26 February 2023

Clearly, Arteta is merely COPYING Guardiola....

Since the day that Arteta was named Arsenal manager, he's had to endure taunts such as being dubbed Pep's coneman, as if all he ever did was follow orders, arrange cones, and run errands. However, almost since that same day, he's gone off on his own path, a path that hews much closer to Wenger's than to Guardiola's. Despite this, there are some unhappy Citizen fans who have grown quite smug, sated, and complacent in the roughly 15 years since the club came into existence. This tweet, for one, accuses Arteta of copying Guardiola. We're getting a glimpse of what it's like to live rent-free in someone else's head. It's almost as if those smug, sated, complacent fans suffer a degree of entitlement and are growing more and more nervous as the end of the season approaches...

Let's look at the chargers. Our manager is unoriginal. Okay, so there's an element of truth to that. He and Guardiola are both Spanish midfielders who played for Barcelona's youth squads. They both breathe oxygen and walk bipedally. They both have hair. Wait [checks notes]. Okay, so, at one point, they both had hair. Beyond that, though, the actual differences emerge. This is Arteta's first managerial position. Guardiola has been a top-flight manager since 2008 and started his career with a side that included Valdés, Piqué, Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta, Eto'o, Messi, and Touré to name just a few off the top of my head. He's never had to build a squad from scratch and has always had world-class players at every position, including on the bench. On the rare occasions when class was lacking, he simply asked for and got the players he desired. Since becoming City's manager in 2016, Guardiola has bought more than one billion pounds worth of players to "improve" a squad that was already among the most-expensive in the world. 

By contrast, Arteta inherited a mess of a squad with perhaps one world-class if declining talent in it (Aubameyang). It was a squad in desperate need of an overhaul and a club in desperate need of a cultural revival, but Arteta had to wait a season and a half before getting the players he wanted. Our most-expensive transfer under Arteta is Thomas Partey, the only proven, world-class player we'd have for some time. We splashed some £45m on him. City have bought ten players for higher fees. We have to admit to spending £145m on fees under Arteta, but that's spread across two and a half years. City have spent more than that in six of eight years. There's just no comparison. Who among our current squad clearly qualifies as world class? Saka, Partey, and Jesus are. Ødegaard, Magalhães, Saliba, Zinchenko, and Martinelli are on the verge. Copying Guardiola? Hardly. If anything, Arteta is exposing Guardiola as a manager whose success is only possible with massive, massive spending. We're five points clear of his squad and have been for all but an hour or so this season.

I'll go a step further while returning to an original point. Wenger is famous for having said, "we don't sign superstars; we make them." As alluded to above, we have a very young squad, largely purchased on the cheap, and it is full of players only now plumbing the depths of their vast potentials. Saka. Martinelli. Ødegaard. Saliba. Magalhães. White. Smith-Rowe. None of these were household names at the time of their signings (well, maybe Ødegaard was). Each of them to varying degrees is on his way to becoming a household name. Several of them already intimidate opponents into irrelevance before the first kick of the ball, and they're all getting better with each passing week.

I'll go another step further. Arteta isn't merely "copying" Guardiola. Just 26 months into his first managerial stint, he's surpassing Guardiola, and I'm not just referring to the Prem table. He's showing that Guardiola's tactics and style of play, previously thought of as only possible with world-class players at every position, can be achieved with the youngest squad in the Prem. Do any of our best players waltz into City's XI? That's a tough one made even tougher by our own biases. Should we do the improbable and actually win the Prem, there will be tougher questions posed of Pep. What does it mean for your mentor to surpass you? What does it imply for him to have done so on a shoestring budget, duct tape, and baling wire? Does this suggest that your entire career has been little more than tactical lipstick applied to a profligate pig? Do drunken sailors resent you for replacing them as an idiom? And so on.

At a risk of letting Guardiola live rent-free in my own head, I'll have to admit that I've always resented his success, built as it is on the kind of spending that Wenger always resisted to his own detriment. The idea then that Arteta would be critcised at any level for somehow "copying" Guardiola does get under my skin. I've said it before and it might be worth saying again: if we could give Wenger and Guardiola, or Arteta and Guardiola, the exact same squads to play against each other, I suspect that the Wenger/Arteta squads would win nine times out of ten. What would Guardiola do with a Guendouzi, Lacazette, or Mkhitaryan? Hell, what would he do with a Sanogo, Jenkinson, or Mustafi? He'd pull his hair—oh. Right.

At this point, 99% of me wants us to win the Prem because it's glorious to win the Prem. However, 1% of me—maybe more?—wants to win the Prem to put pompous Pem in his place. Whatever the maths work out to be, I hope we get it done.

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