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Why Mikel Arteta Is The Best Manager In The PL After Klopp And Guardiola

Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta
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One of the most exciting places to watch football in Western Europe at this moment is North London. Under the leadership of Mikel Arteta, the Emirates Stadium has shed its library tag and is finally bouncing again, with Arsenal flying in the league and sitting pretty at the top of the table six games into the season.

Although it has been a gradual process, the Spaniard has completely changed the club’s fortunes, rescuing it from the depth of mediocrity and putting them on the right path to restore their former glories. It has been an incredibly challenging first job in management for the 40-year-old, but he has shown that he has all the qualities to be one of the best coaches in world football.

Here are four reasons why Mikel Arteta is the best manager in the Premier League after Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.

1. Tactical Nous

Mikel Arteta is an elite tactician, up there with the best of the best when setting up the team to play a possession-based style.

–         On the Ball 

Arsenal’s system has evolved under Arteta, but the core philosophies have remained the same throughout his tenure. On the ball and in the build-up, Arsenal are technically superb, aided by Arteta’s structure with the two centre-backs splitting wide, the full-backs pushing high, and the defensive midfielder dropping deep to offer a passing option. With this set-up, Arsenal can easily cut through the opposing team’s press, as seen on numerous occasions last season, such as Lacazette’s goal against Southampton.

In the opposition half, the combinations and rotations between the two full-backs, wingers, and number eights are incredible, which allows Arsenal to create numerical advantages on the sides and goal-scoring opportunities through cutbacks and crosses from the halfspaces.

–         Off the Ball

What’s even more impressive about Arteta is his flexibility. The Spaniard can coach Arsenal to set up and play an expansive style of football based on the Cruyffian ideology of positional play, while also forcing the Gunners to sit deep and defend space in a compact, low block a la Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.

When Arteta first arrived at Arsenal, the Gunners didn’t have the players needed to play his desired style. Hence, Arteta shifted to a 3-4-3 system that allowed for more defensive solidity, a switch that helped the Gunners beat Manchester City and Chelsea on their way to an FA Cup title.

2. Man Management

 

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You can be the most incredible tactician in world football, but as Tomas Tuchel recently found out, if you can’t handle a dressing room full of egos, you will not last long in your job.

Fortunately for the Arsenal faithful, Arteta is not only elite tactically, but he is arguably an even better man-manager. Arsenal’s culture in the latter years of Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery was toxic, but Arteta has completely changed the atmosphere around the club with his vision, values and team-building ethos.

The Spaniard has been the strong leader Arsenal have cried out for, with Arteta upholding his values and the standards necessary to represent an institution like Arsenal Football Club. The manager made the tough decisions to oust players who did not meet the desired requirements such as Guendouzi, Ozil, Aubameyang, and Maitland-Niles. In the long run, this empowers the group to maintain the standards needed when chasing high performance.

On the flip side, Arteta has looked to instil a culture around empathy and compassion at Arsenal. As seen in the Amazon documentary, All or Nothing, Arteta looks to understand and support the players off the pitch so that he can get the best out of them on it. Young players like Saka, Ramsdale, Smith Rowe and Martinelli have thrived because of the confidence and energy given by the manager, with the players given the freedom to fail and make mistakes on the pitch because they have his backing.

3. Talent ID

 

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One of the biggest positives from Mikel Arteta’s first 2.5 years at the helm at Arsenal has been his talent ID and ability to recruit the right profiles needed for his system. The manager has rarely got any of his signings wrong, with Arteta perfectly assessing the type of player required to play for a club like Arsenal from a physical, technical, and mental point of view.

In his first summer at Arsenal, Arteta and his team went out and bought one of the few players in world football capable of playing the number six role for a possession-based side in Thomas Partey. Arteta also improved the technical level of Arsenal’s build-up so the Gunners can comfortably play out from the back with the additions of Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Gabriel, Oleksandr Zinchenko, and Aaron Ramsdale, a goalkeeper that spent time in the lower leagues and was relegated twice with Bournemouth and Sheffield United.

In attack, the manager identified Gabriel Jesus as the number nine for Arsenal’s system with his ability to link play, press, and get into shooting positions, and the Brazilian has had the perfect start to life in North London thus far, contributing six goals and assists in six appearances.

4. Player Development

 

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One of the lesser spoken about qualities of Mikel Arteta as a manager is his ability to develop and improve players’ skillset, particularly young forwards rising through the ranks.

At Manchester City, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane have personally credited Arteta for his role in their development, with his coaching helping them understand changes of pace and off-ball movement. That trait has carried on in his time at Arsenal, where Arteta has aided young attackers like Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah to blossom on the biggest stage and develop their games.

Arteta moulded Bukayo Saka from a versatile left-back to one of the best right-wingers in the Premier League, while Martinelli was coached into playing the role of a left-winger for a possession-based side. Arteta has had a similar effect on others within the Arsenal squad. Granit Xhaka has been moulded from a deep-lying playmaker into a box-to-box midfielder that can crash the opposing penalty area, while Kieran Tierney has made some recent progress as an inverted full-back.

In all facets of management, Arteta is truly elite, and with Arsenal slowly on the rise, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the footballing world wakes up to the genius of the Spaniard.

 

[Featured Image Credit: Arsenal]

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