Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal Revolution mirrors the the calm, ruthlessness of George Graham 1986-88

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Smiling assassin?

I suggested in a social media post the other day that I felt Arteta was showing a similar calm, assured ruthlessness as a young manager that Arsenal supporters witnessed in the early tenure of George Graham. I thought I would try and elaborate in this week’s column.

Arteta – like Graham – arrived with a strong affinity for The Arsenal and an understanding of the Arsenal traditions and The Arsenal Way. Both appointments raised eyebrows as both were deemed (by the football world) as relatively young and inexperienced for such a big job. On the flipside, both arrived knowing the club, the task at hand (rousing a sleeping giant) and both with firm ideas of their methods and ideas for the role. That is not to say that the footballing ideologies of the two men were similar but there are many parallels that can be drawn.


Similar ruthless overhaul to GG 88-88

George Graham inherited an amazing crop of youngsters, and to a lesser degree Arteta has to – but both also inherited established ‘stars’ and fan favourites who did not fit the profile or the plan of the new boss. In the first summer, within weeks of arriving, Graham ushered Martin Keown, Stewart Robson, Paul Mariner, Tony Woodcock and Tommy Caton out of the door. In that first season, without these stars he has won his first trophy blending youth with the experience he had chosen to retain. However, within two years, most of those who had survived the initial ruthlessness of Graham found they too were surplus to his requirements. Firm fan favourites Viv Anderson and Kenny Sansom (England’s fullbacks) along with the North Bank’s darling, Charlie Nicholas, left the following year; without them the next season – replaced by his own new additions and combined with homegrown talent – Graham brought to an end an 18 year wait for the title.

Forever indebted to The Colonel

My impression is that whilst moving on highly paid stars is not as easy for Arteta as it was back in the day, the established stars – some fan favourites – that do not fit into the Spaniard’s style and plans will be either left out in the the cold until they accept their fate or their contacts run out, will have their contacts terminated, or will be sold. Make no mistake: there is a quiet revolution occurring at Arsenal and the affable, charming Spanish Gentleman in charge will be ruthless and cut-throat to ensure his plans can be carried out. Those that fit his work ethic and style I suspect will be as forever indebted to Mikel as Winterburn, Bould, Dixon et al are to George Graham. Those who do not will have to accept their fate, one way of the other.

This will not be completed over one transfer window – for Graham the whole transition took two years; some players who survive and thrive this season under Arteta may not be assured of their place in the following year. Remember when Graham sold Lukic – whom George felt was in the top 3 or 4 keepers in the league – to buy Seaman because he felt he was the best. That will happen under Arteta this window and in the next in my view. Players who have performed well for him, will be sacrificed if he feels he can replace then with a better player or one more suited to his style. He has the same steel that Graham had – and like the canny Scot, I believe he will shock and surprise us with his decisions and be proved correct.

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The other similarity I quickly add is that both Graham and Arteta immediately surrounded themselves with men they trusted to support them. Not men who would simply follow orders and say ‘yes’ to them, but trusted colleagues to discuss things with, seek advice from or willingly delegate to. Both Graham (then) and Arteta (now) see the management and coaching of Arsenal as a confederate endeavour with each individual team member trusted in their role, and each role combining to achieve an overall goal.

This is a longer version of a piece I wrote yesterday for Sun Football

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5 Responses to Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal Revolution mirrors the the calm, ruthlessness of George Graham 1986-88

  1. Omar September 18, 2020 at 8:31 am #

    Excellent Dave, it’s really good to be able to read whole verion of the artice

    • Dave Seager September 18, 2020 at 10:03 am #

      Yes they did shorten it rather

  2. allezkev September 18, 2020 at 9:59 pm #

    After Arteta had taken over and began instigating his changes, that is organising the defence and devising systems that cover for weaknesses in our central defence and midfield I likened his style as Grahamesque to most of my Arsenal mates and they all kinda nodded sagely and agreed politely but I could feel that they didn’t get it.

    So glad to see other Arsenal fans not just going along with all that Wenger Mk2 stuff because it’s more nuanced than that.

    Excellent piece…

  3. Andy September 19, 2020 at 8:53 am #

    Dave, good article, I have had similar thoughts about the similarities between the two. Defensive discipline, choosing the players who are willing to get on board the boat and ditching the others. The only established stars who lasted as far as I can recall were David O’Leary and Paul Davis. I wonder how many of this squad will still be here in five or six years time?

  4. Victor Thompson September 19, 2020 at 9:57 am #

    Dave, you must have been dipped in red bathwater when you were a child. How I really love your reprisal of Gunners history wich most fans do. For all those young supporters who don`t know all this stuff it is an ideal way to read it and learn so much of what made Arsenal great.

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