Monday, May 16, 2022

Mikel Arteta signs a contract extension: thoughts

There’s only one place to start this morning and that’s the contract extension for Mikel Arteta which was announced yesterday, alongside a contract extension for Arsenal Women head coach Jonas Eidevall.

For me, the Arteta renewal is important news, but not much of a surprise. It has been clear that he has, and has retained through some difficult periods, the full backing of the club and the owners, and I think this was always going to happen bar a calamitous performance this season. Given that we’re going to be back in Europe next season, that’s not the case, but obviously we still have a lot to focus on between now and the end of the campaign.

There have been ups and downs, but he’s done a good job, there’s something brewing at this football club right now, so ensuring he stays around to hopefully continue that progress makes a lot of sense. I thought Lewis made an interesting point on our Patreon pod, that Arsenal feels like a happy club for the first time in a long time. As always, you have to qualify statements like that by saying we have lots more to do and that we have some way to go to get to where Arteta says he wants us to go, but even those who have doubts about him have to acknowledge that the atmosphere is different.

The players are well liked, the connection between fans and the team is very real and very positive, and those are not small things when you’ve come through a prolonged period where it was easy to rail against almost every aspect of Arsenal. The players we have, the players we don’t have, the owners, the recruitment, the sales (the giveaways), the decision making, the under-performance, the manager/head coach, and so much more. Which isn’t to say everything is perfect now, and I think Arteta would be first to acknowledge that, but we recognised we had problems, we’ve gone some way to fixing them, and that’s a good place to be because from there you can make improvement.

I saw a lot of talk about the timing of the announcement but I’m not sure it’s really relevant. My Arseblog colleague Andrew Allen thinks there might be something about it that’s tied into the Amazon documentary, and you know what, there probably is. This is an entertainment business after all, we know Arteta didn’t make the decision about our involvement in that, so for the sake of good TV, it makes some sense that it informed the timing to an extent.

But, Arteta said this offer came after we’d lost three games, saying:

The club offered me the contract when we lost three matches. That day I went like this ‘chapeau’. That doesn’t happen in football. That’s a part of what they think, the conversations they have, the belief that they have in myself. The coaching and staff in what we are doing and the people that we have now at the football club and leading this football club and I haven’t ever seen it and I just got emotional when I see it and I said ‘you guys are serious and committed and I’d better push forward’.

Even if the offer was made after those three games as a show of faith, the likelihood is that discussions had been ongoing for some time before that, so it’s not as if we lost and they said ‘Quick, contract extension!’.

The club’s line, via Edu, is that announcing it now provides clarity ahead of a big summer when we need to bring players in and, perhaps, convince a couple to sign contract extensions. Knowing the manager is there for the foreseeable future helps with all of that and makes it reasonable explanation too. If potential transfer targets know the manager is secure, it gives some security as they make a big decision about their footballing career.

Personally, I suspect the fact we won three big games, and have four more big games to go is a key part of this. Tap into the feelgood factor, do every little thing possible to bolster the confidence of players and fans, and that Super Mik Arteta song which is sung often may be sung louder this Sunday against Leeds. For the players too, who all seem very much on board with the manager, it could give them a push. It’s all soft factor stuff, but it adds up along the way.

A combination of all of those things probably explains the timing, but it’s not really the when in this situation that matters, it’s that the deal has been done in the first place. I have always liked the way Mikel Arteta spoke about the job he had to do at this football club, where he wants us to go, because – as I said earlier – it acknowledged the fact that we were in a very difficult place post-Arsene Wenger for all kinds of reasons we understand and don’t need to go into the details of again this morning.

However, talking the talk and walking the walk are two different things. Arteta has walked a high-wire at times, between the Arsenal skyscraper of the past and the one of the future, and there have been moments where it looked as if one more tiny gust of wind might see him fall and tumble to the ground. But he has always found a way to steady, to re-balance, and go again. He’s made some big decisions, some good and some bad along the way, but never once have I doubted his desire to get this football club back to where we all want to see it.

This season there has been unquestionable progress, I think you have to be deliberately obtuse not to see that, and it’s easy to see how some key signings would make this team substantially better based on the framework that he has put in place. So, on that basis, extending Arteta makes perfect sense. Arsenal have given him the responsibility, and sometimes the leeway, of the biggest ‘project’ since Wenger took over. He has plenty still to do, not least guide this team through four crucial fixtures which would, if the outcome is right, substantially impact our standing as a club.

Let’s hope he can do that, and next season after a summer of good recruitment, consolidate and make further progress because that’s what Arteta says he wants, and I don’t think that’s empty rhetoric. Ultimately, if he succeeds, Arsenal succeed, and vice versa, and isn’t that what all of us want at the end of the day? For this team to challenge and win things?

Best of luck to him, starting tomorrow.

Finally, I just wanted to acknowledge the fact that the announcement of Arteta was made alongside that of Jonas Eidevall. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a club do that before, and it shows that the club’s commitment to Arsenal Women and the continued expansion of the women’s game is basically second to none. Chapeau, as someone might say.

Right, that’s it for this morning. Back tomorrow with a Leeds preview. Enjoy your Saturday.

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