There’s a new member of the Arsenal family at our London Colney training ground.
But this addition isn’t part of the playing squad. The new face is a chocolate Labrador, that has taken up residence at our training facility.
Named ‘Win’, she spends most days at London Colney, with her primary carer also being a full-time Colney member of staff. Mikel Arteta has brought in the dog to help develop the family atmosphere at the club, and says the reaction from players and staff alike has been ‘incredible’.
“We always talk about family, and being connected,” Mikel explains. “A big family like we are at the club, and I feel like we are a family, we need a dog to represent that family. I think there are still things at the club that can be done to connect with people. To be more caring with people, to show love.
“I carefully chose the dog and in my opinion it’s the perfect representative of who we are right now. Her name is Win, we all love winning and Win needs a lot of love. So the love for Win, that was basically the feeling.
“The reaction from the players and the staff has been incredible, she is one of us. She is going to be on this journey with us together. It’s something that changes your mood like this [clicks fingers]. She gives you all the love and suddenly you feel the energy of the place. It’s just beautiful and to me those things are very important.
“Win needs accountability from us because we have to look after her as well, her emotions and what she needs.”
Ahead of our trip to Nottingham Forest, Mikel spoke about other ways he is using symbolism to build togetherness.
“Another symbol at the club is our tree. It needs a lot of care as well. It’s an olive tree, it’s older than 150 years, similar to the club, and we have to look after those roots every single to the day, make sure they don’t get poisoned, don’t get damaged and it’s in the right condition.”
The boss also spoke about how he has been dealing with the disappointment of last weekend’s damaging defeat to Brighton, and how he has been reminding the players that there are still targets to aim for in the final two games of the season.
We have won 25 of our 36 Premier League games so far this season, the most we have ever amassed in a 38-game league season is 26. We can also reach a maximum of 87 points, we’ve only bettered that tally once – in the Invincibles season of 20023/04.
“First I heal myself for 24 hours that I needed because it was painful and then live with the moment, live with the situation and try to change it straight away. And then give them all the support and help that they need to be better, to learn from it and to face tomorrow as a challenge and an opportunity to put something right.
“You have two different routes when we are on this pathway now. Do you go to the frustration route, or do you go to a different one? And that’s what we can still achieve – our biggest number of wins in the history of the league, and the second or third highest (points) ever in the history of the club. Today we still have the opportunity to win the Premier League – you have to go for that. Forget about the other route, that is taking you nowhere. Only to bad places.”
And how does Mikel ‘heal’ himself after disappointing results like last weekend?
“Sometimes it's just going to bed for 12 hours and don't speak to anybody!” he smiles. “Sometimes you need your wife, you need your kids around you, your dog, your family. I've been here for three years at the club and I've never had that many text messages after a game, it was incredible.
“I think it was 122 messages that I had, all talking about what we've done. They said don't lose perspective about what we've done and that helps because it comes from friends, a lot of colleagues, a lot of coaches as well, a lot of people at the club and sometimes that helps you as well. Sometimes you live with that tunnel vision thinking about 'I should have done that in the game, we should have changed that, we should have done that' and you just heal and hammer yourself and that helps.”
As soon as the season is over, Mikel will be turning his thoughts to the summer, and his preparations for the 2023/24 campaign. He is under no illusions how important this next close-season is.
“Crucial,” he states. “To go to the next level, this is going to be a crucial summer for us, that’s for sure. First of all to make sure that we maintain everything that we have at the club right now. To maintain the expectation, the enthusiasm, the energy that is around the place and we have a proper preparation to fulfil the objectives and the challenges that we’ll face next season.
“We try to make the right decisions,” he adds. “Tough decisions are sometimes something that depend on you, sometimes it depends on players that they want to seek or look for a different challenge, it all depends. We will sit down at the end, evaluate where we are, what we can do, how we're going to get better which is the main aim and be in the best possible condition next year to compete.
“[We have to] be on top of everything every single day, that’s what you can do. Keep your eyes open, your ears open. And at the end things have to go your way. You need your players to be healthy, at the crucial moments you need everybody at their best mentally, physically, in terms of confidence. There are a lot of factors that contribute to a team at the end winning or not winning, the margins are minimum.”
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