Mikel Arteta looks and sounds like he is destined for greatness

Mikel Arteta’s Quest For An Upward Chart A.T.Israel.

When Arteta turned up for his Arsenal presentation wearing a dark turtleneck and a coat over it, carrying all the crisp sharpness and gait of a billionaire protagonist in any of Harlequin’s “Hot Romance Category” novels, many referred to the similarity of that clothing choice to Guardiola’s. Paul Scholes declared it wasn’t respectful of his first appointment enough. “I don’t think he will be the right man,” he added.

Nevertheless, Arteta strongly impressed fans and the general press with the clarity of his speech. Everything he said gleamed with a layer of penetrating intelligence. Arsenal were in the direst form of their recent history. Their former coach, Unai Emery, a man who spammed the Europa League with Sevilla and spammed the French League with PSG, always spoke about being protagonists; “My idea is to be protagonists,”: a good soundbite that, by being broad and non-specific, collects all the qualities of good soundbites. Protagonists, attacking football, pressing, culture, atmosphere, change, brexit, impeachment, evolution, fake news; everyday mumbo-jumbo that might mean anything, everything, or nothing at all. Arsenal went from Wenger’s thoughtful press conferences that sometimes felt like dinners at some posh restaurant to Emery’s second-hand pep talk. Fans inferred that “protagonists” meant something positive — it had to mean something positive. But as a Forbes headline put it after the news of his sacking broke, Unai Emery was never the protagonist.

If Arsenal had lost clarity with Emery, Arteta’s press conference indicated that they might gain it back. Behind his smiles was a zany self-consciousness, an awareness of how anything, including the media presentation, could be a distraction: it was the smile of some widely-acclaimed whizkid from some back country high school asked to prove himself at the Big Science Contest, a smile that couldn’t rest easy.

Three games later, clarity turns out to be the most important thing that Arsenal have gained under Arteta. And a new tactical system: inverted fullbacks, inside forwards, compactness, passing lanes, pressure against the byline, Mesut Ozil, switching the play, diagonal runs and overloads. Against Bournemouth, Chelsea and now Manchester United, they have looked like a glazed version of a Pep Guardiola team, passing around their opponents and mass production of scoring chances. At some points during those matches, as the back four played around the Bournemouth, Chelsea and Manchester United press, it seemed as though David Luiz only needed to make just one calculated swing of the boot and Lacazette, Aubameyang, Pepe and Ozil would have a free run on 3 or fewer defenders.

In the first halves of these matches there is a ridiculous — but palpable and growing sense — that Arsenal are gaining a presence of mind, a crucial sense of positioning and movement, that instinct for a clever pass to a player carefully positioned deep in the heart of the opposition defence — stock Pep instincts — that should not belong to them yet. They are exhibiting a nous for the essentials of Pep-ball at such a level that coming from off the back of the worst form of their recent history, Arsenal could dominate better-rated Chelsea and Manchester United squads with relative comfort and for large periods, as if they were not four points away from relegation, as if they did not still have Mustafi, as if Mikel Arteta had surgically transplanted Man City attacking play through a handful of training session… as if this was a team still carrying the spirit and soul of Arsene Wenger: a team born to play attacking football.

Two instances illustrate the point: For Arsenal’s first goal against Manchester United, Kolasinac had drifted in while Aubameyang stayed out wide with the ball at his feet. Lacazette was arriving in the box after setting play from deep and Ozil was already lurking. Aubameyang had several passing options but one of the most difficult he could pull was to try and spin the ball around the vertical line of defenders towards Kolasinac. The Bosnian leftback seemed ready. Manchester seemed ready, too. Both sides aware of each other, both confident in their bets. Aubameyang pulled the pass. Kolasinac was ready and, would you happen to know it, onside. He ran toward the near post and just before the angle disappeared completely, he released the ball for Ozil and the arriving Lacazette almost in front of the goalkeeper. The ball took a deflection and off it spun, away towards the penalty spot where Nicolas Pepe, strangely expectant, was in acres of so much space he could have called for his spouse, ordered an elaborate lunch, a table for two, have a nice date and still have enough time to tip the delivery guy before any of Luke Shaw or Maguire could get to him.

