Great Britain

Mikel Arteta: Arsenal appoint former captain as new permanent manager

Arsenal have appointed Mikel Arteta as the club’s new manager on a three-and-a-half year deal, taking a calculated gamble on the 37-year-old who has no prior experience as a head coach.

Arteta, who spent five years as an Arsenal player and captained the club, has worked as an assistant to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City for three seasons, and the Emirates hierarchy have faith that the experience learning alongside one of the best coaches in the world has equipped him for management. 

He has signed a deal until 2023 after Arsenal and City came to a resolution over compensation to be paid to the Premier League champions. Freddie Ljungberg has helmed the Arsenal team as interim manager since the sacking of Unai Emery three weeks ago and is expected to continue at the club, returning to his role as a first-team coach. Ljungberg will take charge of Saturday’s game against Everton at Goodison Park.

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“This is a huge honour,” Arteta told the Arsenal website. “Arsenal is one of the biggest clubs in the world. We need to be competing for the top trophies in the game and that’s been made very clear to me in my discussions with Stan and Josh Kroenke, and the senior people from the club.

“We all know there is a lot of work to be done to achieve that but I am confident we’ll do it. I’m realistic enough to know it won’t happen overnight but the current squad has plenty of talent and there is a great pipeline of young players coming through from the academy.”

Arsenal identified Arteta as a potential candidate before Arsene Wenger retired at the end of the 2017-18 season, and he was in the running to succeed his former manager before deciding to go with the more experienced Emery.

Emery struggled to bring clarity to the direction he wanted to take the team, regularly shifting between tactics, personnel and even his chosen captain, and he was sacked at the end of November after 18 months in the job. He found it difficult to communicate with his players but this is expected to be a particular strength of Arteta, who speaks several languages including fluent English. 

The move is a blow to City and Guardiola, who is known to highly value Arteta’s input, having hired his fellow Barcelona academy graduate in part for his extensive knowledge of the Premier League. This is another strength that Arsenal believe will stand their new manager in good stead, again in contrast to Emery whose knowledge of the English game was initially limited. 

Guardiola confirmed on Tuesday that Arteta’s move was imminent. He said: “You know my opinion about Mikel. He’s a professional human being and a person, I don’t have doubts about that. If he stays I’d be happy, incredible, because we all work together really well – hopefully he can feel the same as me or with us. If he decides to move I’ll wish him all the best, for him, his family and for his professional future. I will beat him – that’s a joke! The best of luck.”

Arteta will be tasked with bringing a definitive approach to the Gunners. In 2015 he was asked by the Arsenal website about his ideas for management, and explained: “My philosophy will be clear. I will have everyone 120 per cent committed, that’s the first thing. If not, you don’t play for me. When it’s time to work it’s time to work, and when it’s time to have fun then I’m the first one to do it, but that commitment is vital. 

“Then I want the football to be expressive, entertaining. I cannot have a concept of football where everything is based on the opposition. We have to dictate the game, we have to be the ones taking the initiative, and we have to entertain the people coming to watch us. I’m 100 per cent convinced of those things, and I think I could do it.”

He will also need to bring together a fractured squad, with several senior players known to be unsettled at the club, including Granit Xhaka, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil.

His first goal will be to qualify for next season’s Champions League either by finishing in the Premier League’s top four or winning the Europa League. The Gunners are currently languishing in mid-table but Chelsea’s recent decline in form has seen the race for the top four open up, with Tottenham and Manchester United both gaining ground on the Blues. Arsenal will play Olympiacos in the Europa League’s round of 32 over two legs in February. 

After he watches on from the stands at Goodison Park on Saturday, Arteta’s first game in charge from the dugout will be against Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Boxing Day. 

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