Mikel Arteta was appointed Arsenal boss on the 20th of December, 2019 and less than a year later he delivered the FA Cup. However, little more than 12 months after that, he was under immense pressure, with many Arsenal fans calling for him to be sacked. But, who is Arteta? What makes him tick, what is his background and, above all, can he bring the Premier League title back to Arsenal?
Arteta Quick Facts
Before we begin to look at what makes him special, and his chances of real, sustained success at the Emirates, let’s run through some of the basics first:
- Born: 26th March, 1982 in San Sebastian in Basque area of Spain
- Family: Married to Lorena Bernal with three children – Gabriel, Daniel, Oliver
- Clubs Played For: Barcelona (youth), PSG, Rangers, Real Sociedad, Everton, Arsenal
- Positions Played: Midfield (various roles, including as a number 10, a wide player, box-to-box and deep-lying playmaker)
- International Career: Played for Spain U16, U17, U18 and U21 but never full side; Fabio Capello unsuccessfully tried to bring him into England set-up
- Coach/Manager: Began as assistant coach under Pep Guardiola at Man City in 2016; Linked to Arsenal in 2018 but was only appointed in 2019 after Unai Emery was sacked
Destined for Management
Along Arteta’s football journey, several former colleagues have noted that they always believed he was destined to move into coaching. Ronald de Boer, who played with the Spaniard at Rangers, former Arsenal teammate, Keiran Gibbs, and another Gunner, Lukas Podolski, are just three to have made similar comments about Arteta’s likely career path.
Even before that, in his youth days with Barca he made an impression on Guardiola, who was already an established player and captain at the Catalan giants. Arteta himself would go on to captain Everton and Arsenal in the Premier League. He was not the Toffees’ regular skipper but was a leading figure among the players and urged David Moyes to attempt a more possession-based game.
A vocal presence in the dressing room, Arteta was also clearly a very tactical thinker who loved the philosophy of the game and wanted to think more about how his teams would try and play. In 2012, he is said to have impressed Guardiola, then Barca manager, by providing him with information about Chelsea ahead of their Champions League semi that year. As such, it was little surprise when Pep wanted him at Manchester City once the Spaniard’s playing days were over.
Arteta had other options at that time though, with Arsène Wenger also keen for him to take charge of Arsenal’s academy. In addition, former PSG colleague Mauricio Pochettino wanted him to come to Spurs.
Arteta’s Style as a Manager
In 2014, whilst he was still playing, Arteta was asked about his ideas. He said he had a clear philosophy that everyone had to be “120 per cent committed” and that “If not, you don’t play for me.” In terms of style, he added:
I want the football to be expressive, entertaining. I cannot have a concept of football where everything is based on the opposition. We have to dictate the game, we have to be the ones taking the initiative, and we have to entertain the people coming to watch us.
These were very much ideas that he still espoused when taking over at Arsenal and that we heard during the excellent All Or Nothing Amazon series. He has been heavily influenced by Wenger and of course Guardiola, as well as Moyes and Pochettino, and, through the latter, by Marcelo Bielsa. Aggression and commitment are a huge part of his thinking and when that is added to clever and inventive tactical thinking, the combination is potent.
Importance of Leadership & Team
One other notable thing about Arteta is the importance he clearly places on leadership and the team. The Arsenal side that he played in was often criticized for lacking leadership and players who would stand up and be counted. The Gunners were considered to be a soft touch by many with too many players not pulling their weight when it mattered. In the Everton team Arteta played in, there were several leaders on the pitch and this is something he clearly wants to replicate in his Arsenal side.
At Arsenal, he had made discipline and respect for colleagues central tenets and he was ruthless in shifting players out of the club who he believed could not, or would not, adapt. The likes of Mesut Ozil, David Luiz and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were all moved on and Arteta has largely replaced them with young, hungry players who he believed he can shape and mould.
The 2023 acquisition of Declan Rice is very much in keeping with that, with Rice demonstrating his brilliant leadership qualities at West Ham. Still only 24, Rice is hugely mature and can be a controlling presence in the Gunners midfield for almost a decade. There is no doubt that Arteta has spent a lot of money but they have made smooth steady progress and now look well-placed to mount a very serious title challenge once again.
“Trust the Process” Mantra
The days when the boss was mocked for his mantra of “trust the process”, very much a principle of Bielsa and other top coaches, now seem long ago. “The process” has seen the Gunners win the FA Cup, then the Community Shield, improving their league finish from eighth to fifth to second. In 2022/23, they amassed 84 points, a total that in the pre-Guardiola City days would often be enough to win the Premier League title. Indeed, it was Arsenal’s best return since their last title way back in 2004 with the Invincibles.
It is clear what the next step is for the club: they must win more silverware. Given just how good City are, Arteta must be given time, but with a little patience, there is every chance that the Gunners could be the side to overtake City in the years ahead.