'I wanted Rodgers, but Arteta could emulate Wenger' – Arsenal legend Nicholas tips new boss for success

Though Arteta was not his first choice to succeed Unai Emery, Nicholas now thinks he has a chance to build something special at the Emirates.

Former Arsenal striker Charlie Nicholas has suggested that Mikel Arteta could follow in Arsene Wenger’s footsteps at the Emirates.

After a drawn-out recruitment process Arteta has finally been announced as Arsenal’s new head coach and the successor to Unai Emery, who was sacked in November. Freddie Ljungberg has taken charge in the interim, with his future at the club now unclear.

Arsenal are currently 10th in the Premier League and suffered a comprehensive 3-0 defeat to Arteta’s Manchester City last weekend. Arteta has been assistant manager to Pep Guardiola at City since 2016, helping to mastermind back-to-back league titles and multiple cup wins.

Speaking to Sky Sports , Nicholas – a cult hero at Arsenal in the eighties – admitted that Arteta would not have been his first choice but that he now has a chance to build something special at the club.

“My initial choice was Brendan Rodgers,” he said. “But the honest truth is that Arsenal needed someone, the second choice was Arteta, and this is a project, as they call it in modern-day football.

“Arsene Wenger came with no reputation, and look what happened to him. Arteta has been with, in my opinion, the best in Pep Guardiola, to learn and understand [the game].

“He’s an intelligent guy, he’s a leader. He was a leader at Everton and Arsenal and was well respected at both. I did not want Arsenal going down the Manchester United line, which was to throw money at a big-name coach. They might win a couple of trophies, but you’re building nothing.

“It’s all about building blocks, and Arsenal have to get back to that. Arsenal at the moment are an average team, a giant club, and they have to get the balance right.

“This is a three-year project and Arsenal are well behind. But they could be threatening for that top four again next season.

“Could it happen this season? No. They’ve got too many decisions to make, like: what do I do with the defence? Who is going to be sold? Do [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang and [Alexandre] Lacazette want to stay? Do I get rid of [Mesut] Ozil? It’s a lot to calculate and process.”

Speaking in his first press conference as Arsenal boss, Arteta conceded that he faces a major rebuilding job. Asked about Arsenal losing their identity, he said: “That’s what I’m sensing from the outside. I’d like to understand the reasons why… to implement certain things that are quick wins for the players, staff and everybody.

“I completely understand [the fans’] concerns… I will give every drop of blood for this football club to make it better.”

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