‘A servant must be like his master’ is a common phrase used around the world. However, in football, this is not always the case. Being an understudy of a successful manager does not always translate to becoming an immediate success.
Many might argue otherwise, after all, the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Joachim Low, and Jose Mourinho became successful after playing understudy to Carlo Ancelotti, Jurgen Klinsman, and Van Gaal respectively. Notwithstanding, for every success story recorded by an understudy, there are ten times more unsuccessful stories.
This brings us to the question: should Arteta have remained Guardiola’s understudy?
For some assistant managers, the goal is to become a manager. So, when Arsenal called in December 2019, Arteta saw it as an opportunity to become a manager.
After all, he retired from professional football and as captain of the same club a few years before.
The club even offered him a place at their academy, one he failed to take. Instead, he opted to become the assistant manager of the man he first met in Barcelona.
Arteta as an Understudy
Together, they blew everyone in the league away and created countless records. For all the applause that were showered on Guardiola, he (Guardiola) was always quick to highlight how important Arteta was.
He even suggested that Arteta might succeed him at the club in one of his comments. Guardiola said: “I will like him to stay with us. Manchester City has a person of incredible value to work here in the future.”
Arteta also had the respect of players at the club. Sane who was at City when Arteta was an understudy of Guardiola said of the then assistant manager: “He is always right. We speak a lot about my movements, how to run into the spaces behind the defence.” Fernandinho even said, “Mikel [Arteta] has helped me improve with his advice.”
These rave reviews by players and Guardiola suggested that Arteta had the respect of the staff. But when it came to the decision of remaining an understudy or becoming a manager, Arteta opted for the latter. To be fair to him, most people would have taken a job at a club they have good ties with, and one of the top clubs in England too.
Arteta As An Arsenal Manager
Arteta’s earlier days at Arsenal were rosy as he led the team to FA Cup success by defeating Guardiola’s Manchester City in the semi-final and Chelsea in the final. This was a sharp turnaround from a club that looked troubled seven months prior. At the beginning of his first full season as manager (2020/2021), his Arsenal team pipped Liverpool to the community shield title and got to the semi-final of the UEFA Europa League.
However, his successes were often overshadowed by rumours of dressing room unrest.
Whether with Mesut Ozil or Guendouzi, who later exited the club or Aubameyang and Leno; there is always a thick cloud over his relationship with players.
However, the biggest criticism is failing to take Arsenal back to the Champions League after 18 months in charge.
The club’s consecutive 8th place finish was not well received by most fans.
In addition, Arteta’s signings have been less than impressive. Many Arsenal fans are indeed hoping that Arteta’s signings would not end being some of the worst Arsenal Signings in their history.
With the recent investments made with the purchase of players, Arteta may run out of excuses if he fails to take the club back to the UEFA Champions League.
The club spent the most of any English club on player purchases ahead of the 2021/22 Premier League season and they only have domestic competitions to focus on.
Whether he is better off as an understudy of Guardiola at Manchester City or as Arsenal manager might just be dependent on how the 2021/2022 season ends….. if he remains manager till the end!