Prediction: Wenger Will Get His Pep For His Replacement
There has been much twittery about the succession of Arsene over the last 6 or 12 months as Steve Bould has been brought to the assistant manager spot, while the ever tantalizing Pep Guardiola butterfly has yet to alight on the English Rose of his choosing. While ruminating on such matters, a bloggette formed itself within the chasm of my mind…So here goes:
I’m sick of @goonerdave66 whipping out blogs from the past where he predicting everything from why Arsenal should sign Poldi and Giroud to why Arteta would make a superb Makele-esque midfielder to who the fifth scorer would be in a future 6-1 defeat of Southampton. It sickens me. That bastard.
I assume he is doing it by writing every possible kind of random blog with every possible or imaginable outcome including every possible permutation. Et voila, he whips out one he wrote earlier. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never read any of the one’s he pulls out of his arse. But there they are, every bloody time, with a date stamp from X number of months earlier. It pisses me off. Not only does he become the Oracle of Delphi on all matters Arsenal, he then writes funny blogs. Jesus, Dave! Leave some small corner of the blogosphere untrodden, will you?
Anyway, my nose was well out of joint recently, and so I fell upon a cunning plan. Rumours that Dave kept a Crystal Ball next to his bed haunted my waking dreams. I resolved to get my grubby mitts on the magical, mystical orb; to shine the beejaysus out of it; and to see what I could see.
I’ll give you the short version. I shimmied up his drain pipe (hang on, that didn’t come out right. Oi Oi, that’s what he said last night. Ba boom.) in the dead of night, stole into his bedroom, rummaged around his old sack which was dangling over the side of the bed, and low and behold! There it twinkled, like a tiny beacon on a hill, away in the darkness.
Anyway, blah, blah blah. I shined his orb goodo, squinted with my good eye, and here is what I saw: wavy, wavy cloudy vision slowly becomes crystal clear.
It’s 20xx, and for years the top clubs have been in a death match to capture the services of one Pep Guardiola. Chased by United, City, Chelsea, the top Italian clubs and even Real Madrid who are new victims of another Jose Mourinho scorched earth policy from which they need to be healed, the Spaniard is much in demand. But Arsenal and Wenger in particular have had their eye on the Spaniard who could turn Barca Light into Barca Heavy. They have wooed and seduced, and beyond everyone’s expectations Arsenal have once again got their man. Let it be noted that this is one position that The Arsenal can pay top dollar for.
Yes, we got him! This #4, this genius of a deep lying midfielder, this midfield general who surveys all before him, this puller of strings, this leader of men. He can now take everything he has gleened through his years of top flight football to lead Arsenal from the sidelines.
As was clear from many interviews, Arsene is a groupie of Spanish midfield tiki-taka, and had become a proponent of it himself. However, many thought that the promotion of Steve Bould to the first team coaching ranks pre-saged an imminent further promotion to the top spot. This bemused Arsene, who tried to explain on many occasions to those who were listening, that Steve was a replacement for Pat Rice, the assistant manager. Beyond that, he was a valued member of the coaching staff, and continued to make a substantial contribution to strengthening the team’s defense.
But Wenger hadn’t reshaped and remoulded Arsenal into one of the most progressive playing teams in world football, not to hand his vision over to someone who shared his passion for great attacking and passing football, who believed in attack above defense, and who knew that everything in modern football, attack or defense, flows from the number 4 position. And no country better exemplified this philosophy than Spain. Wenger just HAD to go Spanish.
Wenger had a long memory and was a student of history. He remembered how, when Margaret Thatcher was being pushed out of Number 10, Downing Street, she had appointed a successor who had always been a great advocate for her policies, John Major. As part of her cabinet, no one was more Thatcherite than John Major. And so she handed Major over the keys. However, Major did not really have Maggie dna. Without Maggie around, Major became far more centrist in his approach. He was much more conciliatory when the Iron Lady was not in the room.
Wenger was making the move upstairs at Arsenal but he wanted to make sure he didn’t get “Majored” by installing a coach who’s deepest instinct when faced with adversity was to look first to his defense. For Wenger, defensive failure, beyond set-pieces, was a failure of the midfield. Defense was a team exercise. This is not a cliche for him, this was his footballing vision. Therefore he needed someone who was wired the same way. Someone who, at their darkest moment, saw salvation emanating from mobilizing the midfield. A Barca man.
