at London Colney and with Arsenal fans all across the world. He is doing an absolutely phenomenal job.The other thing that’s clear is that right from the day he walked through the door, he was doing much more than being our head coach. So we’re going to be changing his job title going forward. He’ll move from head coach to be the first-team manager. That’s recognition of what he’s been doing from the day he walked in the door, but also where we see his capabilities.So in terms of how that will work, going forward Mikel will join a really strong team with Edu and they’ll be working really, really closely together to manage all the other elements of our football operations that are so important, whether that is analysis, recruitment, high performance or medical, they’ll be looking after those areas together.And they’ll also together be responsible for our technical recommendations, whether that’s players that we’re going to buy, whether that’s players that we’re going to sell, whether that’s players that we’re going to loan.”"
The words coach and manager are often used in the same context, or as substitutes for one another, but they’re actually very different positions within a football club. To summarize, Arteta now carries the responsibilities of a head coach – tactics, running training, overseeing the players, and hey, coaching the team – but also has his hand in a number of other cookie jars.
While the board will still manage finances, Arteta will have a much larger slice of the proverbial pie in analysis, recruitment, hiring and firing, high performance, medical, and transfers. He’s filled the vacuum vacated by Raul Sanllehi, who in turn was meant to fill the deficit left behind by Wenger.
And that begs the question. What does it take to replace our legendary Frenchman?
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For starters, you must be a good coach, and while Wenger effectively reinvented English football, Arteta doesn’t need to. What he must do is begin to innovate for the future, something we’re seeing through his space-based tactical approach. He’s also achieved marked success in his first nine months with the club. Coaching? Check.
Furthermore, he must be a good manager of people. He must be friendly, kind, outgoing, but he must make every player and employee at the club feel as if they have a home there, unless they don’t. As a result, he must be honest, and occasionally uncompromising. He fits that bill too.
The day he arrived at London Colney, Arteta made a point of shaking the hand and speaking to every single member of the club’s staff, from the camera technicians to the medical staff. Of course, many knew him already, but the effort he put in to immediately reassure every person he could send a serious message. That type of devotion can inspire the level of hero-worship people felt about Wenger, and seem to feel about Arteta.
But he must also beware the downfalls of Wenger. The Frenchman’s legendary caution in the transfer market and refusal to change his tactics or bench his favorites ended up costing the Gunners dearly in the final days of his reign. Only time will tell, but I’m optimistic.
As I’ve remarked recently, Arteta has committed himself to renewing the Arsenal spirit within the club, a job not many could undergo, yet one he has managed to put in place after less than a year at the club. This resurgence of near-spiritual focus, more than any physical result, has me convinced Arteta is the man for the job.