Arse­nal will be tak­ing big risk if they do not back Arteta in mar­ket

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Football - Jason Burt Chief Foot­ball Cor­re­spon­dent

He is not, ac­cord­ing to sources, ask­ing for the earth and knows tal­ent is emerg­ing

They have made their own luck. Now the ques­tion is how they will try to cap­i­talise on that

The good news for Arse­nal is that, un­like Manch­ester United in the years af­ter Sir Alex Fer­gu­son re­tired, they ap­pear to have fixed the prob­lem of how to cope post-Arsene Wenger rather more quickly. United stum­bled ex­pen­sively through David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mour­inho be­fore hop­ing that Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer could pro­vide the so­lu­tion.

At Arse­nal, following Wenger was al­ways go­ing to pro­vide a sim­i­lar chal­lenge and, while the ap­point­ment of Unai Emery was ul­ti­mately a mis­take, it is one that, in fair­ness to the club, they did not dwell on. Emery lasted 18 months, led Arse­nal to a fifth-place fin­ish, just a point off Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion, and a Europa League fi­nal, but was the wrong man, and rather than drag that out, the club acted.

With the ar­rival of Mikel Arteta – whom Arse­nal were so close to hir­ing be­fore they got cold feet and signed Emery – there is now a plan in place; one that makes sense, is co­her­ent and is em­bed­ded in the club’s his­tory and phi­los­o­phy. Unit­ing Arteta with tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor Edu, an­other former Arse­nal player, was a smart move and one that is al­ready beginning to pay off. They are a long way from get­ting Arse­nal back to where they want to be, but at least they have a road map.

OK, Arse­nal are 10th in the Premier League – ex­actly where they were when Emery was sacked last Novem­ber – so it has hardly been a mirac­u­lous trans­for­ma­tion. But then it never would be. Reach­ing an FA Cup fi­nal is a bonus and pro­vides a life­line for Euro­pean foot­ball, but there is a long way to go.

Vic­to­ries against Liver­pool and Manch­ester City within four days are hugely en­cour­ag­ing, even if, as ever with Arse­nal, there is a ten­dency to crow about such things when they are only a sig­nif­i­cant step in the right di­rec­tion rather than ar­rival at the des­ti­na­tion.

And yet it is hard not to be ex­cited about the future for

Arse­nal un­der Arteta. He is only 38 but has been re­mark­ably sure­footed and bold in all he has done so far. Un­der­pin­ning this is something that will help take him quite far: he is a de­cent and fair man and a good com­mu­ni­ca­tor.

Arteta is tough, also. The de­ci­sions to bomb out Me­sut Ozil, the club’s high­est-paid player, and Mat­teo Guen­douzi, who be­lieves he is their best young player, were bold, while Arteta is un­flinch­ing on the touch­line in de­mand­ing more from record sign­ing Ni­co­las Pepe, who re­mains a long way from jus­ti­fy­ing the £72mil­lion fee paid for him last sum­mer.

It had been Arse­nal’s in­abil­ity to sign Wil­fried Zaha that was the start of the break­down of Emery’s re­la­tion­ship with the club, and even though some clever fi­nanc­ing al­lowed them to push the boat out for Pepe, who was ap­par­ently the sec­ond choice, things never re­ally re­cov­ered.

What will be in­ter­est­ing is how Arse­nal and Arteta ap­proach this trans­fer win­dow. When he was ap­pointed, Edu iden­ti­fied the squad as be­ing un­bal­anced – in need of a left-back, no cover at right-back with Hec­tor Bel­lerin in­jured, and sup­port needed for Granit Xhaka, who had be­come the fall guy, in cen­tral mid­field. And it was re­veal­ing that Arteta spoke last week about the need for the club to take a fi­nan­cial “risk” to get back in the Cham­pi­ons League.

With the eco­nomic ef­fects of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, Arse­nal be­ing the only Premier League club where play­ers have taken pay cuts and with ex­ec­u­tives be­liev­ing they stretched their fi­nances to the limit last year in the trans­fer mar­ket, maybe “risk” was not the right word at this time.

But the sen­ti­ment holds. Hav­ing got their ap­point­ments right, Arse­nal need to back

Arteta and Edu, which does not mean spend­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions but mov­ing play­ers on who are no longer wanted – beginning with Ozil and Guen­douzi – and back­ing their judg­ment when it comes to adding to the squad.

A de­tailed sub­mis­sion has al­ready been made as to what Arteta wants, with Edu hav­ing done a huge amount of work on iden­ti­fy­ing the po­ten­tial re­cruits and car­ry­ing out due dili­gence and back­ground checks. Arteta is not, ac­cord­ing to sources, de­mand­ing the Earth and knows that Arse­nal al­ready have a core of ex­cit­ing young tal­ent com­ing through, in­clud­ing Bukayo Saka and 19-year-old cen­tral de­fender Wil­liam Sal­iba, who has been on a sea­son loan at St-Eti­enne.

Arteta wants to de­velop Arse­nal, a club close to his heart, as they are to Edu’s. It helps. Edu, it should be re­mem­bered, won two league ti­tles at Arse­nal, and was part of the “In­vin­ci­bles” team. His sta­tus is clear, and while Arteta did not en­joy the same level of suc­cess, he was hugely re­spected as a player.

There is a joined-up ap­proach and a plan to im­ple­ment a mod­ern style – pos­ses­sion-based, play­ing it out from the back – al­though, cru­cially, that is un­der­pinned by a prag­ma­tism and a de­sire to win, as shown with the ap­proach taken in the vic­to­ries over Liver­pool and City, which fol­lowed a poor de­fen­sive per­for­mance in los­ing to Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur.

Arse­nal have not got the play­ers to play the way Arteta wants but it shows he can re­act. He changed the shape and the style to gain those vic­to­ries and, as he said on his first day in the job, it is all part of chang­ing the cul­ture at the club. That al­ready shows he is a good man­ager and one who promises to be greater than just good.

Arse­nal ap­pear to have lucked out. But they have made their own luck. Now the ques­tion is how they will try to cap­i­talise on their good for­tune.

Back­ing Arteta fully this sum­mer as he be­gins to re­build is the right way ahead – the only way ahead. Any­thing else would be a back­ward step and more of a risk than the one the head coach is sug­gest­ing by spend­ing some money in the first place.

En­cour­ag­ing signs: Mikel Arteta has changed Arse­nal’s style and cul­ture

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