“Albert might have different thoughts to the manager on the team and he’d argue his case – often forcibly – but if the manager went with his ideas, Albert could always be trusted to be right behind him and go with what was decided,” one source said.
Not that Stuivenberg was often wrong, it seems. “You’d resist him sometimes just for the sake of it,” the source said. “But then you’d reflect on it and think, ‘Actually, he’s —ing right, again’. He’d never miss a trick.” Another source agreed but added, with a chuckle: “It was gold dust then when he made a mistake and you could go to town on it. The problem was that happened once every two years, if that.”
As the likes of Gareth Bale and Wayne Rooney found in training with Wales and United respectively, Stuivenberg did not care for reputations. If he saw something he did not like, he would tell that player – in no uncertain terms. Arsenal’s players have come to realize it is coming from a good place. It would be no different in wider meetings with departmental heads.
‘He will never be a yes-man’
“Albert can be quite direct, which isn’t a bad thing – takes some getting used to,” Giggs said in an interview in 2020. “If someone is not doing what he wants in training, he’ll tell them. It doesn’t matter who they are. He would always tell me what he thought. He will never be a yes-man. He’s a brilliant coach.”
As Netherlands Under-17 manager, Stuivenberg won back-to-back European Championships in 2011 and 2012 and later became the Netherlands Under-21 coach.
There he came to the attention of Van Gaal, who used him as a scout at the 2014 World Cup finals and then made him part of his coaching staff at United. Seven months after leaving Old Trafford following Van Gaal’s dismissal, Stuivenberg was handed his first senior No 1 job, with Belgian side Genk. Away from his partner and two boys, he did not go to plan and he lasted just 12 months. Some think he may still have unfinished business and fancy another crack at management – he is thought to have needed some persuading by Giggs to accept another assistant post, with Wales, in 2018
But the Genk experience has had its benefits. He worked with Leandro Trossard and the Dutchman’s character references were an important factor behind Arsenal’s decision to move for the Brighton winger. Stuivenberg filled in for Arteta on the touchline when, with the manager absent because of Covid, Arsenal lost 2-1 at home to City last seasonbut now they lead the way.
It has been some season and Stuivenberg’s expertise has been a crucial component.