I’m not sure about you guys, but the last week, the Wembley success and the aftermath have caused me considerable reflection on exactly what Mikel Arteta is doing at my club, and what it might mean in the short and medium term. That reflection has drawn me to an inescapable conclusion: one which surprised me, although not as much as I thought it should. That conclusion is: I actually don’t care that much who we buy this window because I entirely trust our coach to do so if he needs to – not just to work with what he has, but to significantly improvewhat he has.
This is not me saying I’m not as keen as the next fan to see exciting new additions – only that I am still relaxed if they do not materialise. I simply trust Mikel Arteta implicitly to use all the tools at his disposal to improve his squad collectively and – crucially – individually. Of course, he arrived with a Pep-endorsed reputation of being able to improve already talented players, but there is more to it than that.
The fact that Arteta improves players is an inescapable truth: he was credited by Guardiola and by the players themselves at Man City – most notably Sterling and Sane. Both supremely talented youngsters when arriving in Manchester, and now probably England’s best and most consistent (Sterling), and a player whom Bayern believe will improve what is already the best team in Europe, ergo the world of club football (Sane). Sterling arrived for £57m and in the first year he was inconsistent. In 2016 he was subject of the England Boo Boys for his lack of end product. Arteta arrived at the Etihad and within 2 year he became England’s best player, scoring and creating goals for fun, and right now– according to Transfermarkt – has doubled his value to £115 million, which might be conservative.
In November 2019, when asked about his significant improvement – particularly his goal scoring – here was Sterling‘s answer:
“Mikel Arteta is working many, many hours and days after training specifically about the last action on the pitch – that control in the last moment to make the right movement in the final three or four metres. [Raheem] has wanted to stay there on the training pitch, to improve, to practise, to shoot at the goalkeepers.”
Similarly, Leroy Sane arrived in 2016 as a ‘wunderkind’ with mesmeric dribbling skills, but not much vision and knowledge of when to release the ball or make the cross – he now leaves to be the final piece in the Bayern jigsaw. In three years of working with Arteta his value, (according, again to Transfermarkt) doubled from £46m to £90m. He left this window for £72m but that is after spending most of the last year injured. I will never forget this quote from November 2019:
“People always ask me about training under Pep, but the things I’ve learnt from Mikel Arteta! We get on brilliantly, he’s a lovely guy and a great coach. And he’s always right. He’ll watch me in training and then afterwards he’ll tell me what he thinks.”
As an Arsenal fan, you just need to ask yourself one simple question. Is Mikel Arteta the right man therefore to work with and polish the talents of Pepe, Martinelli, Saka and Nelson? (The answer is yes, by the way!)
Now obviously those examples are attacking wide players, but the attention to detail, work ethic and implementation of individual player approaches has been evident in 2020 at Arsenal. To watch the confidence and play of Xhaka, Ceballos, Maitland Niles, and Pepe since Arteta arrived, compared to the same players under Emery is stark – to say the least. Ainsley Maitland-Niles always had the raw talent and technical ability, but to watch him now – about to become a full England International, with a new focus, work ethic and an understanding of how to use his body strength – is nothing short of miraculous. I am now excited to see AMN in the starting 11 and personally hope that is in a midfield role. The credit must go to Arteta and his coaching staff.
Which brings me neatly on to the second part of the article and the other factor that gives me supreme confidence in the Arteta regime at Arsenal: the quiet, behind-the-scenes, coaching revolution. The young Spaniard has been experiencedhe coaching success and recognises that it is not about one individual but a collective effort. He knows his is the Commander-in-Chief, but wants to surround himself with supportive and knowledgeable Field Marshalls. And, as with transfers, it is not about signing big names on big salaries – it is about bringing in the right people that fit the team and can improve it.
This summer, having delivered silverware in his first half season, Arteta is quietly continuing the coaching team revolution with new staff that he trusts and believes can add to the chemistry and become vital cogs to make his Arsenal engine run ever more efficiently.
When he arrived, Arteta called on the experienced head of Steve Round –who had coached him as a player at Everton – and shrewdly added Albert Stuivenberg, who has vast experience across the globe, though primarily in his domestic Holland. Stuivenberg’s reputation had been carved as a coach to improve young talent and progress them to first team football. Upon appointment, Arteta also sensibly retained Freddie Ljungberg for continuity – particularly given the Swede’s relationship with some of the youngsters Arteta knew he would need to call upon.
However, to the external observer, that the chemistry sat with Arteta and his own recruits was evident: the constant conferring and joint decisions on the touchline, with Freddie in the stands. Sal Bibbo too, who had supported Ljungberg and briefly become more than the goalkeeping coach. Inaki Cana had already arrived from Brentford as an early Arteta appointment to ultimately replace Bibbo. This summer we have seen our young General confident in his position ushering in new coaching tweaks. In the past few weeks he has added Andreas Georgson, Carlos Questa and Miguel Molina. All three appointments clearly demonstrate Arteta’s attention to detail, desire to make marginal gains, and– crucially – to work to improve individuals within his squad.
Carlos Questa, arriving from Juventus, is only 24, but has dedicated his young coaching career to working with – and gaining experience from – the best. I believe he will be working on tactics for each game, and the lovely thing about this appointment is that there seems to be huge mutual respect between the two individuals. In fact it almost appears that whilst we appointed Questa, he had already identified Arteta as a coach he wanted to learn from.
The Swede Andreas Georgson has arrived from Brentford to work solely on set pieces, an area where Arsenal has been poor for years. This almost American Football style set-up – with coaches identified for set roles and targets to enhance individuals’ aspects – is another reason to be confident in our coach. He knows his own strengths, knows what he has time for, and recognises where to add fellow professionals to add those marginal gains.
The third new arrival is Miguel Molina: a coach with an academic sport science background. He has worked primarily at Atlético Madrid but has made it his business to talk to and learn from high performers at other top clubs. It seems his role will include creating individual player development plans – again, the attention to individual detail for each player – which is crucial not just to Arteta, but to a club needing to cut its cloth and improve output from current assets.
The picture being painted of Arteta, (not by me in truth, but by his actions), is one of passion and self-belief and yet – as is so often the case with that type of person – coupled with a recognition that they need support with the attention to detail. It is obvious that the current Arsenal players have bought into his vision and his approach and – to add a further cliché into an article packed with them – will run through the proverbial brick wall for him. However, Mikel is modest and understated compared to an obvious counterpart in Jurgen Klopp: the congratulations after the matches and the close instruction is there, (as it is with the German), but with Arteta I always feel it is solely for the benefit of the players. The exaggerated buddying and play-acting for the cameras we witness weekly from Klopp is not required.Add to all of this the fact Arteta sees himself as an Arsenal Man, (as I discussed in a previous article), stands the 2020 Arsenal in good stead – with the right coach, and a self-selected team that enhances and complements him. Fans believe in him, the club believes in him, the existing players believe in him and new players are coming because of him.
Arteta is building it, they will come!
Or – after yesterday’s Brazilian signing – maybe I should add – If he calls them, they will come!
Welcome to The Emirates: Mikel’s Field of Dreams.
Passionate fifty-something Arsenal supporter who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since.
He set up his own site – 1 Nil Down 2 One Up – in February 2012, which he moved on in 2016 to concentrate on freelance writing and building Gunners Town, which he launched with Paul in 2014.
The objective of GT was to be new and fresh and to give a platform for likeminded passionate Arsenal fans wishing to write about their team. Dave still of course, writes for the site himself and advises the ever-changing writing crew.