Strange as it may seem to anyone with a functioning frontal cortex, there are Gooners who still bray and whinge and bleat about sacking Arteta. This comes after our best Prem season since 2003-04, a season during which we spent close to 90% of the season top of the table. Did we bottle it? That would be a tough call considering the margin by which we exceeded expectations and the fact that the squad that overtook us achieved a treble. Even if we did bottle it, clubs like PSG and Barça are licking their lips as they gaze up our manager.
Arteta does have connections to each club, it’s true. He came through Barça’s La Masia along with Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta but never played for the first team, going on loan to where else but Paris Saint-Germain for a season. Those connections seem paper-thin, though, compared to his evolving connection to the Arsenal. His time as a player here exceeds the time he spent at Barça and PSG combined—and his time as manager has only deepened that connection. Despite our failure to finish this season as Prem champions, those two clubs have each been linked with luring him away. To each, I say, “get bent”.
The interest from PSG makes some sense, if only because they chew up and spit out managers with an almost Chelsea-esque frequency. Current manager Christophe Galtier has failed to impress despite leading PSG to yet another Ligue 1 title; his failure to get PSG anywhere close to that long-coveted Champions League title has him twisting in the wind. WIth Neymar, Messi, and Ramos getting booed by their own fans, and Mbappé doing everything he can to force his way out, PSG need an overhaul, and Arteta has shown that he is ruthless enough to cut unwanted, overpaid players loose and to rebuild a squad and, indeed, and entire club’s culture, in short order. Did I just insinuate that PSG need a revamp of their entire club’s culture? I hope not. I meant to state it directly and openly.
Over at Barça, the interest seems less…necessary. Club legend Xavi has guided them to a domestic double (but also a less-impressive exit from the Champions League). Also unlike at PSG, Xavi has nurtured at least a few academy products like Gavi and Balde, but one might expect an academy as legendary as La Masia to be producing more starters than that. Still, despite Xavi’s stature within this mes que un club, the reported interest in Arteta suggests that such stature carries little currency…and that Arteta’s stature may already eclipse the heavily-decorated Barça legend. Maybe this is just the latest chapter in that unwritten novel in which Barça plunder Arsenal’s talent. Overmars. Petit. Hleb. Fabregas. Song. Vermaelen. More than a few of them offer cautionary tales.
It’s more than a bit telling that Arteta, after just three and a half years as a manager (two and a half which were, let’s face it, underwhelming at best) has attracted the attention of two of the world’s most-successful, most-rapacious clubs. It’s almost as if Arteta might know his way around a football club just a little bit more than the trolls and keyboard warriors who bang on about why he should be sacked. I won’t recycle the tired, old talking points about how he took one of the youngest, thinnest squads in the Prem to very nearly winning the Prem (except for having done so just now). I will revisit a few other points, even at a risk of enticing PSG and Barça even further.
He’s shown himself to be tactically versatile, such as when he adopted a counter-attacking style to overcome Chelsea and Man City en route to winning the 2020 FA Cup. He’s shown himself to be ruthless in exiling expensive players whose performances just weren’t cutting any mustard (Aubameyang, Ozil, Lacazette, and Mustafi, among others). He’s shown that he can give opportunities to young players so that they can pursue, deepen, and fufill their potential (Saka, Martinelli, Ødegaard, Saliba, Magalhães…). He’s shown that anything less than the best is both unacceptable and an opportunity to improve.
Long story short: he’s on his way to becoming a great manager.
If you’re not convinced, remind yourself that he came within just a few weeks and an injury or two from winning the Prem despite the very-best efforts of the most-expensive, most-experienced squad in the Prem, managed by the most-experienced, most-expensive (?) manager in the world…and he’s done that after just 3.5 years in the job.
For himself, Arteta has said, “I can only say that I am happy at Arsenal. I feel loved, valued by our owners, and I have a lot to do here at this club.” That sounds just a little bit like he wants to stay in order to achieve something quite grand. He goes on: “three years ago. I was Pep’s assistant at City. we played against Arsenal and I saw that the soul of the club had been lost. There was no enjoyment, no feeling.” Speaking there, he’s surely reflecting on his five years as an Arsenal player, which were hardly glorious years in and of themselves aside from the two FA Cups and Community Shields. Those were the “fourth place trophy years”, and Arteta clearly has not patience for such talk.
Speaking of patience, it sounds like he has none for any talk from PSG or Barça or any other club. It takes a certain kind of person to snub his nose at the likes of free-spending, trophy-hoarding clubs that look down their noses at all others. At a risk of cutting off my nose to spite my own face, I’m more than willing to stick by a manager who’ll stick by this club despite such interest.
What say you?