Arsenal under the Mikel Arteta tenure has gotten off to an underwhelming start, with his side slipping to 15th in the Premier League table. Four points off the relegation, is he the right man for the job?
Mikel Arteta’s Failure or the Clubs?
When the Chicago Bulls hired Jim Boylen I was excited. At the time I believed Boylen a Gregg Popovic disciple, who was going to implement all my favourite traits of the San Antonio Spurs culture in those young Chicago Bulls such as Zach Lavine, Coby White and others.
These young players were in desperate need of guidance and I thought a disciplinarian with a defined playing style about moving the ball, cutting constantly and working hard off-ball to generate open shots would bring out their best. I thought a system that requires self-sacrifice and the ability to be a versatile peg capable of fitting in any hole in the squad would be good for them. It wasn’t. Not because these things are not ideal goals to strive for but the overseer despite years of service at the prime of the pass/cut(move) of the Spurs (2013- 2015) failed miserably to implement that very same style.
Boylen’s Bulls were bland, unhappy and very disappointing with a screaming man terrorizing the touchline every game.
Mikel Arteta and the Effects of Being “the Disciplinarian”
Jim Boylen once benched the entire starting squad because he didn’t like their defensive effort. This is a high school tactic rarely used on the grown-ass men who occupy the NBA. This obviously didn’t settle well with millionaire athletes who from then on just looked disinterested in pushing whatever Boylen had to sell. The Spurs style involves a lot of hard work, discipline on defence, unselfishness on offence and most importantly SYNERGY, Boylen understood the tactics perfectly he just failed to have his players buy into these obvious beneficial playing characters. Which was very concerning.
Popovic is one of the most challenging coaches to work under in the NBA. He is demanding, a perfectionist and only celebrates the ultimate success. He is rigid and can only coach a certain kind of Superstar who buys into his Spurs identity, yet despite all these negative character traits Popovic’s players adore him and would run through brick walls to get his tactics to work. He remains one of the most beloved coaches in the NBA, so much in fact he’ll be the 2021 USA men’s Olympics Head Coach. When flipping back to Boylen, players seemed relieved and happy when he was finally let go, his players seemed ready to drive him to the airport themselves. They were THAT done with him.
Boylen left the nest too early, learning how to draw a business plan is easy, learning how to have the people executing the plan believe in it wholeheartedly and bring passion to their execution is something else entirely. He never learned that and it was his downfall. An okay coach in Frank Vogel got the Los Angeles Lakers job not based on an impressive tactical background(his previous Orlando Pirates teams peaked at average) but because he understood how to unite people under a vision and have them fully pursue it. Making the playoffs in Orlando or competing for a title in LA, it didn’t matter Vogel’s teams all play super hard to execute the game plan and achieve the overall goal.
When I look at Mikel Arteta I feel he is at the same saturation point with his players. The Spaniard obviously gets the tactics but after 12 months, he still can not trust these men to execute a simple game plan. Why don’t these players want to play for him?
Pep Guardiola’s first Manchester City side bought into the press immediately but we are a year in and Arteta appears to be unable to get these players to buy into anything remotely resembling total football. You can say what you want about Guardiola but his team adores him. The likes of Raheem Sterling and Kyle Walker will run their lungs out three times a week for this man, who in the current Arsenal side would do that for Arteta?
Jim Boylen was well versed in the tactics but got fired anyway, it was actually great for him. He needs to step back reevaluate how he approaches player relationships and attack his next job better. He like the Spanish international has too much success as an assistant to not eventually see some as a head coach. Mikel Arteta’s name is one of football’s hottest as a prospect. The recent Arsenal spell has been terrible but he won’t be out of work for long(if we do let him go).
What Animal Is in That Egg?
When we hired Mikel Arteta I swore we would be playing total football. If we are not going to play total football there is no point having this man in the dugout. With the likes of Mauricio Pochettino and Max Allegri unemployed, they would be more experienced in dealing with such an imbalanced squad. Better and more experienced pragmatists are out there for us to choose from. We want Arsenal to play beautiful, fluid and exciting football like they always have. We don’t want Arsenal to play effective, rigid and structural football. That’s not what this club’s about. Arsene Wenger spent over 22 years establishing what football from an Arsenal side should look like and as a former player Mikel Arteta of all people should know he’ll lose us trying the be the Catalonian Fabio Capello rather than the potential Guardiola or Johann Cruyff disciple we thought he would be.
This is a man out of his depth behaviour. Playing Martinelli till he broke down again, is foolish behaviour. Not trusting the youth is snake behaviour. Not pressing despite it being a staple of the “supposed” playing style being implemented is not beckoning of such a manager. Placing all this faith in the below-par squad players who in their peaks wouldn’t be able to mount a title run is foolish behaviour.
What Are We Building Towards as a Club?
I don’t want a pragmatist, I don’t want effective football and on top of all that I don’t want an amateur pragmatist. Mikel Arteta despite the struggles will still be here at Arsenal because the structure has been built to allow him to BE HIM, he’ll get his players in January and will keep pushing. I don’t doubt we can’t eventually play the effective tiki-taka style of football he wants but at what cost?
Pragmatists believe the in now rather than tomorrow meaning only exceptional young players will play for the club. Pragmatists believe in structure more than chance, so we will rarely press but hold the position till we eventually get good at it and Mikel Arteta is looking more like one of these than the free-thinking philosopher I thought he would be off the Guardiola branch. Maybe now the exile of Mesut Ozil and Sokratis Papastathopoulos can stir him to change his ways and re-direct them into the squad. We have no one close in comparison. We don’t need yes men, we need people who want to excel and be the best.
We are getting a Ronald Koeman and Louis Van Gaal type at best. That’s the path we are on, we are tied to the hip by this man and will just have to watch him grow into his vanilla football ways.
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