LONDON, United Kingdom, Dec 20 – Arsenal are the latest Premier League club to turn to a former player as their manager, with Mikel Arteta named the new head coach on Friday.
The Spaniard takes over with Arsenal languishing 10th in the Premier League and their last title-winning campaign under Arsene Wenger 15 years ago a distant memory.
AFP Sport looks at what Arteta must do to make Arsenal a force once again:
Forge an identity
Wenger transformed the culture at the club from the defensive-orientated days of “1-0 to the Arsenal” under George Graham, overseeing some of the slickest attacking play English football has ever seen.
The final seasons of the Frenchman’s 22-year reign saw a decline in results and an inability to challenge for the biggest prizes but Arsenal were still renowned for an attacking brand of football.
Some of that was lost in Unai Emery’s 18 months in charge as the Spaniard unsuccessfully tried to patch up a leaky defence before he was sacked last month.
“I want the football to be expressive, entertaining,” Arteta told the Arsenal magazine during his time as a player, speaking about how he wants his teams to play.
“I cannot have a concept of football where everything is based on the opposition. We have to dictate the game, we have to be the ones taking the initiative, and we have to entertain the people coming to watch us.”
Arteta does not have much managerial experience but serving an apprenticeship as a coach under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City over the past three-and-a-half years is seen as a big plus point.
Guardiola has managed to find the perfect blend of entertaining football while piling up trophies at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City.
Now Arteta’s task is to take the magic formula and apply it to Arsenal.
A constant in the decline of Wenger, Emery’s struggles and a run of one win in five matches under caretaker manager Freddie Ljungberg has been Arsenal’s lack of a dominant centre-back.
Instead of addressing an obvious area of need in the summer, the Gunners’ hierarchy splurged a club-record fee on forward Nicolas Pepe, while patching up the defence with the budget signing of David Luiz.
The Brazilian has been dropped in recent weeks, but none of Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Callum Chambers, Rob Holding or Shkodran Mustafi inspire much confidence.
Arsenal may not have much money to spend in next month’s transfer window but what they do have they must use on their defence.
Balance the midfield
A former midfielder by trade, Arteta must find a way to prevent Arsenal’s midfield being completely bypassed to leave their shaky backline exposed.
Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira have potential but have gone backwards in their second seasons at the Emirates.
Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil have experience but have done little to earn their places in the side this season and could be among the first to be cast aside under Arteta.
Can Aubameyang and Lacazette co-exist?
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette are two of Arsenal’s few world-class talents but both want to play in the same position as the central striker.
Emery frequently changed his system to try and accommodate both but often at the expense of the team as Arsenal were overrun in midfield or lacked width.
Experiments with Aubameyang playing wide have limited the goal threat of a striker who shared the Premier League’s Golden Boot last season and Lacazette was even dropped by Ljungberg for 18-year-old Gabriel Martinelli in the past two Premier League games.
Get the best out of Pepe
Arsenal splashed a club-record £72 million ($94 million) on Pepe from Lille, believing the Ivorian’s pace and eye for goal could make the difference in securing Champions League football.
However, Pepe has scored just once from open play in the Premier League and his struggles to make an impact have seen him dropped by both Emery and Ljungberg.