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Arsenal gambling on Mikel Arteta myth: Why those behind move must put jobs on the line

COMMENT: So chaps, what are you going to put on the line for this one? Mikel Arteta. How much are you willing to wager? A reputation? Some bad reviews? C'mon. How about your job...? Because at the very least, that's what Arsenal's brainstrust should be offering the board when it comes to this roll of the dice...

Arteta has a reputation. A good one. Sitting alongside Pep Guardiola in the Manchester City dugout, he's managed to build a positive impression - without actually offering anything substantial himself. There's been great praise from his manager. As there has been from City's players. But in terms of what the Basque will bring to Arsenal, well, that's completely open to interpretation.

Arteta has never managed. He's never been a No1 - at any level. Not the U23s. Not a youth or even junior team. Nothing. There's no record of results. No idea of playing patterns or systems. Not even the experience of seeing something go wrong on the pitch and finding a new way to make it work. The experimenting. The process. All this will now be played out with the first team at Arsenal. And the question must be: is that really good enough for a club of this stature?

In terms of a coaching career, for Arteta, it's been barely three years. And again, that's as an assistant to Pep. The manager's sounding board. The players' agony aunt. And all done in the background. Again this must raise concerns. Do we know if he can flip from being the arm around the shoulder type, to the one who must make those cut-throat decisions? The answer is 'no'.

And what about the media? Do we know how Arteta handles the press? The spotlight? Can he be the figurehead of a club the size of Arsenal? The answer, again, is 'no'.

Arteta is a serious character. A good football man. Those close to him tell us he's not one to suffer fools. But that's just it, this is all second and third hand information. In terms of a media presence, a public personality, we're all guessing. Never mind managing the dressing room, can he handle the Arsenal spotlight?

But there is a record - though it's not found on Arteta's limited CV. That's the record of those making the decisions. And for this column, while many will disagree, the trio of Raul Sanllehi, Edu and Vinai Venkatesham do deserve a bit of faith.

The club is in the process of a rebuild. From top to bottom. And while the usual suspects seek fame and fortune pulling apart every decision the club's higher ups are putting in place, their batting average is in the positive. There are good foundations being established, off the pitch and on it, but the fruits of which won't be seen for some time.

So while there's much (actually a mountain) available to argue against Arteta's appointment, if Raul, Edu and Venkatesham can see something in the club's former captain, then they should be backed. But this decision must cut both ways.

Handing over the keys to a rookie coach. Going all in with someone with absolutely no record to speak of. This can't be any decision without consequence. If this doesn't work, it shouldn't be just Arteta who's shown the door.

Much of the choices of this front office do make sense. For this column, the appointment of Unai Emery was a good one. The clearing out of players like Aaron Ramsey, Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere understandable. They've been big decisions. Some that have split opinion. But also ones you could reason with.

The Arteta move, however, is a gamble. Perhaps the biggest made by Arsenal in terms of managerial appointments. And for this column, it's all being made on promise and hope. Let's put it this way, if Patrick Vieira had just done three years sitting alongside Guardiola at City, instead of putting his neck on the line with New York City FC and Nice, would his recommendation have had the same push back as it's had today?

Arteta will take the Gunners job as a myth. A fantasy. All crafted by writers and pundits. It could be a roaring success - or end in absolute disaster.

And should the latter prevail, then those who made this call need to follow their man out the London Colney gates.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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