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‘Pass on Arteta again & Arsenal will live to regret it’ – Smith calls for calculated gamble in manager search

11:32 PM GMT+8 06/12/2019
Mikel Arteta Arsenal
The ex-Gunners striker says a young coach is the way forward for a struggling side, with the time right to bring a former captain back to north London

Arsenal cannot afford to pass up a second opportunity to hand their managerial reins to Mikel Arteta, says Alan Smith, with the Gunners warned that they will live to regret it if an ambitious young coach is not appointed.

A former Gunners captain, who is currently assistant to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, was a leading contender to take charge at Emirates Stadium when it was revealed that Arsene Wenger would be stepping down after 22 years.

In the end, Arsenal plumped for a different Spaniard, with former Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain boss Unai Emery charged with the task of succeeding a legend.

He struggled to fill those shoes and has subsequently been relieved of his duties in north London, and that has the Gunners back in the market for a new boss, with former striker Smith urging them to favour innovation over experience.

He told the Evening Standard: “A bright, ambitious, innovative and, yes, young coach would, for me, be the order of the day. ­Someone capable of drilling this side to within an inch of its life. Someone with the tools to improve individuals and build a unit that eventually totals more than the sum of its parts. 

“All sorts of names have been thrown into the mix. Max Allegri, Patrick Vieira, Brendan Rodgers, Carlo Ancelotti, Rafa Benitez and even Mauricio Pochettino. Of those, Rodgers and Pochettino stand out for me.

“But if the Arsenal ­hierarchy really want to be bold, if they want to make a statement with a daring appointment, I’d advocate Mikel Arteta, Pep Guardiola’s richly-talented assistant at Manchester City

“I know there’s a world of difference between coaching and ­managing. It’s much easier to work in the shadows when the buck stops ­elsewhere. But from what I’ve heard, Arteta has everything in his armoury to become a top manager.

“If it doesn’t happen at the Emirates, it’ll happen somewhere else and that would sting badly if Arsenal make another mistake. 

“Arsenal’s former chief executive Ivan Gazidis, we hear, was very close to choosing Arteta as Arsene Wenger’s replacement before losing his nerve and plumping for Emery. In fairness, you can understand that. Arteta ­represented a gamble that Gazidis wasn’t willing to take. 

“But now it’s time. A Change Is Gonna Come, the great Sam Cooke once sang. Yes, a change is inevitable. But will it be the right one?”

Freddie Ljungberg is currently in caretaker charge of Arsenal, but the Swede has failed to deliver any upturn in fortune – with just one point taken from meetings with Norwich and Brighton.

A derby date with London rivals West Ham is next up for the Gunners on Monday, with it yet to be determined how long the hunt for a new permanent manager will take.