Arteta wanted? Pochettino overrated?

5th February 2024

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When Mikel Arteta hears the passionate screams of Arsenal fans, when he looks around at the fantastic Emirates stadium which is situated in one of the most bustling cities in the world, the history of the club he is managing and the path he is on with some fantastic players you would have to wonder why he would leave an institution for an unbalanced project like Barcelona?

Of course we all know how huge Barcelona is in club football, one of the very great sides and with Xavi announcing his departure at the end of the season Arteta has been linked with the Spanish giants. This isn't the first time that they have come in for him. A decade ago it would have been an easy decision for any manager to say yes to Barcelona, but in 2024 is that really the case? The club continue to be in debt although they do have a lot of talent in their squad, but Barcelona are quite simply not the side they used to be. The good times will inevitably come again but is it not a stretch to think that they will not win the Champions League for 10 perhaps even 20 years? Lionel Messi of course will always be attached to any sentence or paragraph that mentions Barcelona and him leaving and simply ageing has left such a huge void within the club, they are still missing him but more importantly missing someone of his talent. As history has told us, a Messi only comes around once every 25 years or so and what happens if the next Messi isn't playing for Barcelona? This season has been average by their usual standards and something is amiss. They are currently 8 points behind league leaders Real Madrid and even Girona have six more points, there is even a chance that they won't qualify for next season's Champions League. In short it could be worse for Barcelona, think 20 years ago when they were midtable but there is a reason Xavi is leaving.

So let's look at the contrast- Arteta knows that at Arsenal there is stability, it is how the club is run. In his first few seasons he found it hard going and in one of them that included finishing in 8th place. Try that on for size at Barcelona do you believe that you would still be in a job? At Arsenal Arteta instead was given time, there is patience in the culture of the club even if it now has an American influence, Arsenal are a well run machine. Of course at one point the club owners and fans will expect a league title and a consistent flow of trophies, for now though Arteta has been in charge of the Gunners for 4 years and won one FA Cup and if you want to count them two Community Shields, but in essence he has one piece of silverware. If Barcelona had miraculously not sacked Arteta by then and all they had to show for it was one Copa del Rey not only would he be on the verge of losing his job, the fans would be outraged and so would the media leading Arteta to have less of a footing in the European game and perhaps less big opportunities. The two cultures of the club cannot be any different. If Arteta left for Barcelona it just takes one bad month to derail your job, why would you leave such a solid foundation to join a circus? Before the pull of Barcelona was huge but elite managers like Arteta may not be interested if the contract does not come with guarantees. Every manager has bad months, bad games where there looks like there is no light at the end of the tunnel but Barcelona are bracing themselves up to take the cream of the crop, but are suggesting that they can get anyone based on what? Their name alone. Maybe it's tempting for some managers but for Arteta this looks like it would be a bad move and would instantly crush his project at the London team, what would it have all meant? 

Even the great Pep Guardiola had to get out of Barcelona after four years. You could argue that he won everything, why stay? But think again and look at the different culture and set up he has now at Manchester City. Pep is into his seventh season with no let up and has won 16 trophies with City compared to 14 with Barcelona. So why does he stay at City, why feel the need to leave Barcelona? The reveal is that at Barcelona no matter how successful you are it is in their DNA that you step aside after 3-4 years, almost like an election. Arteta of course is Spanish he knows the lay of the land well but after experiencing what it can feel like on the other side is this something he really wants or even needs?

Next Barcelona manager: Rafael Marquez 5.00, Hansi Flick 6.00, Mikel Arteta 7.00, Jurgen Klopp 10.00, Thiago Motta 13.00


On the subject of managers, what do we do with a problem like Mauricio Pochettino? Pochettino oversaw the second Chelsea game in a row where they conceded 4 goals at the weekend. Now doing so away to Liverpool isn't ideal, but it is Liverpool who are in first place. Doing so at home to Wolves after you've spent over a billion pounds is a no-no. The Wolves defeat marked Pochettino's 31st game in charge of the Blues; that's the exact same time Graham Potter was given before he was sacked. Pochettino has a 45% win rate, Potter had a 38% win rate however both managers had lost 11 games each. The hype surrounding just how good Pochettino is is jarring. This is someone who has been managing for almost 15 years and has one league French title and one cup to show for it, with an unbelievably talented PSG side, Potter would have most probably hoovered up titles too. And yet Pochettino keeps getting referred to as one of the great managers in the game. Is he not just a modern Andre Villas-Boas? Of course not all the blame can be laid at Pochettino's feet but a lot of it can be from making bizarre selections to not getting the best out of the talent on the field. Still there will be fingers pointed at the club owner Todd Boehly who hasn't learned the old lesson that you cannot just keep splashing the cash and hope that some buys will stick, you do however need the budget and Boehly has this. Chelsea will most probably be a success again but you have to wonder if it will be under Pochettino whose side have fallen to 11th place which musters up Potter again, who was sacked for being in the same position. A billion spent and no positional change is a real nightmare scenario, and it's not immediately clear to see how Chelsea will get any better.

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