It’s official: Mikel Arteta is Arsenal’s new head coach. From Sunday.
The Spaniard, who played for the Gunners for five years, returns to the Emirates having spent the last three and a half seasons working as Pep Guardiola’s assistant at Manchester City.
Arteta was signed by Arsene Wenger in August 2011, became vice-captain in 2012 and then captain two years later. He played in the 2014 FA Cup final against Hull City but missed the 2015 victory over Aston Villa with an injury.
Fitness problems plagued the Lego-haired midfielder in his final season as a Gunner, although he did come off the bench to [sort of] score in his final appearance at the Emirates in May 2016.
In his final programme notes before retiring, Arteta said: “Arsenal was my favourite club in England since I was a kid.
“To become the captain and share in the nice moments we’ve been through has been a spectacular experience for me.
“I hope whoever follows me as captain tries to maintain the values of this club, because that is what sustains us in the long term.”
That final line could easily have been penned by Arsene Wenger.
Arteta came close to succeeding the Frenchman 18 months ago but Ivan Gazidis, Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi had a last-minute change of mind at the interview stage and decided to go for Unai Emery’s experience.
While Emery made a solid start to life at the Emirates, he couldn’t arrest a downturn of form that started in the final months of last season. The Spaniard was sacked last month and in his place, Freddie Ljungberg has held the role on an interim basis.
At 37-years-old and with no management experience, Arteta’s appointment is a little risky, but at the same time, he’s served his apprenticeship alongside one of the greatest coaches in the modern game and been up close and personal with Wenger during his playing days.
It’s believed we paid around £2 million in compensation to City to secure his services, and he has signed a three and a half year deal. He actually starts work on Sunday.
Best of luck Mikel, you’ve got a huge job on your hands. We’re rooting for you.