Former Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta agreed to become the club’s new head coach and his arrival has finally been confirmed, having signed a three-and-a-half year deal to succeed Unai Emery – who was sacked on November 29.
Speculation over the position intensified on Monday, as the club’s managing director Vinai Venkatesham was spotted leaving Arteta’s house in the early hours – alongside contracts negotiator Huss Fahmy. Suggestions at that stage were that a deal was close.
Emery’s dismissal seemed a long time coming, but plenty of criticism was levelled at Arsenal for the way they handled appointing his successor. Their 2-1 home Europa League defeat by Eintracht Frankfurt was seen as the final straw for the club’s hierarchy, having won only one in their last nine games and winless in seven (all comps).
Academy boss Freddie Ljungberg stepped into the breach after the Spaniard was sacked, though even he has been unable to arrest their awful form and with limited coaching help to call upon. Their 3-0 defeat by Manchester City on Sunday means the Gunners have won once in five under the Swede, conceding 10 goals in that time.
While calling for a swift resolution to the managerial situation, Ljungberg revealed how he is operating with a skeleton staff behind the scenes, with Per Mertesacker acting as his assistant and also running the club’s academy.
Reports suggested they had a long list of names, both in current employment and some currently unattached, who they were pursuing – including former midfielder Patrick Vieira who has long made public his desire to manage them at some stage in future.
Ljungberg himself is another name eyeing the job on a permanent basis, but his managerial inexperience suggests he’d have to bide his time in-and-around the setup, as he’s been doing.
So what’s different between him and Arteta then?
Arteta, 37, has no managerial experience but crucially has worked alongside Pep Guardiola at Manchester City since July 2016 – when he retired from professional football. He was a frontrunner to replace Arsene Wenger 19 months ago, but the club opted for a safer option in Emery, given his experience and Europa League pedigree.
Nonetheless, Arteta and his fast-growing reputation benefited greatly from his coaching stint in Manchester – where he has been credited with helping the development of Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus among others.
Pep himself has made clear he’ll not stand in Arteta’s way – or any of his coaches – should they want to depart for a managerial job, though the Premier League’s defending champions are unimpressed by the way Arsenal have gone about their business.
Arteta, who has previously rejected advances from Ligue 1 side Lyon and fellow Premier League side Newcastle, made 150 appearances for Arsenal between 2011 and 2016.
City are said to be demanding around £1m in compensation, though formal discussions between the two clubs have not yet begun. His relationship with Pep remains strong despite the complicated nature of this situation and many critics suggested he was being mooted as a possible City boss in future.
Which other names were in the frame?
Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers dismissed speculation over his future by signing a contract extension until 2025, while Mauricio Pochettino and former Valencia HC Marcelino were heavily courted by the north London side but have had to explore other options.
Meanwhile Carlo Ancelotti, sacked by Napoli just hours after guiding them into the Champions League knockout rounds, was said to be in a tug-of-war between the Gunners and struggling Everton for his managerial services.
Arsenal travel to Merseyside on Saturday in the day’s featured 12.30pm KO, facing one of Arteta’s former clubs in Everton – where he spent six years as a player between 2005 and 2011.
However given limited time and a drawn out process, he will not take full team control until their Boxing Day fixture against Bournemouth.
Reports suggest Mikel’s transfer strategy is already in place, though there’s no doubting the fact this current team needs a significant rebuild if they are to return to the Champions League and begin challenging for major silverware again.