Mikel Arteta-Edu partnership can emulate the Arsene Wenger-David Dein chemistry at Arsenal
Mikel Arteta arrived at Arsenal in late last December with one mission, that is, to bring back the glory days of a club that was once the talk of Europe with its brand of flamboyant attacking football in the late nineties and the early part of the new century's first decade.
Only nine months have passed since the Spaniard's appointment and Arsenal have already acknowledged the work being done by their manager by changing his job title from head coach to first team manager effectively providing him with a promotion.
The move comes as part of a wide ranging restructure at the club's hierarchy on the backdrop of a grim economic situation caused by the lethal coronavirus pandemic. The change in designation for Arteta allows him to work very closely with the North London club's technical director and former player Edu Gaspar. The title first team manager was done away with after Arsene Wenger left the Emirates stadium and the head coach concept was brought in immediately after Unai Emery replaced the Frenchman.
Being a former Arsenal captain himself Arteta was always destined to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Wenger and the very concept of the Arsenal way of football is ingrained in his veins. The club, meanwhile, feels it is the right time the two former players Edu and Arteta strike up a partnership that puts the club back amongst the elite of European football society once again.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought about an unprecedented upheaval in every sphere of the human society. Big English clubs like Arsenal that are not just formed to play football but are considered to be integral to the English communities in North London have had to take tough decisions for the sake of the smooth operations of the club.
Criticized heavily for making 55 non-playing posts redundant and letting go of the services of head of recruitment Raul Sanllehi during the pandemic, the club has justified the tough decisions on the basis of a cost cutting structure that would ultimately keep things normal on the pitch going into the 2020-21 season.
With former managing director Vinai Venkatesham now elevated to the chief executive post the hierarchy tree now looks thin enough to take the club forward and all the important football related decisions- both on and off the pitch- will now rest with Mikel Arteta in consultations with technical director Edu and the chief executive Mr. Venkatesham.
Arsenal are in the process of going back to the days when the then vice chairman David Dein forged a formidable partnership with a young Arsene Wenger, freshly recruited from Monaco by Dein himself, to start a revolution in 1996 that saw the Gunners become the famed 'Invincibles' in 2003 and break the Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson monopoly on English football.
Although the change in post title seems symbolic yet all the matters related to first team football will now directly go to Arteta, in addition to his job of running the coaching department of the club, and Edu for their consultations and ultimate decision making.
The reward for the 38 year old former Everton midfielder is for steering the club through troubled waters of the past nine months with limited resources that were available and making the long suffering Emirates faithful believe again by tasting success on the football pitch.
“He hasn’t been a head coach from the very first day he walked in the door,” Venkatesham said of Arteta. “He has been doing much more than that. So we are going to change his job to first team manager and that is really a recognition of what he has been doing from the day he walked in the door and also the capabilities that we believe Mikel has.
“He has walked into probably the toughest nine month period this football club has had in it’s 134 year history. I say probably, but I checked with Mr [Ken] Friar and he has been here for 70 of those years and he says it is the toughest period the club has ever had so, take it from him if you don’t want to take it from me.
“During that period Mikel has lifted the spirits of fans, staff, players and driven this team to an FA Cup semi-final and an FA Cup final, winning that trophy and winning the Community Shield. That is no mean feat. And we really acknowledge the man's capabilities, and that the man's capabilities fit much better as a manager than as a head coach.”
Arteta arrived at the club with the sole ambition of reviving the club's lost identity and he signed to not just train the players but imbibe in them what Arsenal stands for. He signed as a head coach to bring back the 'Highbury' culture that meant all the playing and non-playing staff at the club must win and suffer together.
This very attitude has already reaped benefits as the Gunners won the FA Cup for a record time in early August and beat Premier League champions Liverpool in the Community Shield in late August and rescue a surreal season form the jaws of utter disappointment.
In technical director Edu the Arsenal first team manager is getting an ally who himself identifies deeply with the club being a utility player from 2001 to 2005 and much like Arteta had been educated on the principles of their great mentor Wenger.
It seems the club from Islington has had enough of the back office politics related to the debt that was created in building the 60,000 seater Emirates stadium which for so many years crippled Wenger in taking the club back to the Premier League winning days and forcefully turn Arsenal into a selling club.