Manchester United had prepared against a chance like this but it felt like they were chasing players rather than the ball, chasing something that had already happened. They had closed down Ozil and Lacazette and Kolasinac and by the end, Nicolas Pepe was strolling in rich real estate, deciding what to do with his gold mine, his copper mine and his scenic waterfall. It felt odd; it seemed as if the Manchester defenders were after destiny, no more than training fillers for a pattern familiar at Man City. It was, in the end, an easy goal that shouldn’t be – and palpably out of Guardiola’s textbook.

There was also this other time when Ainsley Maitland-Niles, another fullback, drifted in deep behind Manchester’s defensive line. Ozil, with a casual swing of the foot, found him from midfield with a ball over the top. Aubameyang and Lacazette, previously jogging away from the Manchester United defensive line, were suddenly reversing at full throttle, bearing down like hungry wolves on the penalty box. It felt all too familiar again, too prepared, the odd sense of destiny setting in as the attack clicked into existence from nothing. It was suddenly 3 against 3. The 22-year-old defender ultimately misplaced the pass and the ball was put out for a corner. Aubameyang jogged to a stroll and smiled at him — you could tell they were finding it easy.

Arteta really looks the part on the side of the pitch. Smart and sleek in his dark turtleneck and lean trousers, with the hint of a trainer about him. His eyes have such a focus and intensity to them. Take in his brows, too, and his irresistibly perfect hair slicked backward: he literally looks like one of those people destined for success. He’s 37 and his inferior, injury-ravaged squad are in cruise control, babysitting the second biggest team in Manchester. When the goals go in, his celebrations are ecstatic but contained, joyous but proper. He just won’t let anything distract him. There is still so much left to do. Despite that, all he can do right now is stay on his feet as his team hold Manchester United at a comfortable arms-length. By contrast, Ole Gunnar was in his seat, looking the part of a man with a failed plan, resigned to what he was seeing on the pitch.

“I felt they played really well, and sometimes you’ve [just] got to hold your hands up [to that],” said the former Molde manager. It was a look of resignation on his face, a little sigh in there, too, the kind you’d expect to see from coaches who’d just lost at the Etihad Stadium; a tone of “What can I do?”

Meanwhile, Arteta is bright as he walks into the conference room. His ruby-black eyes have a lighter note to them, like sunlight seen through a wine bottle. He has hugged all the players, thanked the fans. His hair is sleek and impeccable despite the drizzle. Previously he’d expatiated on how his style of football would require optimism, determination and commitment. You had to believe that Pep-ball could be done here, too, he seemed to be saying, even after all this chaos and vagueness that Emery had left behind. Just put your foot and heart to it:

“I don’t want people hiding. I want people taking responsibility for the job. Anybody that doesn’t buy into this is not good enough for this environment or culture.”

That was not a soundbite, and nobody was hiding here. Everyone had a good game. Lacazette might be out of sorts with his shooting boots but he did everything else right. Xhaka was imperious. Kolasinac played through injury and cramped out. David Luiz looked like a general. Ozil was tracking back and preventing a counter in the 92nd minute. And Bernd Leno who, for a change, had the least to do today, took a strong kick to the chest.

Arteta hints at a smile as though he knows he can’t afford one yet. It took Pep Guardiola and his vast Qatari funds a year to get Man City running up to pace. It still all remains a daunting task. But if anyone can do it, if anyone is working in the moment, it’s Arteta. His eyes tell it all, resonating with the declaration he made after his appointment: “I will burn every drop of blood for this football club to make it better.”

