Believe in me

“I told you, I told you. Believe in me, my friend. Believe in me.” The words of Mikel Arteta to club doctor Gary O’Driscoll seconds after the final whistle blew at Wembley on Saturday. What has been clear from the very beginning is that Mikel Arteta is no ‘Head Coach.’ He is a manager. That is not to say that there isn’t a devolution of responsibility at Arsenal.

Arteta himself has made that very clear, he has challenged the executive branch of the club on several occasions and made it clear where certain responsibilities lie. This practice has become more and more commonplace for head coaches in modern, elite football. The lifespan of the head coach is so short and the business so cut-throat that you can scarcely blame them for gently chaperoning blame elsewhere.

However, what has been clear from the very beginning is that Mikel Arteta does not see himself as a pawn in a structure, at the very least he is aiming for primus inter pares status and probably more. He arrived at Arsenal at a time when the club was so fragile that they could scarcely push back on the cult of Arteta.

同样的事情也发生了查普曼,当他在20世纪20年代来到[被清除,我不等同阿尔特塔和查普曼。当亨利·诺里斯,阿森纳的整体执行,从足球永久禁止1929年,他留下了空白,其继任者塞缪尔·希尔 - 伍德只是太高兴了,让查普曼来填补。授予查普曼董事会的每一个要求,从砸大卫杰克的签名世界转会纪录,以改造海布里的东,西看台,以允许查普曼重新设计工具包,使玩家们彼此更加明显。

Sixty years later, the board backed George Graham as he sold established stars like Tony Woodcock, Kenny Sansom and Charlie Nicholas and replaced them with academy players and lower league purchases. Arsenal was in desperate need of modernisation when Arsene Wenger arrived in 1996 and he was more or less given carte blanche to bend the club to his will.

Modern clubs are large organisations that require hierarchical management structures but having an elite coach is like having an elite player- it always creates a kind of dependency. Pep Guardiola is not a ‘Head Coach’ at Manchester City. Jurgen Klopp is not the ‘Head Coach’ at Liverpool. They have extensive teams that work underneath them; but they are monolithic to the eyes of the outside world.


米克尔花了很大的风险,他post-Liverpool interview in July, “The gap is enormous. The gap in many areas we cannot improve it in two months. But the gap between the accountability, the energy, the commitment, the fight of the two team is now equal.” He subsequently denied that his comments constituted a challenge to those above him; but the intention was obvious.

随后阿森纳击败曼城nd Chelsea to win the FA Cup and winning changes the story, it’s that simple. When Arteta made that post-Liverpool pronouncement he still only had a handful of top-level games to his managerial career. Putting a trophy on the sideboard strengthens his position and enhances his reputation.


We could see it in the increased tactical coherence in the performances even when the performances were subpar. Arteta could hardly have failed to offer an improvement on Unai Emery in terms of communication but his oratory skills have been exceptional. Giving good press conference copy is of limited importance, really. That’s not the point.


Mikel held his unveiling press conferences on the day before this game. It’s difficult to explain but our train carriage, crammed with Gooners, just hummed with conversation for the entire journey. It has been so long since that has happened for an away match that I forgot that excitement and anticipation were ever part of the away day experience.

I had expected Arteta’s appointment to be divisive and debatable [and, let’s face it, with good cause]. Division, rancour and debate have become so deeply ingrained in the Arsenal support in recent years that it had become a reflexive condition- a shared neurosis. Yet the train carriage hummed as groups of Arsenal supporting friends talked over one another to express their optimism.

I had forgotten what that felt like, it was as though an irritating, distant buzzing sound that I had learned to tune out had just disappeared. Everyone was won over by Arteta’s initial utterings, his promise of culture change of non-negotiables, of suffering together. His language was slightly overwrought; but it was by necessity.

Uniting a divided fan base so immediately was no mean feat but healing the rift in the stands is not Mikel Arteta’s job. I allowed myself to think that if he can heal a fractious fan base this quickly, what can he do with these players? Arteta hasn’t done a perfect job by any means. There have been mistakes, poor performances and times when a front three that the club have paid £180m for has been stunted.

However, one by one we are observing redemption arcs in previously doomed players. Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Dani Ceballos. As the players celebrated on Saturday, Arteta gripped each one of them in a bearhug and on every occasion it was reciprocated. You can see that he has forged a closeness with the group, that he has secured that most sought after of managerial trinkets- buy-in.

That is a significant achievement when you consider Arteta’s lack of experience and when you consider that, on several occasions, he has told us all what we can see with our eyes- that there is not enough quality in this Arsenal squad. Publicly questioning the quality of your players, no matter how accurately, is another very risky move but one that Mikel has been rewarded for.


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