THE name Sean McVay will not have featured on Arsenal’s lengthy list of possible successors to Unai Emery but it is a name which appears to have strongly influenced their thinking.
McVay is the 33-year-old head coach of the LA Rams the NFL team who, like Arsenal, are owned by the American businessman Stan Kroenke. When McVay was hired by Kroenke, aged 30, in January 2017 he became the youngest head coach in the history of the NFL.
In his first year in the job the previously untried McVay led the Rams to the play-offs for the first time since 2004 — coincidentally the last time Arsenal won the Premier League — and was named NFL Coach of the Year. In his second year, the Rams, now utterly transformed from after-thought to attacking juggernaut, reached the Super Bowl.
With building a fanbase and putting bums on expensive seats in a major city offering plenty of alternatives a priority after the Rams’ move from St Louis to LA, McVay more than anyone else has ensured the switch has been a success. So if Arsenal, a club who have their own issues surrounding dwindling attendances, see Mikel Arteta, 37, as an untried but mercurial coaching ingenue who can reinvigorate a moribund operation, it is not hard to see from where the owners may have taken their inspiration.
Having brought his highly respected if unshowy playing career to a close at the Emirates — and been interviewed for the manager’s job two summers ago — Arsenal’s powerbrokers clearly know the measure of the man they are getting.
Arteta also comes laden with plaudits for his work behind Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. What remains unknown is how he will fare as the leader.
In Unai Emery, Arteta’s predecessor, the Gunners had an experienced coach with considerable success in Europe but a man who appeared to leave his players as confused as the journalists sent to cover his press conferences — his muddled English the perfect metaphor for his reign as a whole.
While Arteta may be untested in management, he has at least mastered the English language and has 16 years’ experience and knowledge of the demands of British football.
But there are suggestions the jumbled thinking at Arsenal extends beyond the pitch, with much made of a lengthy list of possible managers and reports that Edu, the club’s technical director, favoured Patrick Vieira — another former Arsenal midfielder and captain — for the role.
Ultimately, the decision to employ Arteta will have been made by the club’s director Josh Kroenke, with the approval of his father.
Kroenke Jr once claimed Emery and Rams coach McVay were ‘very comparable’ and ‘their styles are similar’. Arsenal fans must hope the comparisons between the Kroenkes’ frontmen in Los Angeles and London hold more weight this time around.