We spoke to Mikel Arteta on Friday for an exclusive interview for Arsenal Player.
Our head coach discussed lockdown, how he interacts with his players, the work he is doing with his coaches and more.
Read on for a full transcript:
Mikel, thanks for your time today. How have you been since we last saw you?
I am good. I am healthy and my family is healthy. I've been working for the club, spending time with the players and spending time with the family and I am communicating with my relatives, like we all do.
What's a typical lockdown day for the Arteta family?
Well, I get up quite early. I like to spend an hour or two in the office by myself and then, by nine o'clock, my three kids normally come down, so I have some breakfast with them and my wife as well and then I start to make phone calls and start to organise work and start communicating with my staff, the backroom staff and senior people at the club. Then we have some lunch - in the last few days in the garden because the weather has been really, really good - and then after that I get back to work. I put things in place and have some individual meetings and some unit meetings with the players, and then I have dinner with my family and watch a kids movie. I've watched like 35 kids movies in the last five weeks, but yes, we have time for everything.
A lot of your day is spent communicating with coaches, players and staff. You talked last time about the psychological support that people need, and that people deal with this in different ways. What does that psychological support look like?
Well, we're doing it in different ways. We have our psychologist that is looking after the players and is always in constant communication with them. But as well we're having feedback from different people and we're constantly sending information and videos and keeping them busy. And as well, keeping them close to their job and close to the people that are related to their job, which is us and my coaching staff. But we've been having some really good conversations. This time has been really helpful from my side, at least, to get to know the players better, and we are trying to improve our relationship, our communication and the understanding between us.
You also said last time that you're giving the players a lot of homework. What is that exactly and how does it differ from player to player?
We have to try to use this time, as I mentioned before, to try to get to know each other as well, but we have to develop professionally. There are a few aspects that I want to improve, change or develop, and individually they are different for each other. So I put a plan for each player of the areas that we believe they can improve in, but as well, bringing confidence to all the things that they do right, that they have to try to maintain and keep, that are really relevant for the team and the way we play. And to make an emphasis as well on the way we behave, maintain our culture and make sure we are looking after the people around us that we really care about, who we are working with, and make them realise as well how lucky we are to work in the environment and the world and the context that we are all in on a daily basis.
Can you give us one piece of detail there on what you mean by an area to improve in? Maybe a tactical area for example?
There are so many, but I like to dissect the game in different aspects. But we're going through individually with them on those three big aspects but then we are putting each together and we are putting parts of games for the players to analyse individually. After that, they have to find the solution, they have to tell what they did wrong or right and why this scenario happened and if they could have avoided that before it actually happened. A lot of times it's just about communication, but other times it's about the positioning, it's about the body shape, the technique of how they have to defend. It's a lot of things and the feedback has been really good. And after, the way they have been processing the information for the next one, has been superb. And with some of the young players, I've been very, very impressed with them.
People all over the world have got homework to deal with at the moment. How are you checking that the players do theirs? Is it those one-to-one conversations?
Very easily. With the technology, we know when a player has downloaded the game, when he has done the homework. They have to report everything to me! So they cannot escape. And to be fair, they've been really good. They've been doing their tasks in the way we ask them to do and in that sense we have no concerns.
As for you and the coaches, are you treating this period as if it was June in a typical year, where it's almost like a planning phase, a pre-season phase? Which you didn't get, of course, when you came in December.
That's what we are trying to do. We have some time to review what we have done as well, and the things that we have to improve as a team and as a coaching staff as well, and have a big reflection on all the departments we have across the club. How they are feeling as well about what we are doing, how we have set up as a club, if they have any ideas for us to improve, and we are more than welcome to help them on how the workload can be better. So then we make sure when we're back, we don't know in which condition, how long we're going to have, we make sure we hit the ground running.
Scouting comes into this as well, at this time of the year people think about summer [activity] if it was a typical end of the season. Is scouting something you can still do effectively?
Absolutely. We have a lot of meetings to try and plan the season. We might have one, two, three different scenarios and we have to be prepared for all of them. I'm not a person that likes improvising a lot so yeah we have to know the circumstances can change every week and we have to be prepared as a club to react to that and adapt.
Finally Mikel, you're in an interesting room there in your house. Can you give us a bit of insight into what's behind you and what that is up in the top corner of the shot?
That's Eusebio, a player that I admire. A friend of mine, he gave me some boots that he used to play in in Portugal. There's my kids, myself when I came to Arsenal. A few phrases that I like and always encourage my family to follow, and some psychology books because before you coach you have to be a psychologist almost, to deal with people and different characters and cultures and the mix that we have at the moment in our football clubs. Yeah, we are dealing with people, their energy, and we have to try and commit them and get them to believe in what we're doing.
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