Mikel Arteta is six months into his tenure as Arsenal head coach. Only now are the problems at the club being realised. He doesn’t really have a chance.
When Mikel Arteta arrived as Arsenal’s new head coach, he said he knew the size of the job ahead of him. However, after a raft of recent troubling decisions, as well as a global pandemic to thrust the club’s already shaky finances onto very thin ice, he might want to rethink that assessment.
Arteta is hugely well thought of, both at Arsenal and around the league. He might not have extensive managerial experience, but players love being coached by him, his tactical knowledge is renowned, and he proved to have a positive impact on the team in the opening months of his time at the club. Despite this growth, though, the shortcomings of the club seem insurmountable.
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As David Ornstein said on the Athletic’s Ornstein and Chapman Podcast, of the two, it is the club who will fail to hold up their end of the bargain:
“There are so many challenges, many of them on the pitch due to personnel, others to do with culture, attitude, but the thing that struck me the most was that he is going to need time and support. If I cast my mind back to when he was appointed, I was speaking to somebody closely involved at the club and they said, ‘they don’t think it’s a case of whether or not Mikel Arteta will let Arsenal down, but whether or not the club will let Mikel Arteta down.”
This was made quite clear this week. Before Tuesday, Arsenal had not signed a player to a new contract in 285 days. Given the club’s historic problems regarding their mismanagement of contracts, as well as Raul Sanllehi’s vows to never allow another contract mess to arise and the appointment of apparent contract guru Huss Fahmy, it is a disastrous trend.
They then broke this calamitous record with three new contracts for David Luiz, Pablo Mari and Cedric Soares, each of which has their own shortcomings. It was not a sign that things are improving, but rather a confirmation of the messy management systems in place at the club.
As a source told Miguel Delaney of the Independent, the haphazard management approach at the club is hugely concerning, and it all stems from having ill-prepared figures in jobs that they are not capable of conducting:
“The recruitment is being done by people who’ve never been specialists in recruitment. Their contracts are being done by a guy who worked in cycling. So at a time when they need to be careful with money, they’ve put the investment of transfer funds into the hands of people who haven’t done it before.”
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All this comes under the shadowy departure of former Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat. Mislintat exited the club less than two years after being hired to lead the club into the post-Arsene Wenger era. Following his exit, Sanllehi assumed greater power and control behind the scenes. In an interview with German sports magazine 11Freunde last year via the I Paper, Mislintat discussed the difference in approach he and Sanllehi held, which is widely believed to why he departed so suddenly:
“Previously, we had a strong systematic approach to transfers, a mixture of watching things live as well as quality data and video analysis – Arsenal actually owns their own data company. That meant that we acted independently, we knew about all markets and players in all positions that came into question. However, the new leadership work more strongly with what they are offered from clubs or agents through their own networks.”
Of the two approaches, I know which one I would prefer to see my team use.
Add in the financial troubles of the club, the expected departures of key players, and the general lack of quality in the squad and Arteta really is in an impossible situation. Does he have a chance? It certainly seems as though he doesn’t.