AGBOOLA TIMI ISRAEL is a nineteen-year-old writer who is considering his career choices. He can be reached on Facebook and email at agboolaisrael8@gmail.com

45 Comments

  1. gotanidea says:

    Arteta was lucky, because he learned directly from Guardiola in the last 3.5 years. Had he joined Arsenal 1.5 years earlier, I doubt we would see the same advanced tactics from him

    His current tactics confused our opponents, but he must be ready to change it in the future. Wenger and Conte benefited from 3-4-2-1 system that was unique in EPL at that time, before their rivals figured out how to beat that tactic

    1. Onyeka cosmas says:

      Gotanidea.. You’re right, this would have been a different ball game if he (arteta) came instead of Emery then..guess some extra year with Guardiola helped garnish him well.. But we can see the positives, giving the young man appropriate fund and patience,, we’ll soon be competing with teams like city

      1. JJ Pawn says:

        Arteta is his own man, his own creation. Then he got noticed by others, not least of all by Wenger. Wenger by then was already a very attacking coach, only missing the very best players to go deeper in the CL. This was well before Pep was even known.

        So what is correct to say is that Arteta learned in several stages, with this work under Wenger the most important in getting noticed by Pep. Pep relied on Arteta (Wenger!) to learn about the EPL. Wenger encouraged Arteta to join Pep, knowing well the captain would return with Pep’s stuff… back to Arsenal. That was not to happen smoothly because stupid “fans” drove Wenger away.

        So… the formations with Ozil in the middle was done at Arsenal under Wenger. Only problem for Wenger was that he was missing players. On the right wing the English players there was not good enough, yes, Theo and Ox, especially, as they ran around like headless chicken. Giroud, Alexis and Ozil carried the attack… The MF was not good enough either except for Ozil, and Ramsay, who was inconsistent, also tending to run and take the incorrect shot or not make the final pass.

        It was Ozil’s coming that lifted us to FA Cups, and quite possible more if money could have been had to re-build the defense as well as right winger and MF, provided Alexis stayed.

        Well, finally Arteta has arrived. Please do not insult us with stuff that suggests Arteta has no Arsenal DNA. The players are readjusting quickly because of the that DNA. If we had Bellerin and Ramsay, and also Koz, the adjustment would have been more obvious and not that surprising.

        All the Emery fans here have not an idea how much the man was gutting the Arsenal DNA.

        1. jon fox says:

          JJ Pawn, “ALL the Emery fans?” I think your “all” comprises agu eman alone . I see no other fans who like Emery as our manager. None at all! PERHAPS YOU CAN ENLIGHTEN ME AND OTHERS AS TO WHO THEY ARE; IF THEY EXIST!

        2. Gily says:

          Also worthy of mention is the fact that Wenger was limited by fund(deceit by the owner), and more importantly injury to his key players at strategic points in time because the gang of legal criminals (PIGMO/referees), allowed opposition to practically gun down our players with little or no penalising.

    2. Uchman says:

      U guys r just ungrateful seriously, u mean he learnt nothing from Wenger? R u seriously kidding me?

    3. Sylva Olabanji says:

      You are right @gotanidea.
      Arteta must must have various tactics at his disposal to win games. EPL is highly competitive because best football coaches are in the league; Anceloti just joined. That’s why If Liverpool managed to win EPL this season, they won’t be able to retain it next season because coaches would have figured out how to win them.
      Arteta must always be on top of his game. Nd of course with support of the board financially and the players.

