If Arsenal hired Mikel Arteta in the hope that he would simply bring the Pep Guardiola blueprint from Manchester and London they ought to be sorely disappointed.
For whilst their new head coach might bear the deepest of admiration for a man he first met 23 years ago when he was taking his first steps in the world of professional football he is determined to make a success of his time at Arsenal in his own way, not as a Guardiola-lite.
“If you copy-paste it is always bad,” Arteta said ahead of his reunion with City and Guardiola at the Etihad on Wednesday night. “You have to be around every character and person. Everyone feels thing in different way.
“It is a completely different context with the situations at City and Arsenal. Different context and players.
“So I think it would be a bad thing to do from my side.”
Click to play
Tap to play
The video will start in8Cancel
Arteta’s philosophy was formed long before his time with Guardiola. In a 2014 interview with club media the Spaniard was talking about his desire to instill “expressive, entertaining” football wherever his coaching career took him.
He has set about doing so at Arsenal but he has a long way to go before he reaches the zenith that he did as Guardiola’s assistant at City between 2016 and 2019, winning back-to-back league titles with a brand of football that some had doubted would prove to be as successful in England as it had in Spain and Germany.
Doubts grew after a trophyless first season but the certainty with which Guardiola and the rest of the Manchester City hierarchy responded only served to convince Arteta that he was on the right path.
“I will summarise it in one thing,” he said. “After the first season I think the process was really good but we did it win any trophies.
“Instead of anybody above, owners, sporting directors, or anyone who were involved, doubting about that was possible to do in England they were all in: this is the way that we want to do it.
“So that is good, your idea is good, but you need the backing of the football club to support your ideas and get your backing and put that plan to support and be successful. And look what happened after.”
Arteta has that backing at Arsenal and he has already set about exploiting it. He is not above publicly chastising players, as Matteo Guendouzi, Dani Ceballos and Ainsley Maitland-Niles can attest. Senior players such as Alexandre Lacazette have found themselves losing favour to youngsters like Eddie Nketiah whilst Mesut Ozil has been restored to the fold despite a club policy under Unai Emery of sidelining the club’s top earner.
On the pitch the post-Emery era has brought a more expansive Arsenal that presses with greater vigour. It is emphatically not the same as Guardiola’s side, not least because it lacks the technical quality to exert its will over possession…