Tomorrow brings an intriguing clash not just between Arsenal and Chelsea, but between the two youngest managers in the Premier League.
Mikel Arteta, who will be in charge for only his second game, is 37 years old. Frank Lampard is 41 and will be sending out a Chelsea team for only the 29th time.
So here’s a question to get us in the mood for tomorrow’s fixture: which of these two young coaches do you feel in your gut is most likely to have a successful career in management?
Let’s have a very quick look at their CVs:
Lampard was born into a footballing family, the son of Frank Lampard Snr who played left back for West Ham from 1967-1985 and the nephew of Harry Redknapp, the well known former Tottenham manager and amateur accountant.
After starting his career at West Ham, Frank Jnr joined Chelsea in 2001 and went on to become a mainstay of the most successful Blues team in decades, winning three league championships, four FA Cups, two League Cups, the Champions League and the Europa League. Not a bad haul.
His style of play was as a hard-grafting box-to-box midfielder with a particular eye for goal. His knack for scoring from deflected shots was so effective that pundits began to wonder if he was doing it on purpose.
As a player Lampard worked under some very successful managers including Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez.
After retiring as a player he started his coaching career as manager of Derby County in the Championship, where he guided them to a sixth place finish and a place in the play-offs in the 2018-19 season. They lost in the play-off final to Aston Villa and Lampard was snatched up by Chelsea in the close season.
In this, his first season in charge of the Blues, he has a record of Played 28, Won 14, Drawn 5, Lost 9, with a win rate of 50%.
Born in San Sebastian, Spain, Arteta played with Barcelona’s youth set-up but never made the first team and signed for Rangers in the Scottish Premier League in 2003, winning the double in his first season. He moved to Everton in 2005 where he stayed for six years. He was a fan favourite at the Toffees and widely considered to be the classiest player in the team.
In 2011 he joined Arsenal where he stayed for five years, playing in a more withdrawn role in front of the defence than he had at Everton. As at Everton, he quickly became a highly valued player by the fans who especially loved his immovable Action Man hair.
His honours include the FA Cup with Arsenal, that Double in Scotland and an Intertoto Cup win while on loan from Barcelona at Paris St Germain.
After hanging up his boots Arteta was offered three career opportunities: to head up the Arsenal Academy, to join Mauricio Pochettino’s coaching set-up at Totteringham or to become assistant coach at Man City under Pep Guardiola. Obviously the first and third options were the only ones in play, since no Arsenal man would dream of heading to the N17 Toilet Bowl, and in the end Arteta plumped for Man City.
In his time at the Etihad he established himself as the right hand man of Guardiola and became highly valued by Pep and the senior team at City.
So there you have it.
Lampard had a more successful playing career than Arteta and already has quite a bit more managerial experience. However, Arteta has spent three years learning from the best and most innovative coach of the last decade.
There is one other aspect to take into account: call it “demeanour” or “the X factor”. It’s that special something that makes winners out of people. Arsene Wenger had it, so too Alex Ferguson. For all his faults Jose Mourinho has it, as does Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola has it in spades.
It can probably best be described as a kind of moral toughness and certainty: the refusal to accept anything but the best and the conviction to believe that you know how to achieve the best.
I’d say the jury is out on Lampard in that regard. My suspicion is that he might be too nice a guy to really be a top, top manager.
With Arteta, the jury hasn’t even been selected, never mind going out. But there is something about the way he has handled himself in his interviews since being appointed head coach at Arsenal that hints at a steely determination to succeed.
My gut instinct is that Arteta may have a bit more Ingredient X than Lampard, but that’s easily put down to my inherent bias as an Arsenal supporter.
Time will tell, starting tomorrow.
What do you think?