Mikel Arteta has been given the job of reviving the fortunes of Arsenal after he was appointed head coach of the English Premier League side on Friday.
The 37-year-old Spaniard, who played more than 100 games for the Gunners between 2011-16, signed a three-and-a-half year contract and ends a three-year stay as Pep Guardiola’s assistant at Manchester City.
Arteta, who will be officially presented to the press later on Friday at 1700 GMT, replaces compatriot Unai Emery, who was sacked last month.
The former midfielder, who will sit in the stands for Saturday’s match against another of his former clubs Everton, faces a massive challenge, with Arsenal having won just once in 12 matches — beating West Ham under interim manager Freddie Ljungberg.
“This is a huge honour. Arsenal is one of the biggest clubs in the world,” Arteta said in a statement. “We need to be competing for the top trophies in the game and that’s been made very clear to me in my discussions with Stan and Josh Kroenke (owner and club director, respectively) and the senior people from the club. We all know there is a lot of work to be done to achieve that but I am confident we’ll do it. I’m realistic enough to know it won’t happen overnight but the current squad has plenty of talent and there is a great pipeline of young players coming through from the academy.”
Head of football Raul Sanllehi said the club had interviewed other candidates before opting to pursue Arteta — his appointment took longer to announce due to finalising compensation to City reported to be £2 million.
“We met several top-class candidates and Mikel stood out to every single one of us as the perfect person for us,” he said in a club statement. “Mikel understands Arsenal Football Club and what it means to our fans around the world. We look forward to him getting down to work and bringing the best out of our squad as we work to get our season back on track.”
‘Make that next jump’
A return to the Champions League next season was Arsenal’s priority at the start of the season, with Emery given more substantial backing than expected in the transfer market.
The top four is not yet out of reach, with Arsenal seven points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea and Arteta will have another route into the Champions League via the Europa League, with the Londoners facing Olympiakos in the last 32.
But the decision to hand one of the top jobs in English football to a rookie manager will only increase the scrutiny on Arsenal’s unpopular owners should Arteta’s appointment not prove successful.
Arteta has served an impressive apprenticeship, making 150 appearances for Arsenal under Arsene Wenger at the end of his playing career before becoming Guardiola’s assistant as City rewrote the record books in winning the Premier League for the past two seasons.
Arteta was seemingly set to be given the job before Emery 18 months ago.
On that occasion, a late change of heart saw the far more experienced Spaniard chosen as the successor to Wenger, who was at the helm for 22 years.
Emery finished fifth in the Premier League and lost the Europa League final to Chelsea in his first season in charge.
After a slow start to the season, the club eventually bowed to fan pressure by sacking the former Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain boss three weeks ago.
However, they did so without a clear succession plan, allowing Arsenal to slide further down the table in recent weeks.
Across north London, when Tottenham took the ruthless decision a month ago to sack Mauricio Pochettino they appointed Jose Mourinho within hours and the Portuguese has had an immediate impact.
Emery believes Arteta will be up to the task. “He (Arteta) really is prepared to make that next jump,” Emery told the BBC. “He has been at Arsenal before, he’s been in the Premier League and he has been working with Pep Guardiola. I do believe this is a good decision and I would also like it to be a good decision.”