With the return of the Premier League fast approaching, Mikel Arteta has provided insight into how our squad regrouped in Dubai and what he and the coaching staff did to prepare during the World Cup.
Our head coach revealed how much he enjoyed watching the tournament and used the time off from club football to study changes happening within the game.
“I did get to watch a lot of football and it's a good opportunity for us as coaches to understand how the game is evolving and what the other coaches are trying to do. We had our own players with different national teams, so I was keen for them to do well and be involved. It was good!
“Me and the coaching staff talked about a few things. The first thing was that we needed some rest, and it was almost compulsory for all of them to have some rest. Then we decided to analyse what we've been doing in the first part of the season to get a good understanding of where we are. Is it something that we need to continue doing? Are there things that we can still develop? We also got other people to assess how we were doing as well. We looked at other sports and then it was time to prepare for the pre-season that we had in Dubai with the friendly matches.”
Reflecting on their recent trip to Dubai, Arteta revealed how much he appreciated the opportunity to give minutes to more players and how much the squad loved the change of environment.
“We had a lot of players at the World Cup. We had only 10 players here at Colney, so the fact that we could change the environment, it was great. We allowed some families to participate and spend some time with us as well. We trained hard. We had two very competitive matches. We could load players with minutes - it was great.
“[Our players] loved it, obviously. Having four weeks here in London and just trying to break it up a little bit is something that they really appreciate. It worked as well because some players went straight from Qatar to Dubai. It was a good decision.”
The World Cup did, unfortunately, lead to the injury of our Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus, something that Mikel addressed, as well as having players on the cusp of returning.
“It's a huge blow for us, obviously. He's such an important player: he's brought something very different to the team and it's impossible to replace him. But we have other players, other alternatives and we'll try to get that sorted. The transfer window is another option.
“I think [Jesus] is a unique player but Eddie [Nketiah] has incredible qualities as well for the way we want to play. We have other alternatives in that we can play Martinelli up front as well. We are currently a little bit short in terms of upfront positions but getting Emile [Smith Rowe] back is going to be a big one.”
With our return just around the corner, Arteta insisted that the team are very keen to play the traditional Boxing Day fixture with West Ham United.
“It's a very special day. Boxing Day is one of the most beautiful days in English football. It's such a family and historic day to play football, and we are really keen to play again.
“I know David [Moyes] very well because I worked with him for seven years. I'm sure that he has worked the team hard and has put big demands on them. They've been terrific since he joined the club and I always think it's a really difficult match-up.”
Sitting top of the Premier League table, the boss outlined the challenges faced in maintaining our pre-World Cup form.
“We have to take it game by game. Football changes so quickly and what is very good can be very different in a week's time. But we know our reality. We know what we are capable of. We deserve the position that we're in right now. Now, we have to do the same for the next 24 matches and that's a big challenge considering the level in this league.
“We have had some very important additions since last season. We have had another year together. It was my first full preseason since I've been in charge here because of the two years of COVID. So that was really helpful. But it's been game-changing to have people back in our stadium. Our people have been incredibly supportive and connected to our team. That has put our team in a different dimension.”
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