      1. Knight says:

        I remember at the time when Wenger was at his peak,Managers would go the press conference and talk about how Wenger has no tactics and has one game plan and is easy to beat,but he beat every manager and coach with that “no tactic-one game plan” way of playing.He beat everyone in his way until the arrival of Mourhino.Even Mourhino’s predecessor (Ranieri) was fired because of Wenger and he was one of those that used to say wenger is easy to beat,with others like Moyes and Sam Allardyce.I dont think Arteta has huge knowledge of the game to the level of the likes of Anceloti or Pep or Klopp or Hogson.But he can perfect the little that he knows together with good man-management and beat up on some teams,then study new tactics at the end of the season with the team data collected in the second half of this season

  2. Gunner SA says:

    The one major difference he has already made is in the players body language. They seem willing to fight and even in the Chelsea game they were unfortunate to give away goals with defensive and individual errors

  3. Glorious says:

    What a long article!
    I hope Artetar wins at Palace to corroborate all this qualities attributed to him

    1. Uchman says:

      What an amazing piece,u r destined for success, I think its now all about arteta,he deserve all the accolades he’s getting, we r surely getting there!

    2. jon fox says:

      Glorious, Merely “long”? It certainly was long but also briliantly constructed with superb use of phrases. Why not tell Agbooola so,unless you disagree, of course. Many othe Gooners have rightly praised his writing . Why not do so too? Thia article, of all articles that have ever been on here, DESERVES praise! Agreed?

      1. Glorious says:

        @ Jon Fox

        You’re totally on point here, meanwhile, I didn’t disagree in the first place. I wish the coach best of luck, he has actually learnt the game

      2. Stephen Edomobi says:

        Agreed… Great Write up!

  4. Sue says:

    I agree with Glorious, it was a long article…not used to it on here 😄
    Having said that though, it was a really good read. Thank you, A.T Israel 👍

    1. Glorious says:

      @ Sue, thanks

      @ Agboola Israel, well done, keep it up.

  5. Trudeau says:

    Too soon for a song? Here’s a starter for ten:
    You got style and grace
    Put a smile on my face
    We’re waving your banners all over the place
    Singing
    Mi Kel Mi Kel
    ARTETA
    (Clap Stomp Stomp Clap)
    Mi Kel Mi Kel
    ARTETA
    (Clap Stomp Stomp Clap)

    1. Sue says:

      👍 Very good, Trudeau!

  6. Dif Madara says:

    one noticeable difference between Arteta and Pep is at the base of the midfield. Pep uses a shuttler who is also good ball player i.e. Fernandihno, Busquets, Martinez etc. Pep’s shuttlers drop between centerhalves during build up and are also able switch play very fast. Arteta’s midfield base is more like Ancelotti’s great Milan team comprising of a regista and natural DM. Unlike Pep, Arteta’s registaa i.e. Xhaka drops on the side of centerhalves (almost fullback position)to aid in build up and beat press using long vertical passing like Pirlo. The DM (Torreira)is advised to win tackles and interceptions and play simple, short passes to others just like Gattuso. It is still early days but it is not all Pep. Arteta is unique in a way

  7. Muha Anko Anko says:

    Wow! What an article, I enjoyed every minute of reading it.. good work Agboola..

    Your points are spot on and very well expressed.

  8. Goonerboy says:

    Wonderfully written article, I enjoyed reading it….more of this please!

    Arteta is obviously intelligent, I wish the very best of luck with us…

    Can’t wait to visit the Etihad, how is the reception gonna be like, I guess we have to wait to that…coyg!

  9. First I want to say that the article was written with such beautiful prose. I’m highly impressed. You are truly gifted.
    You should consider a career in journalism or maybe Novel writing you clearly have a gift.
    I love everything you wrote. I believe in Arteta. He will succeed.

  10. AlexLaca9 says:

    I love your writing style, gorgeous article. Keep writing and keep submitting articles on JA please 🙏🏽

  11. Pat says:

    Very nice article Agboola, I sure will be following your articles. All of the things you mentioned were the early signs Emery didn’t give me. Then he didn’t allow Ramsey to stay, he picked up fight openly with Ozil and we didn’t know Torreira was the most un happy, almost all the players has one or two problems. Then the football went down (I think the players stopped responding to his tactics) xhaka’s issue. My greatest problem with Emery was because his divisiveness. Arteta has given me everything I want in the team, even when we lost against Chelsea I was very happy and optimistic with performance and tactics. I sincerely hope Arteta becomes very very successful at Arsenal. He has my support!!!! And for those saying we need Allegri well I say you can never be sure of what you will get with any manger. He has handled Xhaka’s transfer issues without making any mess of it, classy for my best manger as we speak!!!!

