By Tony Attwood
In a move that has taken the football world by surprise Mikel Arteta has resigned as Arsenal manager only days before he (or possibly Thierry Henry) was due to be announced as the new manager.
In a statement the man who played 110 games for Arsenal said, “A certain expert football analyst – for such men, I regret to say, do exist – made a remark about my lack of experience as a manager, suggesting that I would be forced to act as Wenger II, playing in the same style and simply using the same old players but just with different names. That person has hopefully been eaten by an MEP representing UKIP by now, but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against me again. For with my superior knowledge of the game, I have outsmarted the man by arranging to keep all the players that Wenger used and leave them with the same names. Pretty silly it will make these critics feel.”
In making such a comment Arteta has neatly summarised the practicalities of handling a load of competitive men aged under 35 all of whom are on mega salaries and have egos to match while handling a load of drunken men aged over 35 who are now eking out a living on a much smaller salary while claiming to be experts. Such a situation, which besets many a man starting out on his managerial career is not something that is not too often discussed in football columns, largely because it is such a complex issue it would be difficult to fit into the big headline and 100 word summary that passes for the norm these days. But perhaps it should be.
Each player needs to be made to feel welcome and wanted. He needs to be nurtured and encouraged to give up many of the things his massive income can provide. Likewise each manager needs nurturing too and protecting from the media and angry fans. Indeed there is always pressure on each new manager to bring his own mark to the club and do things differently, even if some of the things done before were actually done quite well – as for example with Arsenal’s home form last season.
In effect it doesn’t matter who manages Arsenal or what he (or indeed she) does because the media will report whatever agenda they think is going to bring them lots of readers. As indeed you may recall when Mr Wenger was appointed and a little while later the most appalling allegations about him were invented and a rowdy mob of half-baked journalists gathered at the foot of the steps of Highbury shouting, “What do you have to say about the rumours Mr Wenger?”
Mr Wenger’s reply of “What rumours?” so annoyed them that they were forced, very much against their will, to give up and go to the pub and then print the most biased reports of every single match thereafter.
The fact is that while many accuse Arsenal of having a “small club mentality” it is the correspondents that make such accusations who have that vision, reducing everything to endlessly repeated simplistic ideas until even they get bored and are forced to invent another notion even simpler than the first. As one media outlet wrote during Mr Wenger’s first week at Arsenal, he missed a press conference because he had constipation. He didn’t because there was no press conference, but if filled up another half page.
So if Mikel Arteta does indeed resign even before he it appointed it will not, and cannot possibly be due to a total misreading of the runes by the gentlemen of the press, nor indeed because Arteta thought “if this is what it is like before I join the club what is it going to be like after?” but rather a fault of the “small team” attitude of the club. Likewise if the club were to sign a Mr J Evans as a backup player it would be a sign of “small club mentality”, as if an organisation can actually have a sentient response to an event.
Likewise if Arsenal don’t sign Dries Mertens but he goes to Tottenham, and if Jorginho goes to Chelsea it will be because Arsenal and Arteta were “too slow”, not because anyone at the club decided the player wasn’t the right fit given the players we already have.
So in many regards Arteta is onto a sure fire loser at Arsenal unless he wins a trophy that is counted as a trophy by those who decide such things, which means he will forever be chasing himself round in circles. Win the FA Cup and well, we’ll just be back to the old Wenger days. Win the Europa League, well, we’ll take notice when he wins the Champions League. Win one trophy on average every two years, and yes again, that’s what Wenger did. Win the Champions League and suddenly we will find that only the new fangled Club World Cup counts for anything. “Until we’ve won that we can’t count as a big club”.
Reiss Nelson is awarded “Player of PL2” for the season (which he just has been) and you can’t win things with kids.
Sorry Mikel, just remember before you sign. There is no escape.
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