The ‘special chemistry’ Mikel Arteta shares with Edu at the heart of Arsenal’s new vision


Strictly speaking Arsenal have given Mikel Arteta a promotion. It is just that he has been doing this new job since the first minute he walked back into the Emirates Stadium.

Ahead of the new season Arsenal have confirmed that Arteta is no longer just their head coach but their first team manager. That, along with Vinai Venkatesham’s move to chief executive, is something the club hope will put a full stop on a period of transition that dates back to before Arsene Wenger’s departure.

Arteta arrived determined to improve more than just his playing staff, to have a hand in the cultural revival of Arsenal as an organisation. Its success is already apparent on the pitch with the FA Cup win and a change in mentality. The likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea have already been defeated by a team that, in their managers’ words, enjoys suffering together.

If Raul Sanllehi’s departure as head of football informally increased Arteta’s powerbase, today’s announcement formalises that. He is more than just the man that picks the team and it is notable that he has the same job title that Wenger held during his 22 year reign.

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“He hasn’t been a head coach from the very first day he walked in the door,” Venkatesham said of Arteta. “He has been doing much more than that. So we are going to change his job to first team manager and that is really a recognition of what he has been doing from the day he walked in the door and also the capabilities that we believe Mikel has.

“He has walked into probably the toughest nine month period this football club has had in it’s 134 year history. I say probably, but I checked with Mr [Ken] Friar and he has been here for 70 of those years and he says it is the toughest period the club has ever had so, take it from him if you don’t want to take it from me.

“During that period Mikel has lifted the spirits of fans, staff, players and driven this team to an FA Cup semi-final and an FA Cup final, winning that trophy and winning the Community Shield. That is no mean feat. And we really acknowledge the man’s capabilities, and that the man’s capabilities fit much better as a manager than as a head coach.”

He will not be leading this new Arsenal era alone. Arteta and Edu will be the tandem that leads the first-team with the latter explaining that they would work as “two minds thinking together”.

In every facet of the club – including recruitment, analysis and high performance – they will work as a tandem.

Edu, who had a similar working relationship with Tite in the Brazil national team, added: “I can give one example as a manager and a technical director.

“Imagine if you wanted to sign the doctor and Mikel wanted to sign a physio. Who is going to decide it? Because the doctor said to me he needs someone, but Mikel needs to meet the physio and I need to make the decision with him together.

“We both have to be part of the decision, so I cannot sign a physio without Mikel knowing who it is and Mikel cannot sign a physio without me knowing. That’s typical of the way we are going to be working together.

“I feel very comfortable because I did that before and for sure we are doing the right things and going in the right direction.”

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Venkatesham was at pains to point out the “special chemistry” between Edu and Arteta.

Such a bond has not always existed at the top of Arsenal. Venkatesham and Sanllehi worked well together but there was a significant divergence of views between the latter and former head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, who left after only a year.

Since then Arsenal experimented with a head coach that was largely sidelined for strategic decisions and a separation of footballing and financial responsibilities. Change has been the one constant at the Emirates Stadium, where this week brought confirmation of where the 55 redundancies would land.

Arsenal managing director Vinai Venkatesham celebrates the club's FA Cup win
Arsenal managing director Vinai Venkatesham celebrates the club’s FA Cup win

Venkatesham explained: “One of the things I’ve talked about across the whole organisation in light of the proposed redundancies is, this is an opportunity for us to be quicker, faster, more efficient and be better.

“I think that is also true of the setup that we’ve been talking about today, around the three individuals [Arteta, Edu and academy chief Per Mertesacker] I’ve talked about today.

“Our success is going to be determined by lots of things but one thing is going to be how that group of people work effectively together and I’ve got a huge degree of confidence in the individuals and I see how they work together today and I’ve got a huge degree of confidence around how they work together.

“In particular, because Edu and Mikel are working around the first-team, I see them working together really closely and maybe I will embarrass Edu by talking about it in front of him but there is a special chemistry between Mikel and Edu – how they see football, how they see life.

“That does not mean they always agree and shouldn’t be confused for the fact they always agree and I don’t want them to always agree but, going back to Edu’s line of ‘two minds are better than one’ on some of those elements I completely agree.”

Arteta’s rise begs one crucial question: what happens to the system with him at his heart if he is lured away or, unlikely as it seems, if he were to lose his magic touch and Arsenal were to need another manager.

Edu is the man who will have to weather any managerial storm. “Probably, I can be here in the long term and I really hope Mikel can be here in the long-term but I have to be in charge of it.

“It is a lot of responsibility and I feel confident, I feel prepared to be driving Arsenal in this way.”

Venkatesham added: “We’ve had managers before, so I think that leads to connotations around structure. But this is very different. This is Mikel Arteta as manager working side by side together to run the first team operation with the technical director Edu.

“I’ve said lots of positive things about Mikel, so I find it a bit difficult to talk about him not being here. But ultimately that’s a big part of the technical director’s role, because he provides that permanency and stability to the club.”

Those are two facets to Arsenal that have been missing for some time. With a new structure finalised at last, the hope at the Emirates Stadium is that the Edu-Arteta tandem will be in place for the long haul.





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