The worst kept secret in soccer is now out.
Mikel Arteta is the new head coach of Arsenal.
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The deal for the Spanish coach was confirmed by the Gunners on Friday as he’s signed a three-and-a-half year deal to lead the north London club, and the first game he will oversee will be against another of his former clubs, Everton, at Goodison Park on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
Arteta, 37, was the former club captain at Arsenal and left them in 2016 to take up a position as part of Guardiola’s coaching staff at Manchester City. He won two FA Cups while leading the team, and many of the current Arsenal squad (including Hector Bellerin and Mesut Ozil) were his former teammates.
“This is a huge honor. Arsenal is one of the biggest clubs in the world. We need to be competing for the top trophies in the game and that’s been made very clear to me in my discussions with Stan and Josh Kroenke, and the senior people from the club,” Arteta said. “We all know there is a lot of work to be done to achieve that but I am confident we’ll do it. I’m realistic enough to know it won’t happen overnight but the current squad has plenty of talent and there is a great pipeline of young players coming through from the academy.”
Josh Kroenke, speaking on behalf of Arsenal’s board and owners Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, added that Arteta “knows our expectations and those of our fans around the world are high and we are confident he can play a lead role in taking the club back to the levels we all demand.” Kroenke also thanked Freddie Ljungberg for his professionalism during his time as interim boss over the last three weeks.
During Arteta’s time as Pep Guardiola‘s assistant coach at Man City they won the Premier League twice, the FA Cup and two League Cups as they’ve dominated the domestic game. Asked by reporters about the situation, Guardiola confirmed that City will keep the same backroom staff they currently have and wished Arteta well.
“We stay with the same people who are here,” Guardiola said. “He decided to move there and when you have a dream you cannot stop it, you have to follow your dreams. Arsenal was important to him. He finished his career there, they’re one of the biggest clubs in the country, and I wish him all the best. I’m pretty sure he’ll do an excellent job.”
So, that’s it then. Arsenal have their new manager after firing Unai Emery last month. Ljungberg had been in interim charge in recent weeks but the Gunners displays had dipped even lower and the entire club needed a lift. Arteta’s arrival will do that, as the young coach has respect and love from everyone connected with Arsenal.
But is he the right man for this mammoth job?
Only time will tell but the big takeaway from his time at Man City is that he was Guardiola’s general on the training ground. A lot of Man City’s success over the past few seasons has been attributed to the work Arteta did day in, day out on the training pitch and how much the squad of players respected him.
The former Barcelona, PSG, Glasgow Rangers, Everton and Arsenal midfielder was a silky smooth player during his playing days and his transition into the coaching game has been just as effortless. When injuries hit him hard during the latter stages of his career, Arteta had plenty of time to plan for his next step. Returning to Arsenal will be a dream come true for him, but he knows that the hard work now begins.
With star players such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang linked with moves away and the defensive issues persisting, Arteta’s first focus will be on gelling the squad and improving the defensive structure. But being a disciple of Arsene Wenger and now Guardiola, we can expect his Arsenal team to play with a certain swagger and panache.
Arteta is an Arsenal man. But will he be a success? The last few years as Guardiola’s assistant have given him a great base to build from but there’s no doubting this is a huge challenge to get the Gunners back into the top four, then challenging for trophies.