Mikel Arteta’s unusual way of making his Arsenal players feel comfortable at away games has been branded “extremely strange” by Graeme Souness.
The Gunners are top of the Premier League, five points ahead of Manchester City, following their impressive 3-0 win over Fulham last weekend. Arsenal will have the chance to increase that buffer to eight points when they take on Crystal Palace on Sunday, with City in FA Cup action this weekend.
Arteta has been central to Arsenal’s success this season, creating a strong team spirit which has helped them come from behind to beat Aston Villa and Bournemouth in recent weeks. The Gunners boss has used some unconventional methods to achieve results, with home comforts being taken to away matches.
Olekandr Zinchenko posted a photo on Instagram from the dressing room at Fulham which showed the players holding a clock – a replica from the club’s iconic Clock End at Emirates Stadium. Arsenal also decked out their changing room in stickers and put the club crest on the walls.
“I read the story about Arsenal taking their home comforts into opposition dressing rooms and had to read it again to make sure it wasn’t a joke,” Souness wrote for the Daily Mail.
“Really? Is this what the modern game has become? So Arsenal players arrive at Fulham to find their own clock is on the wall along with their own pictures and stickers? It’s extremely strange and only a winning manager can get away with that.
Instagram / @zinchenko_96)
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“The Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is doing a fine job but he has form for such nonsense. Last season he had ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ played over the loudspeakers at training to prepare his players for a game at Anfield. They lost 4-0, so that went well for them.”
Arteta considers himself a progressive manager who has been shaped by the modern era of coaches. He is clearly keen to explore ways of extracting extra from his players through marginal gains as they attempt to follow in the footsteps of the Invincibles and win the first title since 2004.
Nigel French/Getty Images)
He recently explained the thinking behind the measures taken at away games. “It was something I related to a few days before on where we were as a team and club and what we have to stand for,” Arteta told ESPN. “It was something private in the dressing room just before the game and something that’s in the history of our club.
“We have to be really conscious of that and when we have that history and we use it in the right way, that’s a really powerful thing to have. The reality is that every game is so important, the margins are so small and we are now going to have to do something incredible until the end of the season to earn the right to be there.”