After a 2-0 opening day defeat in the Premier League to newly-promoted Brentford, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has been under scrutiny, with the Spaniard tipped to be replaced by former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte if he was to leave.
Former Tottenham player Jamie O’Hara has labelled Arteta as the “first manager to get the sack” this season after a poor start to the campaign, whilst Italian outlet TuttoSport claims that the Gunners have Conte lined up as Arteta’s replacement if the 39-year-old was to be sacked.
Arteta is also the favourite to become the first managerial casualty of the season, leading the batting in the Premier League sack race.
Despite leading Inter Milan to Serie A glory, Conte is currently without a club after a fall out with the Nerazzurri board over transfer policy and expectations for the season.
Arteta is currently in his third season as Arsenal manager, having led the Gunners to back-to-back eighth-place finishes in the Premier League and missing out European qualification for the first time in 26 years.
On the other hand, in his two years in the Premier League, Conte led Chelsea to top-flight and FA Cup glory and set a club record of 13 consecutive league victories.
So, if Conte was to replace Arteta at Arsenal, what would happen? Could the Italian take the Gunners back to Europe, or would they miss out again?
We used Football Manager 2021 to see what could happen.
Antonio Conte as Arsenal manager from January 2021
To set up this simulation, we used the Football Manager 2021 editor to arrange for Conte to join Arsenal on August 22nd 2021, making sure the 52-year-old was in position to take charge against his former club.
This is what Conte’s staff profile looks like on Football Manager 2021, as of August 2021 in-game.
Conte set up at Arsenal with his usual five at the back formation – this time opting for a 5-3-2 with Bukayo Saka being deployed as a wing-back despite his recent success as a winger for England and Arsenal.
The change in formation saw the likes of Granit Xhaka and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang dropped, two players who were regulars under Arteta.
Aubameyang only featured eight times in the league for the Gunners while Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli were Conte’s preferred pair in attack and both strikers enjoyed stellar seasons.
Martinelli finished second in the Premier League top scorer chart after becoming a regular in the starting XI – scoring 18 goals and grabbing two assists in 37 games.
Lacazette also impressed with 16 league goals and five assists in 36 games – the duo responsible for scoring 34 of Arsenal’s 57 league goals.
At the end of the 2021/22 season, Football Manager 2021 put together an overall best Arsenal XI, based on performances, statistics and other metrics.
This is what the best Arsenal XI looked like in 2021/22 according to FM21.
Full Arsenal best XI: Leno; Bellerin, White, Gabriel, Tierney, Saka; Partey, Smith-Rowe, Sambi Lokonga; Lacazette, Martinelli.
Emile Smith-Rowe was at the centre of the midfield where he managed eight goals and nine assists in the league.
Conte also deployed Kieran Tierney at left centre-back, the same position he plays for Scotland. New signings Ben White and Albert Sambi Lokonga both made the best XI, too.
So, how did Arsenal perform in the league?
In impressive fashion, the Gunners managed to not only make it back to Europe, but finished in the Champions League qualifying spots as Conte oversaw a fourth-place finish.
Their fourth-place finish in the simulation was a massive 16 points more than last season and it was defensive solidity that improved the most under Conte.
Arsenal only conceded 26 goals in 38 Premier League games, the lowest amount in the 2021/22 league table. In comparison, that’s 13 less than Arsenal conceded in 2020/21, and the lowest in the Premier League since the 2018/19 season (Liverpool, 22).
So there Gunners made it back to Europe, but how did they do in the domestic cup competitions?
It was an overall disappointing campaign in the cup competitions for Conte’s side as they lost in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup to fellow top-four Premier League sides.
Liverpool overcame the Gunners 3-0 in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals, whilst Manchester United beat Arsenal 2-1 in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley.
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Overall, the impact of Conte on the side was a positive one, with the Italian’s defensive tactics playing to Arsenal’s advantage as they went on to claim a top-four finish with the best defensive record in the league.
Young attacker Martinelli had his calling card season in the Premier League as he pushed Aubameyang out the squad and scored 18 league goals, whilst the likes of Saka, Smith-Rowe and Sambi Lokonga all thrived under the guidance of the Italian boss.
Would you like to see Conte replace Arteta at Arsenal? Let us know in the comments below!