One wonders what Mikel Arteta thought sitting in the away dugout at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. Of course, the Manchester City assistant would have been largely occupied by the performance of the Premier League champions, such is his role under Pep Guardiola, but the Spaniard surely cast at least a thought towards Arsenal.
After all, Arteta could be their next manager, with the former midfielder now the red-hot favourite to take over at the Emirates Stadium. Highly regarded as one of the best young coaches in the game, Arteta will be up against it to turn the Gunners around.
Here are four things he must do upon his arrival in North London...
Quell the dressing room toxicity
The Arsenal dressing room can’t be a particularly pleasant place to be at this moment. Mesut Ozil’s reaction to be substituted against City on Sunday provided the illustration of a player completely consumed by frustration, whether that with himself or those in charge at the club. Ozil wasn’t even the first Arsenal player to publicly behave in this way either, with Granit Xhaka’s furious backlash to booing and jeering from the Emirates Stadium crowd a nadir in the Gunners’ season.
Arteta must quickly figure out who of the current squad wants to be at the club and who doesn’t.
That might mean making some unpopular calls. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is Arsenal’s best player right now, but is the striker truly committed to the cause? Arteta needs players ready to run themselves into the ground.
Avoid turning Arsenal into City-lite
Having worked under Guardiola for the past three-and-a-half seasons at City it’s reasonable to assume that Arteta has learned more than a few things from the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager. It’s likely that the former midfielder bases his own ideas on the game on the ideology of his Catalan mentor.
But Arteta must avoid turning Arsenal into an imitation of Man City. He must give the Gunners an identity of their own, particularly because questions are being asked of Guardiola’s philosophy and whether it is still the most effective way to achieve success at the top level of the European game.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are now setting the zeitgeist with their brand of fast and furious football. Arteta’s best bet might be to adapt Guardiola’s teachings.
Betting has been suspended on Mikel Arteta taking charge of Arsenal
Mould Arsenal into a 4-3-3 shape
Part of Unai Emery’s problem at Arsenal was that he never found a shape or system to harness the talent he had in his squad. Many assumed with the addition of Nicolas Pepe over the summer that he would shift to a 4-3-3, but that never really happened. Instead, he stuck with a 4-2-3-1 which failed to get the best out of a number of players.
It’s true that Arteta might lack the midfielders to control a game in a 4-3-3 shape, but that must be his medium to long term aim. The centre of the pitch can be shored up with the likes of Mateo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira in the short term with Dani Ceballos the link between midfield and attack. That has to be the way forward for now.
Get the fans back on side
The Emirates Stadium has become a rather toxic place over the past decade or so. Of course, this can be traced back to the latter years of the Arsene Wenger era, but it has been allowed to fester even further over the past two seasons. Without the fans on side Arteta will fail just as Emery did.
The Spaniard should perhaps look to Duncan Ferguson for a precedent to follow.
The Scot has almost instantly turned around the mood at Everton due to the high energy, high commitment football he has drawn from his players. Klopp is also a master of playing to the supporters with his passionate displays towards the crowd after full time. This might not be in Arteta’s character, but gives him something to think about.