  12. jon fox says:

    As someone who writes professionally myself, I can confidentky predict a shining future for the superbly talented Agboola. His writing was, by a county mile, the best I have ever seen on this site. This was, by any standards, a superbly constructed article full of detailed and dramatic phrases that caught the eye.

    I wish you well in your chosen and noble career as a writer Agboola and will hope to see much more of you on this site. You have clearly impressed many other Gooners too and no wonder! Marvellous too, to see corect punctuation, which is very rare on a fan site.

  13. hydrogen_afc says:

    By far one of the best articles I’ve read in a while, keep it up agboola

  14. Khadii says:

    Wow…
    What an article!!!
    The best I have read on here in a long while.
    Kudos A.T Israel

  15. Dianjuh says:

    I haven’t read such an interesting article since I last read from Desigunner.

    Thoroughly enjoyed it! As much as I did the game.

    Such writing skill is unique.

    Kudos!

  16. LS says:

    Truly enjoyed this article. Very well written.

  17. Break-on-through says:

    The change in Ozil has been great, but the change in our wide players has solidified us too. No more are our fullbacks getting pulled out wide to pick up a fullback because that is what our wingers are doing. Pepe and Auba got back every time they could to pick up that extra man and it allowed our fullbacks to position themselves to the side of our CB’s ready to close down the winger or wide forward at a moments notice. I’ve seen a few pictures after the game of us without the ball, the shape looks great. I like that our players look ready to take two sprints forward into midfield rather than backing off, and I like that everybody is picking up a player. Still early doors but the signs are great.

  18. Le Coq Monster says:

    This article was …The Mutts Nuts!……………I partically liked……” Everything he said gleamed with a layer of penetrating intelligence”…………….I shall use “Penetrating Intelligence” when I next make love to a high IQ super model! 😆

  19. RSH says:

    Great article, love the positivity that Arteta has brought to the club. Let’s keep that going even if the rest of the season continues to be rocky. I believe in Arteta’s vision and already have a better understanding of what he wants this team to be. This is what I wanted Emery to at least give me in his first season, and Arteta has done that in a month.

  20. ken1945 says:

    Completely agree on the article, it’s contents, the prose, the punctuations and the message to us, the fans.
    Congratulations and, because you had something important to say, the length of the article was irrelevant…thank you.

    As RSH has said above, we have now got from the squad, exactly what we all thought and expected from them.
    The enthusiasm, commitment, tactics and solidarity reminds me of the early days of AW and that is as high a compliment as I, personally, can give.

    One thing we should remember as well, when comparing MA to PG. is that pep has been able to invest in the best in the world in so many positions…MA has taken on a squad of players who come nowhere near that description, but played with the same intensity.

    When RSH says he has a better understanding of what MA wants, we must surely all agree and if the same question had been asked of UE, none of us would have had a clue.

  21. S.J says:

    I usually don’t read the articles most times cause I find the comments more interesting.
    Obviously this article is top class so I will go and read it immediately after this comment.

    I haven’t seen the weird and controversial comment yet from Agu Emen..

    1. Gily says:

      His comments sometimes are weird for a true Arsenal fan. I began suspecting he could actually be either a troll or a complete masquerade. He must be a fan of one of the opposing teams.

  22. Tojo says:

    The best article I’ve read on this site for about three years. Showing collective support of the team and it’s manager. A great read. Thankyou.

  23. Gily says:

    Wow! Just Wow this article.

    Longish but that’s the ingredients, and I enjoyed every bit of it. It is just like an extract from a best selling novel – a true literary work. AGBOOLA TIMI ISRAEL, keep the good work up.