According to chief executive Vinai Venkatesham, Arteta and Edu will work closely together that will ultimately benefit the club's performance on and off the pitch. The 41 year old Edu has been the force behind Arteta's appointment in December and the former's role as the technical director closely resembles the work that David Dein used to do in North London.
Arsenal want to replicate the Wenger-Dein model that brought success to the club in the late nineties and early 2000s that may never be repeated again.
The telepathic relationship between the manager and the vice chairman brought the best out of players like Denis Bergkamp, Marc Overmars, Patrick Viera, Thierry Henry, David Seaman, etc, and the list just goes on. Wenger scouted and identified the talents and put the proposals on Dein's table and the latter signed up those players creating an identity and playing style for the club that was equivalent to that of the likes of Bayern Munich, Juventus, Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The passion of the two men for their beloved club was the stuff of legend for Arsenal fans till date and their unselfish work together for the best part of a decade formed the basis of an enviable success that the club enjoyed till the move from Highbury to the Emirates stadium in 2006 brought a substantial period of stagnation that culminated with the sacking of Unai Emery late in 2019.
Dein's departure in 2007 from the club put a hole in Wenger's appetite for success at Arsenal. In an interview just before his last game as a Gunners manager the Frenchman admitted his utter disappointment to see Dein leave the club which amazingly coincided with the club's lack of success in the succeeding years.
“Ideally, I would have loved to continue working with him,” Wenger said of Dein at that time.
Back to the present, chief executive Venkatesham has pledged to bring back the success and identity of the club and he is putting faith on the Edu-Arteta partnership to kick start a new era of hope and greatness.
The close season has been very busy for Arsenal and the signings made by the club so far bear hallmarks of the work being done by the technical director and the first team manager together. The arrivals of Brazilians Willian and Gabriel were the direct result of the vision and project Edu has put forward to these men prior to their signings.
Arteta identified Willian's versatility in the midfield and left footed central defender Gabriel's ability to play from the back and put forward the proposals to the former Brazil national team technical director and the result was a quick movement in a competitive transfer market to acquire the targets. Earlier the club from M25 selected their targets but took time to take decisions and the preferred players landed in other clubs that were quick to act.
The new designation for Arteta has been created just to prevent this sort of delays in the transfer market.
The new concept intertwines Mikel Arteta and Edu in every aspect of the first team football that includes recruitment, sports science, performance analysis and deep scouting. In the words of Edu himself they would work as if "two minds are thinking together".
The former Valencia defender had a similar relationship with the Brazil national team coach Tite during his time as the Selecao's technical director.
Edu was quoted as saying, “We both have to be part of the decision, so I cannot sign a physio without Mikel knowing who it is and Mikel cannot sign a physio without me knowing. That’s typical of the way we are going to be working together.
“I feel very comfortable because I did that before and for sure we are doing the right things and going in the right direction.”
Edu acknowledges that he is the man that has to take the responsibility to drive home the fact that success on the pitch will determine whether this new partnership has the ability to take Arsenal forward just as David Dein and Arsene Wenger created an unbreakable bond that was synonymous with the success the club achieved in those memorable ten years.
“Probably, I can be here in the long term and I really hope Mikel can be here in the long-term but I have to be in charge of it," Edu opined.
“It is a lot of responsibility and I feel confident, I feel prepared to be driving Arsenal in this way.”
The Brazilian's scouting success and admirable knowledge of the grass root football in consultations with Mikel Arteta will have a deep impact on the creation of a new Arsenal identity at the Emirates stadium.
Lastly Arsenal chief executive Vinai Venkatesham drives home the fact that for the club to achieve success across the M25 the Arteta-Edu partnership has to be for the long haul.
“We’ve had managers before, so I think that leads to connotations around structure. But this is very different. This is Mikel Arteta as manager working side by side together to run the first team operation with the technical director Edu.
“I’ve said lots of positive things about Mikel, so I find it a bit difficult to talk about him not being here. But ultimately that’s a big part of the technical director’s role, because he provides that permanency and stability to the club.”
Featured image credits: Getty Images
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