Dubai: The honeymoon period is certainly over for Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta as he deals with the harsh realities of life as a fully-fledged football manager.
Following the highs of his first year in charge, the Gunners are down in 11th spot in the Premier League ahead of Sunday’s clash with Leeds — and the off-field issues at Emirates are even more of a headache. The Spaniard stepped up to his first coaching job last December — moving on from being Pep Guardiola’s assistant at Manchester City — and went on to win the FA Cup and Charity Shield before the cracks appeared.
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This week he had to censure midfielder Willian for an unauthorised and downright idiotic trip to Dubai during the coronavirus pandemic, and comfort Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who had to sleep in a Gambia airport after failing to get access through customs. Mohammad Elneny and Sead Kolasinac have tested positive for COVID-19, and news has also leaked of a training ground punch-up between David Luiz and Dani Ceballos. Arteta may have improved the club’s defence to concede fewer goals but he now has the task of plugging a leak at his club after the clash between Luiz and Ceballos made the British press in vivid detail.
Media reports said defender Luiz and midfielder Ceballos clashed in a training session following a late challenge earlier this week, with Luiz drawing blood after hitting Ceballos in the face.
While Ceballos took to Twitter to say the story was “fake”, Arteta said the incident had been resolved but the Spanish boss’ bigger concern was how the story was leaked.
“I don’t like the fact that that incident comes out at all,” Arteta said ahead of Sunday’s Premier League match at Leeds United. “I will find out where it is coming from and if that is the case, that goes completely against what I expect from each other, the privacy and the confidentiality that we need. There will be consequences. It’s a contact sport ... Training is very competitive and issues happen a lot of the time.”
Arteta has so far handled the issues well. He publicly noted Willian’s indiscretion in sneaking off to Dubai during the international break while reminding him what is expected of him. He also sympathised with Aubameyang, giving him a shoulder to lean on and lending him an ear. He has taken the coronavirus cases in his stride — having already had the virus himself earlier this year. And now he is addressing the worrying leak in his set-up.
While he must also focus himself and his men to pick up the points and get back up the table, Arteta is also realising managing a team is not all about results on the field.
Welcome to that tricky second year, Mikel ...