OK everybody, calm down. The news that Mikel Arteta is 90 per certain to replace Arsene Wenger has been greeted with characteristic hysteria from fans on social media, split over the potential appointment of a 36-year-old rookie.
Reaction has ranged from fury aimed towards the board for not hiring a more glamorous manager to feverish delirium at the prospect of a man with fresh ideas taking over from Wenger. Just another day on Arsenal Twitter then.
Let’s be honest. Nobody knows how Arteta will fare as Arsenal manager, not even the club’s new hierarchy tasked with appointing Wenger’s successor. That’s despite Ivan Gazidis’ assurances that the club have ‘tremendous experience and resources’ to make the right choice.
Manchester City coach Mikel Arteta is the strong favourite to be the next Arsenal manager
The body of work Arteta can be judged is admittedly small. Two seasons experience coaching under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and five years as an Arsenal player under Wenger.
But all the talk is that Arteta’s been a big hit at the Etihad. Guardiola credited him with having a huge influence on City’s record-breaking title win this season.
That’s the world’s greatest manager insisting the so-called greatest team in Premier League history’s success was down in part to Arteta. Should he join, that would already be the biggest say an Arsenal manager has had on the title race in 14 years.
His standing among supporters shouldn’t be underestimated either. Arteta arrived at the Emirates seven years ago as a panic buy from Everton in one of the many underwhelming transfer windows at Arsenal over the past decade, midway through a painful nine-year trophy drought.
Arteta left Arsenal as club captain and was given an emotional send-off in his final match
He left five seasons later as club captain, a firm favourite among supporters and the most popular and influential player in the squad. In his final game, a 4-0 win over Aston Villa, he received the kind of reception saved for only genuine club legends.
Once injuries began to take their toll on the midfielder he assumed the role of dressing room leader and earned the nickname ‘coach’ among team-mates.
When he returns two years later there’ll be a strangeness in leading his former team-mates but it sounds like he has long begun the transition from player to manager.
Sure, a more experienced manager like Massimiliano Allegri or Carlo Ancelotti would represent the safer option for Arsenal. A steady hand to guide the club through what is set to be a period of transition and recover from the Wenger hangover.
Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri would represent a more stable appointment for Arsenal
But in the era of short-term managers what good is the stability they bring to a club if they leave just two or three seasons later? As Allegri would be expected to do.
Sections of the support were furious when Wenger was handed the new two-year deal after last season’s FA Cup final win, angry over the club’s willingness to continue with a manager whose reign had long since stagnated.
Arteta represents a risk but it’s an appointment in the same vein of what fans have been calling for. An imaginative, charismatic and exciting manager with fresh ideas. Everything Wenger was in his first decade and everything he wasn’t in his second.
Patrick Vieira would be the ultimate sentimental choice and would arrive with even more stock in the tank from his playing days. But if we are bemoaning Arteta’s lack of managerial experience then does two years in charge of New York City really put Vieira miles ahead? The board have clearly seen something special in Arteta.
The 36-year-old has cut his managerial teeth as Pep Guardiola’s assistant for two seasons
It’s not as if Arteta would be stepping into a complete power vacuum either. The recent recruitment of Sven Mislintat, Raul Sanllehi, Huss Fahmy and Co means that transfers, contracts and finances are no longer in the manager’s remit.
So Arteta can focus most of his time and energy into coaching and tactics in contrast to Wenger, who ruled over all facets of the club from top to bottom.
Whose to know how the likes of Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Aaron Ramsey can perform under the leadership of a new manager playing in a more structured system.
I don’t buy the theory that Arteta would simply be brought in as a company man who will represent more of the same due to his still-fresh associations with the club.
Arteta is poised to succeed his former manager Arsene Wenger at the end of the season
Players like Granit Xhaka need leadership and clear tactical instructions to be given a chance
This is a man who went from Barcelona to Rangers during his playing days and defected to join City’s coaching staff after leaving Arsenal. He’s clearly not afraid of shaking things up in order to succeed and doesn’t appear to be a yes-man.
It’s near-impossible to assess someone whose never been a No 1 before. Guardiola’s success at Barcelona and Zinedine Zidane’s at Real Madrid doesn’t necessarily translate. Arteta would be the youngest manager in the top flight by three-and-a-half years behind Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe.
But fans shouldn’t be surprised at the left-wing choice if Arsenal’s past appointments are anything to go buy. Their last three managers – Wenger, Bruce Rioch and George Graham – arrived from Millwall, Bolton and Japanese side Nagoya Grampus Eight. Arteta looks suitably conservative in comparison.
The Spaniard has long held ambitions of being a manager and helped out in Arsenal training
Arteta will arrive with the club still recovering from a nostalgic couple of months, to an Emirates crowd not knowing what the future holds and unaccustomed to seeing an unfamiliar face in the dugout.
But the new era was always going to be ushered in like this, Arsenal are taking a leap into the unknown. An appointment like Arteta is in equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking but at least it will invigorate the sleepy Emirates crowd.
Who knows how he’ll do – it might well get worse before it gets better. But if he’s good enough for Guardiola then he’s good enough for us. Let’s get behind him.