And so he moved for the man who could bring pep to Arsenal’s midfield, the man who had mastered the light arts of Tiki-Taka. Retiring as a player, the Spaniard entered coaching by taking over his club’s 2nd team at the age of 36, but then was quickly moved to coach the club’s 1st team. He was reaching the zenith of his coaching powers in his 41st year. It was a natural progression for one who loved the club that had brought him to the maelstrom of European football that he so craved.
How had Arsenal achieved this coup, when the world and his wife was chasing Pep Guardiola. Well, actually, it was pretty straight-forward. Why wouldn’t Mikel want to take over from Arsene.
Say what, now? *Screeching of brakes.* Exqueeze me? Mikel? As in, “Mikel Arteta?” But you said, Pep, didn’t you…Ohhhhhhhh. You meant Mikel all along.
Yes I did. Why bring in their Pep (who ain’t coming anyway) when we can have our Mikel, “home-grown” keeper of the Tiki-Taka flame. Mikel Arteta, our very own Barcelonian.
We don’t buy Superstars, we make them.
Mikel and Arsene: they were birds of a feather, kindred souls: classy, intelligent and obsessed with playing flowing football. They shared a vision of what the Arsenal Way was and should be. As Arsene moved gracefully into his 70’s he now knew he could enjoy the sleep of an old man who knows the farm is in safe hands. He would not get Majored by Mikel. Mikel was a man of Spain’s Midfield Golden Generation, a man who owed little loyalty to Barca, Real or the Spanish National Team. It was the best of all worlds for Arsenal.
The latter third of Mikel’s career were spent at Arsenal, weaving and dancing with Santi and Wilshere, to produce the best Spanish tiki-taka played by any midfield, anywhere. This became burned into the psyche of club and player. This was The Arsenal Way of playing.
Mikel could transition into management at Arsenal in a parallel path and on exactly the same timeline as Pep did at Barca.
Why not Bould? The short version… If I am worried about wiring, I call an electrician. If I am worried about my pipes, I call a plumber. I do not believe Wenger will want to do anything other than double down on his footballing philosophy in the future. It will be many more than 20 years of Wengerdom by the time that comes to pass. Onward, onward with flowing, passing football. He will want to hand over to a past master and a pass master, of his own choosing, and at least in part, of his own making. But the heir will need to be one of us.
Here is what Santi had to say to Arteta recently: “Here at Arsenal, you’re a real leader. Upon my arrival, I was a little surprised at the level of respect that everyone has for you in the dressing room. But when I saw you play with the group and on the field, it is obvious that almost all consider you Captain. You are a leader. I’m no good at that, nobody would listen to me! But when you talk, they listen. You are already a leader of the team, and if we follow your lead, we are trained to fight for everything.”
Now, I hope everyone makes sure Vermaelen never lays eyes on that interview. Maybe the simplest explanation of the quotes is that Santi’s English is shite, and in fact Mikel is the only player he can understand and follow, so he assumes that’s what everyone else is doing. But it is probably not the correctiest explanation. From a mile away, anyone can spot that Mikel has the X-Factor.
And then there are the things Arsene has said about Mikel:
“He is always 100% focused and committed and that is what you want from a real professional. He brings the best out of other players.
“I believe he is a winner and a fighter as well. I think he possesses both aspects of the game of a real midfielder – that means he can defend and he can attack. That is what we looked for.”
And later, after the 1-0 City game at the Emirates last year…
“He is a player you don’t like to lose because he is an organiser, a winner and has great qualities.”
“He first won the ball back through complete focus on what the opponent will do and where he could lose the ball. He then finished the action and scored the goal.
“That is what I call a real midfielder, a guy who is always in the game.”
So, the more I chew on it, the more compellingly obvious the future seems. Get thee to the bookie’s office before it becomes obvious to everyone else, too.
There are many names who the faithful would love to see as a future manager. But, when you are worried about the pipes, you call a plumber. Mikel fits the bill perfectly. It is as if he were hand-crafted by the gods themselves to keep alive the flame of The Arsenal Way.
Move over @goonerdave66. Nostradamus, me arse! If you you want your crystal ball back, come on over and shine my orb for me.
Mikel Arteta, Arsenal Manager. Anyone got a problem with the sound of those words? Nope. Me neither.