Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta will not face each other on the touchline today when Everton meet Arsenal at Goodison. The incoming gaffers will wait in the wings, ‘running the rule’, no doubt gaining an insight into the size of their tasks.
Both will arrive into varying degrees of shambles, though Carlo’s to-do list has at least been pared down slightly by ‘Big Dunc’, who has done some solid work on the first assignment awaiting most new bosses these days — rebuilding the connection with fans.
Such is the ennui among football supporters whose teams aren’t winning every week, some grand gestures are needed to convince them the whole enterprise isn’t just taking them for mugs.
And it turns out the way to an Evertonian’s heart is through frenzied displays of affection for ball boys and an inability to feel the cold.
It is not clear why Big Dunc couldn’t have been freed up to perform his touchline theatrics during the Marco Silva reign — though the scarcity of winning goals to celebrate would have been a factor.
Freddie Ljungberg was probably meant to perform a similar feelgood role for Arsenal over recent weeks and fans at least got to roll out some old songs from much happier times.
But, as Gary Breen pointed out on Newstalk after the embarrassment at the hands of Manchester City, Freddie passed up the opportunity to make a more lasting impression: “No reaction from Ljungberg to get up and castrate his players.”
It is to Arteta’s great advantage now that many Arsenal fans would happily see most of their players subjected to cruel acts of punishment. So when the customary leaks emerged this week suggesting ‘senior stars’ won’t be happy with Arteta’s arrival, it was not possible to detect much sympathy out there for their plight.
This new man will be afforded the opportunity and time to ‘take on the dressing room’, if that’s what’s required.
But what else will Arteta and Ancelotti bring to the table?
All of Pep’s dossiers and folders and blueprints, is the obvious answer, in the case of Arteta, who surely had his Etihad Campus photocopying privileges revoked in recent weeks.
Ancelotti, for his part, has dossiers from most of the leading clubs in Europe. He is the glamorous choice, probably Everton’s highest profile boss.
One might have expected the pair to go in opposite directions, Everton turning to another former player with club DNA, and Arsenal going back to having a grand statesman in the dugout.
Yet, this might well be the better fit. The Toffees could use the boost to their self-esteem a gaffer with three European Cups should bring.
And if there is anything at all to be said for yin and yang in a technical area, the combo of Carlo’s phlegmatic arched eyebrows atop a heavy coat and Dunc’s windmilling heart-on-his-shirtsleeves ebullience must be worth 10 points a season.
No doubt Moise Kean is looking forward to being confused daily with good cop, bad cop vibes.
Arsenal, on the other hand, already have too much self-esteem around the place. Too much entitlement at all levels of the operation, including among the fans who flew planes to drive out the gaffer who was only winning the FA Cup and finishing top four.
Even with Unai Emery, there was a begrudging assumption he’d probably only win them the Europa League.
So what better way to reset, to establish a ground zero, than with a gaffer who has managed zero matches.
Handed this blank page, Arteta will need to shape a narrative to suit his purposes fairly quickly.
In a magnificent line from an interview published on The Athletic yesterday, he teased Arsenal fans with the kind of gold that might have come straight from a Pep Ted Talk: “Football is about habit and angles. It’s much more simple for a player if you can process the image of where your team-mate will be before receiving the ball. If I am in the kitchen and I know the glasses are always in this cupboard, I get my glass of water more quickly.”
So even in the heat of this kitchen, Arsenal fans’ glasses should be at least half full.
But being the man with Pep’s plan will only wash for so long, especially since Pep’s plan seems to have stopped working.
There are some clues as to where Arteta will get other ‘quick wins’, as they say in the boardroom. Indeed they now say it in the dressing room, because yesterday Arteta confirmed he will “implement certain things that will be quick wins”.
The indications are that Arteta will set his stall out as someone who can get inside Arsenal’s fragile heads and hearts. A George Graham with pressing triggers instead of an offside trap.
In an interview towards the end of his playing days, Arteta went over and above the going rate by vowing any team he’d coach would be giving “120%”. Yesterday he warned that players will graft or go.
Naturally, the faithful will need some early grand gestures to be convinced. The body language of Mezut Ozil will be studied carefully, whether he’s playing or not.
The Ozil question will loom large over Arteta’s early weeks. Will he be the first victim of Arsenal’s ground zero? Or will Mr 120% also find a way to harness yin and yang?
“The first thing is a little bit to change the energy,” Arteta said yesterday, after a week when headlines suggested half the Arsenal dressing room want to leave.
Asked for his approach to a new dressing room, Alex Ferguson famously advised: “Get rid of the c***ts,”
Before he turns the page on any of the dossiers, Arteta says the key thing Guardiola showed him was ruthlessness.
So while castration may be beyond the pale, the faithful will take some heart from the first impressions of a club insider, as reported today: “He will quickly sort out some of the ******.”
There is a growing danger that Limerick’s 65 that never was will be hurling’s equivalent to Frank Lampard’s dipper that bounced behind the line against Germany in the World Cup.
All the great movements towards technology in officiating need a signature injustice for critical momentum. A sliding doors moment where the machines provide evidence too compelling for the beaten team to let things lie.
Limerick have now sent a motion to Congress backing a system where managers would be able to challenge decisions.
And with the new smart sliotar set to help Hawkeye with score detection, the clamour will grow for all other refereeing mistakes to be eradicated too. We know where that ends.
It would, of course, be a mistake of disastrous proportions to open any door to VAR. The scale of confusion and disruption it has caused the Premier League might have taken some by surprise. But you could safely multiply that by a million for hurling.
Anyone arguing otherwise should ask themselves one question: have they ever seen a score of any type in the game where there hasn’t been some form of half-foul committed in the build-up.
Any even the Premier League balks at VAR for corners. Would you really want the computers agonising over the awarding of every 65?