Mikel Arteta was a classy player. A creative, silky but a disciplined midfielder that shone for Rangers and Everton in the 2000s. 2006/07 in particular. After 5 years at Arsenal, he retired from the game and has been Guardiola’s right hand man at the Etihad. Learning from one of the game’s most influential figures has automatically made the Spaniard a candidate for the job at the Emirates. But the question is would he be ready to leave the comfort of assistant manager to become the main man?
This is a difficult question to answer. Arteta has no experience, no track record of any sort and nothing to suggest he would be a roaring success or huge disappointment. We all know by now that ex-players don’t necessarily make good managers. Roy Keane, Thierry Henry (yet), Gianfranco Zola. Carlo Ancelotti, Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane are just a few exceptions in a long list. You could argue even the latter is being exposed tactically. Not quite been the same since Cristiano Ronaldo left, eh?
Mikel Arteta – The student
Arteta has now spent 3 years with Pep, watching his genius day in day out. By now, he probably has a good grasp of how the former Barcelona coach goes about a day in the big time. How to conduct training, tactical analysis, transfer policy, man management. There aren’t many better men in football to learn the core principles of management from than Guardiola.
The former Arsenal midfielder also knows the Red of North London quite well. Approaching the end of his playing career, he’s likely to have been paying close attention to Arsene Wenger, another giant of the game. As far as managers to learn from, he’s been in company of legends. Arteta strikes me as an intelligent guy. His playing days and how he’s spoken to the media in the past give me that impression. The fact Guardiola picked him as his assistant in the first place perhaps is a testament to how well he understands the game.
Baptism of fire at the Emirates?
However being an assistant to being the top man is a completely different kettle of fish. Look at Paul Clement. Assistant manager at some of Europe’s elite clubs, but failed at Swansea and Derby. The pressure on Mikel Arteta to get Arsenal team playing football from the get-go, would be immense.
At least with Frank Lampard and Chelsea, the situation was tailor made. Transfer ban, a tumultuous year under Sarri, automatically fan expectations were lowered. Moreover, being their club’s greatest ever player will also buy time when the going gets tough.
This would not be the case with Arteta at Arsenal. A respected professional and servant to the club? Without a doubt. But he’s not a legend at the Emirates and wouldn’t get the same leeway as a Lampard would. I’m not saying the 37 year old crumble under the pressure. Some of greats thrive under pressure. But it’s just not the best learning environment for someone in their first ever managerial job. If the Gunners can turn on Wenger, their greatest ever manager, they’ll turn on Arteta in the blink of an eye.
The chosen one in Manchester
There’s also a part of me that believes Pep and the City hierarchy will convince him to stay. Like them or not, the Citizens are one of the best run clubs in the world. The recruitment policy, long term vision, investment in youth, growing the brand, winning silverware. On and off the pitch, they know exactly what they’re doing.
I believe they view the former Everton midfielder as the immediate successor to Guardiola. He now knows the club and players inside out, has ran training sessions, commands respect from the players and just seems to be perfectly in place to seamlessly transition into the role when the time comes. It makes no sense why they would employ him as assistant, learn all of Pep’s tricks, then let him leave with the knowledge to a rival. Why would Arteta leave too? Everything is in place for him to take the reigns, why waste that opportunity?
Mikel Arteta, in my opinion, should stay at Manchester City. The Arsenal job is a poison chalice and perhaps it’s something he should look to in the future. He should either take over from Pep at the Etihad when the time comes, or go to a smaller club, just to get the experience needed before taking on such a challenge.
For more articles on the beautiful game, follow us on Twitter @TasteofFtbl