Great Britain

Mikel Arteta: New Arsenal manager's daunting to-do list after replacing Unai Emery

Mikel Arteta has taken on one of the toughest jobs in the Premier League after agreeing to become Arsenal manager, replacing the recently-sacked Unai Emery.

Having represented the club for five seasons to end his playing career at the Emirates, Arteta was high on the list of candidates to replace Arsene Wenger two seasons ago, only for the Arsenal hierarchy to give the job to the more established Emery instead.

But with results taking a nosedive this season, Emery was sacked at the end of November and his assistant Freddie Ljungberg placed in interim charge, only for the hopeful ‘new-manager bounce’ to never arrive.

Download the new Indpendent Premium app

Sharing the full story, not just the headlines

As a result, Arsenal have pressed on with their plans to appoint a new permanent manager that they hoped could wait until the end of the season, with a deal agreed to bring Arteta to the club immediately and try to salvage what is left of their season.

Here’s the key points that will be at the top of his to-do list.

Christmas Day

It’s possibly not the task you’d thought you’d see at the top of Arteta’s to-do list, but given that Freddie Ljungberg will remain in charge for the Saturday trip to Everton, Arteta will not manage a match until the Boxing Day encounter at Bournemouth. With the squad likely to receive Sunday off following the Everton clash and report back for training on Monday and Tuesday, Arteta must decide whether he wants them to come on for a session on Christmas morning.

With a game scheduled for the following day, the Arsenal squad are unlikely to face anything gruelling if Arteta does call them in, but the first few days are going to be crucial in getting the players to understand and buy into his new project. The problem lies in whether the squad would grow upset at not being given the day off given some of the egos that lie within it, or whether Arteta can afford not to maximise every second that he has with them ahead of his first game in charge.

Unite the players

One of the major issues that has been made clearly visible over the last few games is that the Arsenal squad is not in the slightest bit pulling in the same direction. From Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang berating young midfielder Joe Willock to Granit Xhaka’s furious response to being booed by his own fans, there are not many happy individuals at the club right now.

Arteta has to get the squad singing from the same hymn sheet or else any of his objectives are going to fall short. Most successful organisations function on a united front, not a divided one, but at Arsenal it feels that is more important than most others.

Bring back the wins

Probably the most obvious task for any manager, at any club, ever in history. But Arsenal need to learn how to win again. That feeling helps to breed confidence and it is currently missing from a squad so low on it that they have forgotten how to scrape out wins from impending defeats.

Beyond the nine-minute flourish against West Ham, Arsenal have not shown anything to suggest that deserve to have won any of the 10 games they failed to win that ultimately paid for Emery. With a daunting fixture list ahead that includes Chelsea and Manchester United in the space of three days either side of New Year, Arsenal need to get that winning feeling back – and fast.

Find a defence that works

How long has the issue been Arsenal’s inability to defend? And yet it remains one that is nowhere near close to being solved. The appointment of Arteta is unlikely to resolve that, given he was there when the issue went unaddressed through the first half of the decade, so it is imperative that he surrounds himself with coaches or players – and probably both – who are well versed in keeping the ball away from your own goal.

If Arsenal can resolve an issue that has been allowed to rot away for far too long, they have the talent in front to become a side capable of challenging at the business end of the Premier League once again.

Make a decision on Aubameyang, Ozil and Lacazette

The Independent revealed on Thursday that club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is desperate to leave Arsenal and is unlikely to sign a new contract, which leaves the club in the same keep-or-sell limbo that they found themselves in with Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.

But the news that considerably more are weighing up a move elsewhere should press Arteta into taking a firm approach: either they are committed to what he plans on building in north London, or they are sent on their way and the funds invested wisely to compliment the young talent being brought through the ranks. It could take a few more years of pain to pay off, but then nothing that Arsenal are trying right now is paying off anyway.