Saturday, June 25, 2022

Rewriting The History Books: What If Mikel Arteta Was Chosen As Wenger’s Successor At Arsenal?

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Nikhil Vinodh
Nikhil has been an avid Chelsea fan for as long as the concept of time has existed and rumours say that he even bleeds blue. Having lived in the UK for 3 years, Nikhil is said to have an excellent understanding of the atmosphere surrounding the English game. His role model is the greatest manager of all time - Jose Mourinho.

Nobody with even the most basic knowledge of football will have any doubt regarding whether French manager and tactical mastermind Arsene Wenger was singlehandedly responsible for putting Arsenal on the European sporting map. To say that they’ve struggled to replace him, would probably have to be classed as one of the biggest understatements of the decade. The Frenchman’s sheer composure on the touch-line made him a joy to watch, while his infamous ability to identify young superstars did wonders for the club as well.

After a long period of fame and success though, reality began to take it’s toll on what was probably the most fashionable football club in England at the time. They began to lose key players and even had to toil hard to acquire them through the transfer market. It was clear that Arsene Wenger had lost his magic touch long before they actually got rid of him. But with him now gone for good, Gunners fans have been left hoping for the best. 

What Is Emery’s Legacy At Arsenal Football Club Right Now?

Enter Unai Emery. The seasoned Spaniard was labelled an ‘expert at winning the Europa League’ prior to his arrival – a statement that has taken effect in the most ironic state of affairs possible. They suffered a shock defeat against Chelsea in the final of the said competition in Baku last season, effectively eliminating the one positive that Emery had going for him. Yet to win a real trophy or even have anything to show for the two years of supposed progress, the Spaniard continues to destroy this once great football club gradually.

His win percentage would look great on his CV at over 60 percent, but there’s no dodging the fact that the squad is in shambles, while he still, even after almost two years, is yet to find a stable structure within the team. Whether Lucas Torreira or Nicolas Pepe is meant to be their main attacking threat is anyone’s guess, especially considering the way they are usually set up to play. Positional awareness is apparently not one of the attributes required to play in an Unai Emery setup – this is highlighted by the presence of players like Granit Xhaka, Sead Kolasinac and Shkodran Mustafi, who are all still at the club for no credible reason. 

What If Arsenal Had Gambled And Gone For Mikel Arteta Instead?

Although Premier League veteran Arteta unquestionably had his most colourful days as a player at Everton, his time at Arsenal means that Mikel Arteta has deeply-rooted emotions towards the Emirates club. He spent just around five years in North London and was quick to become a fan-favourite among Gunners faithful, who were struggling to find a real hero at the time. The Spaniard, who never earned a full international cap in his long playing career, finished his Premier League story with 284 appearances, which yielded a respectable 42 goals and 41 assists.

Now the assistant to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, the Spaniard would’ve certainly implemented a more exciting brand of football at the Emirates, rather than the drab and unproductive type that’s currently being showcased. His youthfulness would’ve allowed him the freedom and personal security needed to experiment with the squad. Also, having worked under a great manager like Guardiola, there’s no need even to question whether he possesses a winning mentality.

One of the many players who’ve played under Wenger to be still associated with the club, Arteta, along with some help from Per Mertesacker, could’ve done wonders for the club. A quick look at what Frank Lampard has achieved at Chelsea is a prime example of what the Gunners may have missed out on. Despite being only 37, the City assistant would’ve certainly promoted the positive football that they played during his spell at the club, under the great Arsene Wenger.

The Verdict

Predicting the future is impossible (unless you’re Paul The Octopus of course) but saying with confidence that Mikel Arteta would’ve done a better job at the Emirates than Unai Emery has so far, isn’t that hard of a task. The Gunners are a club in disarray, and the one thing that their new manager was supposed to be an expert at, he failed to deliver last season.

His stint at the club has been long enough for it to be assessed relative to general trends, and it doesn’t take an expert to say that something is amiss at the Emirates Stadium. Unai Emery’s lack of clarity and inability to even properly converse in English, despite becoming a laughing stock to the entire nation, are actually really daunting troubles.

Things have been getting worse, situations around the stadium getting more volatile, and the morale in the Gunners’ camp depleting every day. Emery has achieved next to nothing since joining, and it’s safe to say that it’s been long enough for him to have had an impact.

Mikel Arteta’s personal connection with the club alone should make him a better option than Emery on paper. All that can be said for sure is that the players need something more than just the badge to play for, and Arteta’s arrival would’ve been as good a cause as any. Unai Emery’s plot looks long gone, but maybe he can turn things around in the long run. But then again, as we said earlier, we’re no Paul The Octopus. 

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