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Why we dislike Mikel Arteta more than Jurgen Klopp and it’s not just the Lego hair

Why we dislike Mikel Arteta more than Jurgen Klopp and it’s not just the Lego hair

Jamie Carragher recently said manager behaviour in the Premier League needs ‘stamping down’ and picked out two managers by name who might be first in line for such a stamping.

To nobody’s great surprise, those two managers were Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta. They are without doubt the biggest pair of touchline dafties in a league full of them.

Even Mr Breath Of Fresh Air himself Ange Postecoglou lost the entirety of his sh*t towards the end of Spurs’ feisty 3-1 win over Bournemouth, recovering his poise to save the day with a few choice ‘mates’ in his presser and describing the incident as merely an exchange of New Year resolutions. Phew.

But the point is: a lot of Premier League managers are, well, we’re not allowed to say what a lot of Premier League managers are because the ad guys have told us very sternly and very seriously that against all odds it actually turns out swearing isn’t big or clever after all. Hence that headline, which was very different on the first draft.

It’s not much of a stretch, though, to pick out Arteta and Klopp as the biggest and most [redacted] pair of [redacted] in a [redacted] crowded field of [redacted].

We’ve been thinking about what Carragher said for about 10 days now, because we instinctively agreed with him, but for reasons we have been struggling to fully organise in our heads or on screen – perhaps because of the swearing ban – we think Arteta is a much bigger swearword than Klopp.

Klopp is definitely one. We know none of the great managers were good losers but Klopp is a particularly ungracious one. Waiting three days for the initial storm to die down after the good process at Spurs before asking for a replay was a deeply cynical ploy to keep the news cycle spinning in his team’s favour, but it did also make him look really quite absurd.

But that feels like an outlier. Rightly or wrongly, we’ve generally felt there’s an honesty to Klopp’s prickery. It feels much more authentically him. He genuinely does hate it when his team loses and he genuinely does hate it when teams deploy tactics he deems unworthy. He’s an emotional guy, but that’s quite relatable. Fans aren’t remotely rational about their clubs, so it’s strange to expect otherwise from managers.

This ‘authentic… bleep’ theory on Klopp solidified in our minds after the 4-2 win over Newcastle and the incident with the wedding ring. When he realises the ring has gone and he can’t immediately locate it, he gives a look to camera that is straight out of The Office. The visibly rising panic as he studies the sodden Anfield turf in desperation, and the huge look of relief when the ring is found were all so real.

Speaking as someone who once spent a harrowing 20 minutes scrabbling around for a wedding ring among the accumulated hair, dust and frankly who knows what else down the sides of the seat in a Greek rental car, I can honestly say I’ve never felt more empathy for a Premier League manager than in that moment. Obviously, he then talked about the last time he lost his ring and had to hire a professional diver to locate it and once again the different worlds in which we reside were reinforced. He didn’t even do a joke about Diogo Jota ffs.

But the point is, it’s impossible to imagine Mikel Arteta displaying such humanity. Maybe it really is just the Lego hair, but there’s something about Arteta that’s all a bit uncanny valley. He looks like he was grown in a Petri dish by scientists who wanted to make another Pep and went a touch too far in their attempts to correct the baldness.

Although there was a cynicism to the timing of Klopp’s replay calls, the general air of fury and injustice surrounding one of the all-time great officiating snafus was at least real and legitimate. Daft as the idea of a replay was and is, it was easy to see why Klopp and Liverpool were so furious about it all. It’s rare for an officiating error to be genuinely and entirely inexcusable and unacceptable; this was one such rare case.

Arteta’s big moment this season – the ‘disgrace’ rant after defeat at Newcastle – was always far harder to justify. Rather than raging at an unambiguously terrible mistake, he was concocting his fury about what were, at worst, a serious of borderline calls.

It felt wildly over the top for the nature of the perceived injustice, and it always felt like a specific response to Liverpool’s righteous anger. Like Arsenal and Arteta wanted a piece of that for themselves, and were going to take the first opportunity to paint themselves as the victims even if their situation bore no resemblance to Liverpool’s.

And that’s it with Arteta. He probably isn’t any more cynically artificial than Klopp, but he looks like he is. Plus he remains infuriatingly incapable of remaining in his technical area, and we’re sorry but we’ve completely lost our sense of humour on that one.

You know that game nice middle-class people do when they say ‘What’s the most Tory policy you actually agree with?’ and they always answer ‘Grammar schools’? The football equivalent is surely ‘What’s the most ultimately insignificant Richard Keys obsession you actually agree with?’ And the answer is definitely Mikel Arteta wandering out of his technical area AGAIN.

We know he’s not the only offender but he is by far the worst and it’s now reached the point where it can only be explained by deliberately goading officials into actually doing something about it, or his programming has malfunctioned and he can no longer process when something has or hasn’t crossed a white line. That would also at least go some way to explaining the Newcastle fiasco.

It feeds back into something else Carragher touched on; that Arteta the manager is a wildly different beast to Arteta the player. Is it all perhaps explained by an attempt, conscious or unconscious, to try and subvert his reputation as a Nice Player? It would make sense, because Arsenal’s weakness has been that niceness for so long; of them being a nice team to play against. Arteta had certainly changed that, at least until the last week or so.

So there it is. Been bothering us for days now, but we’ve finally at least sorted it out in our own heads. They’re both asterisk-asterisk-asterisk-asterisk-s, but Klopp is more authentically his own asterisk-asterisk-asterisk-asterisk and we grudgingly quite admire him for that.

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