Another Covid-19 Saturday rolls by without The Arsenal and it’s another Saturday in which there’s little to talk about or deliberate over. Mikel Arteta has been speaking about how impressed he is with the way the club are reacting to him and it sounds like there is a regular dialogue with everybody at the club so that sounds positive.
It’s funny because in my own work I am on the Executive team within my business and we talk all the time about how are people are doing, who needs checking in on, because they are in isolation living on their own, for example. But you never think about that from a footballing perspective and there might be one or two players who are having very little real life contact with people and the psychological impact of that cannot be understated. Footballers, by nature of their profession, are very sociable people. They train together, they go out together, they play together, they see people all the time; their interaction is ngreater than most of us even when they’re not playing because you’ve got agents, club officials, as well as fans always talking to you and interacting with you when you’re not on the pitch.
Now they have little of that and the challenge that all clubs will have is keeping the spirits up of those players too. They may all have money, big houses and no worry about how to pay the bills, but they’re still humans and that’s something that this particular pandemic is bringing into sharp focus I think. The human aspect and in Arteta’s interview he talked about that and how he’s getting to know the humans more. That’s a positive thing and hopefully will serve the boss well in the future. Since he’s arrived it has probably been quite a whirlwind of games, training and rest and actually getting to know people has probably been a little different. It’s not like you can ask Guendouzi what his favourite cheese is when he’s running shuttle drills. Or find out if Aubameyang is a Marvel movie geek or not when he’s in the Emirates at halftime. So this time that the players and particularly the manager have now can hopefully be used to get closer to his players and understand what makes them tick more.
I wonder if he’s also obsessing over games, re-watching matches and also planning what happens when normality returns in great detail too. I’m sure I read somewhere, or heard on a podcast, that somebody went to Arteta’s flat in Manchester and he had all of the walls covered in sheets of paper with formations, players names and ways in which the ball can be progressed through the team. That’s the kind of obsession that ~I can get behind and although everybody talked about Unai Emery and his video tapes, what we actually ended up getting was a guy who changed his mind so much the players had no idea what they were doing.
Also, for a guy who changed his mind as much as Emery did, he also didn’t actually change much at all. For example he started with four at the back, also tried three at the back but didn’t change it quickly enough before going back to four at the back towards the end. It was all just, well, a bit weird.
I don’t think the communication side helped either. He did try to immerse himself into our language but he never really mastered it. Arteta had that nailed on from day one and when you think about that you know that if he has an idea you can be damn sure the players knew about it and couldn’t blame the language barrier as an issue.
What we will hopefully get when this all returns is a manager who is very clear on exactly who has the mentality and strength to come along his journey with him I think. There will be players that he will want from a football perspective, but fitness levels and mentality will need to be taken into consideration too. Like I said, they’re all human and that means their bodies will all react differently to this situation. So it may be that when it does all kick off again we see some players getting more game time than others mainly because they react better to having to recover and reset their bodies back to match fitness levels.
All of this kind of stuff is what Arteta is going to have to take into account and so it will be fascinating to see how he reacts to what feels like one of yet another set of challenges he’s faced since joining. He’s had volume of games, injuries hitting in certain positions hard, as well as this. It’s hardly been the smoothest integration into football management. But I think he’s been coping well.
Righto, that’s all I gots for you today, so I’m, off to…err….feed the birds in my back garden?