Arteta on verge of taking over at Arsenal
Gunners believe former midfielder embodies the values of Wenger reign
Mikel Arteta was closing in on the Arsenal manager's job last night, with senior sources at Manchester City now increasingly expecting him to leave and Arsene Wenger also offering public endorsement for his former captain.
Although not directly involved in the recruitment process, Wenger's opinion still carries huge weight at the Emirates and it is understood that Arteta held further talks with the club's hierarchy yesterday.
City sources are now becoming increasingly resigned to Arteta's departure, although he has not yet agreed terms with Arsenal or formally handed in his notice as Pep Guardiola's assistant.
The situation, though, could move quickly and, after the cull earlier this week of many of Wenger's staff, discussions at Arsenal are also centring on who might work alongside the new manager.
Midfielder Santi Cazorla was a former team-mate of Arteta and, although he has a decision to make about whether to continue his attempted comeback as a player following a serious ankle injury, could also join his coaching staff.
Arsenal held interviews last week which, as well as Arteta, included talks with another former captain in Patrick Vieira. The club's main interest among established heavyweight European candidates was Juventus manager Max Allegri but he clearly indicated a desire to remain in Italy for at least one more year and has effectively cleared a path for Arteta to take what would be his first managerial job.
Guardiola, who himself signed a new contract yesterday at City until 2021, has already said that he would not prevent Arteta from leaving and described his assistant's overall contribution to their success together as "amazing".
Wenger signed Arteta from Everton in 2011 and, during five years working together, he became one of the club's most influential players both on and off the pitch. He was made captain in 2014 and, upon retiring two years later, was offered coaching opportunities at Arsenal and Tottenham as well as Manchester City.
At the age of just 36, the Spaniard would become Arsenal's youngest manager since the appointment of Terry Neill in 1976 but Wenger does not regard that as a problem.
"Overall he has the qualities," said Wenger. "He was a leader, and he has a good passion for the game and he knows the club well. He knows what is important at the club and he was captain of the club. Why not?"
Of Arteta's lack of experience, Wenger said: "I left a lot of experience behind me, people who were with me like Steve Bould, who has six years'experience, and Jens Lehmann too. He has been an assistant of Guardiola as well, so overall I think he has the qualities."
Bould wants to see who comes in before making a decision on his future but Lehmann is expected to stay, while talks are being held with Freddie Ljungberg over working alongside academy manager Per Mertesacker with some of the club's younger players.
Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis is overseeing the recruitment process and believes that Arteta embodies the Wenger values that the club will seek to continue whilst also working within a hugely revamped backroom structure.
Gazidis has appointed a series of influential department heads over the past year, notably recruitment chief Sven Mislintat, contract negotiator Huss Fahmy and director of high performance Darren Burgess.
Head of football relations Raul Sanllehi is also working closely with Gazidis on Arsenal's interaction with other leading clubs amid ongoing debates over the future structure of European football.
Head of medical services Colin Lewin, first-team coaches Boro Primorac and Neil Banfield, fitness coach Tony Colbert and goalkeeping coach Gerry Peyton are all leaving,.
In an interview in 2016, Arteta suggested that his managerial philosophy would be closely aligned to the expansive passing style favoured by both Wenger and Guardiola.
"I want the football to be expressive, entertaining," he said. "I cannot have a concept of football where everything is based on the opposition. We have to dictate the game, we have to be the ones taking the initiative, and we have to entertain the people coming to watch us.
"I'm 100pc convinced of these things and I think I could do it."
Wenger himself was due to say his final goodbyes at the club's London Colney training base yesterday and the Frenchman has again suggested that he is now most likely to manage abroad.
"The Premier League is the most attractive place to be, but managing in different cultures and environments is something that is very interesting," he said.
Daily Telegraph, London