    Arteta is a talented young man destined to become a very good football manager, and had the additional advantage of learning from two different exceptional football HEADS. I think Wenger recommended him before leaving as his successor silently. Everything that happened between then and now is history, but we are a fortunate lot to have him agree to manage our dearly loved football club Arsenal.

    I am optimistic that we are going to become a force to be reckoned with once more under his guidance. But we equally need the support of the owner, and no more excessive ‘reffymanderig’ from the PGMO.

  24. Reggie says:

    Arteta has to be the second coming because we are all pinning our hopes on him being our demi god because we know we are desperate and if he isnt, we are doomed.

    1. Tony says:

      Lols.. So doomed. I fear for it.

  25. Gunnerphilic says:

    This article is a work of art, simple. Great mind, sharp as a tack and fantastic use of words. You have done well for yourself in just one article. Please keep it up!

  26. famousfromdubai says:

    this the best article I have read from this site for a long time. it had imagery, depth, wittiness and quantifiable analysis. this is the least expected from an article, unfortunately it’s coming from a 19-year-old, while the old goons drown us with senseless AFTV articles and regurgitated old news.
    More Grace Timi

  27. Gooner Sumant says:

    I surmise, going by this article, just like Arteta, our admin Pat himself ( or herself- not sure yet) is a very intelligent person. Admin has also got a wicked sense of humor – “Protagonists, attacking football, pressing, culture, atmosphere, change, brexit, impeachment, evolution, fake news”.
    Excellent read nonetheless.

    1. Gooner Sumant says:

      I myself, however, could be labeled borderline stupid for not getting the name of the original author right. This is seriously well-carved an article from a 19 year old. Kudos! Huge respect!
      May you find what you want to do in your life. Best wishes!

  28. Tom says:

    Arteta will get time from the media as they would know him from his playing days. Arteta would of done many press interviews as captain and at rangers and everton.

    At city they would of studied liverpool well and his inside knowledge of city is a bonus.

    Klopp is efficient, Pep is intense. Two ends to one end.
    What arteta becomes will only be known inside Mikels mind. At arsenal I do feel he has a structure, even with the owner fan relationship.

    Top teams play 4 4 2 in defence and 2 3 5 in attack with 4 2 3 1 as the standard formation.

    Ozil has played better, and this is because of Torriera deep in the middle. It also allowed Torriera to play in his natural role and play it better then Kante Rodri or Henderson.

    Xhaka on his natural left further left means he too has improved. Auba and Laca become become natural 2 forwards because Kosalniac makes up the wing width. It’s the role that sterling takes up that Auba is playing. Laca is jesus or aguero position. Pepe takes up sane or Silva/Marhez position.

    Having Nelson Saka Martinelli in the wings makes this situation interesting.

    Whatever Arteta becomes, he has already made sense of our players and them of themselves. With this the players can grow at arsenal, and we give ourselves a chance of doing something special again.

    All I know, is he has spoken the right words out there for us to hear and the players have also been given the right words.

    Get laca and Auba to commit. Truth is I think they want to stay. Bring in the right type of players and let’s see what we can do…

    1. ozziegunner says:

      It is still early days for Mikel Arteta.
      In response to JJPawn and jon fox, Unai Emery came to Arsenal with a good CV, had managed successfully at big clubs, finished 5th by a point and reached the Europa League final, yet ultimately failed at Arsenal.
      Many on here were positive about him until injuries and lack of application and commitment by players, as well as his communication problems brought his demise starting at the end of the 2018/19 season. It should also be remembered that as “head coach” he was expected to coach the players bought in for him, rather than those he wanted.
      It was interesting to see how he went from “we have our Arsenal back” to the “devil incarnate” “Dracula” when results went against him.
      Hopefully the players, fans and in particularly the owner and Board support Mikel Arteta in his Arsenal project.

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