So, this is it; the big day. Move over Hazza and Megs, the real business is about to hit the front pages. Arsenal carry out the last vestiges of the media beauty pageant with Thierry Henry’s interview before announcing Mikel Arteta as the new boss. It’s not an interview as such, more a chat with Ivan over tea and biscuits telling him how Mikel is their man.
And he is. I mentioned the other day that for a ‘conservative’ club this was a big step; it’s as big a step as appointing Bertie Mee, but without the fall-back position of him being caretaker.
The appointment ends the air of uncertainty over the club. Not just in filling a vacant position, but also in getting some idea of how the new management structure will work. The playing side, the actual matches and training, will hang in the air for a while longer. Arteta, presumably, has his own ideas of which players to cut loose and who he definitely wants to keep.
At a guess, half the squad don’t know his thinking one way or the other. I’d be surprised if it’s less than that unless the list of players for sale is long. Arteta will also know which positions he wants to strengthen quickly. If he is to make two signings this season, I contend centre-back and goalkeeper are the key roles. We need a defensive midfielder as well, but not as desperately as we need those two roles filling.
Sokratis is another Dortmund or former Dortmund player we’re looking to sign; it will be cheaper to buy Dortmund as a club at this rate. As a ‘quick’ dip into the market, you’re getting an upgrade on Mustafi; error-prone but with some clue about defending as well.
I’m in Charge. No, I am. Hey, What About Me?
But you’re left wondering if Sven has more tricks up his sleeve. At the moment, he’s proving to be a one-trick pony but having been in situ for six months, he must have other, non-Dortmund, players under scrutiny. Otherwise, he is just a one-man StatDNA and that isn’t particularly complimentary.
Equally, our slovenly behaviour in transfer windows must be a thing of the past. It’s quite right that Mikel Arteta is focussed purely on football matters, yet retaining a veto over signings. He’s the man tasked with coaching the squad; he should at least choose them.
The issue is a resolution to differences of opinion. Can he and Sven sit down to discuss players, finding a solution without one running to Ivan? That provides more proof that the system works for Arsenal than everyone nodding in agreement. I’m sure they will. However, at least one of them has a high-profile instance of combustibility that marks it out as an area to watch.
And when they have, it’s down to Raul to negotiate quickly and well. Not necessarily in that order, but with less to spend than usual after buying Aubameyang in the winter, shrewdly is the key trait. No procrastination; in like Flint, if you like and making sure we land the players.
It sounds so simple, but when you think of the prevarication of the past, of how the hesitancy became the stuff of lore, this changing dynamic must work for the club. Otherwise the question is why bother to make those changes. And, Ivan blows a lot of smoke up a lot of arses, as well.
Arteta’s first job is stocking his coaching staff. There’s a genuine possibility that Steve Bould may go, especially if he harbours ambitions to be a head coach himself. Stoke City, his hometown club, has a vacancy and the suggestion is taht Bould is interested. Whether that’s 1 + 1 = 1 or otherwise, time will tell.
Similarly, does Jens want to be a goalkeeping coach? Or has he got eyes on a bigger role? Everyone claims to know what is going on – the weekend saw reports that Xabi Alonso, Arteta’s friend from their youth, will be involved – but until the appointment is made, we know diddly squat.
Alonso would be an ideal coach in many ways for Xhaka. The latter is not dissimilar to the Spaniard; not blessed with pace, can’t tackle but both struck the ball sweetly. Can he bring the best out of the Switzerland international?
That’s if Xhaka stays at the club. We need a defensive midfielder and frankly, that’s Xhaka’s role if Ramsey and Özil are both in the side. Is the former Monchengladbach man the saleable asset rather than the Welshman or Bellerin? He would command a substantial fee, even if it isn’t going to be as much as we paid for him.
There is a world of possibilities ahead. It may turn out to be the wrong choice but equally, it might be a stroke of genius in appointing Arteta. Time will tell.
And now you watch them appoint someone else…