Dubai: Mikel Arteta believes his job as Arsenal manager has been made lighter by the players he inherited from Unai Emery, as the Gunners are keen to restore the club as one of the top flight units in English football.
Arteta was speaking at a post-training media session for journalists at Nad Al Sheba Complex in Dubai on Monday.
The Gunners are in Dubai at a Premier League winter break and working to get their act together for the second half of the season — when one of Arteta’s top goals is to score is a spot in next season’s Uefa Champions League.
Former Arsenal and Everton midfielder Arteta replaced Spanish compatriot Emery in December and this is the first team building exercise since his appointment. He is thrilled to be away from cold London and working with the team in the UAE. “What is striking for me is how much on board the players are with what we want to do,” Arteta, 37, said.
“The biggest and nicest surprise is the input that the players have. They seem willing and ready with the right commitment looking forward.
“They are very good players and they want to prove they want to play and they’ve put in a great effort and I try to help them as much as possible.
“Their attitude and commitment in training has been great and that for me is the foundation of everything we are trying to build.”
Arsenal are currently placed 10th on the Premier League leaderboard, but Arteta’s appointment has brought in a sense of relief. In the nine games that the team has played under him, Arsenal have won thrice, including a 2-0 win over Manchester United, drawn five times and lost just once.
“I want to go game by game. At the moment we are far from it, but we have a lot of games to play and it will depend on us if we are able to put together three to four wins in a row — we will get close,” he said.
“To win the EPL, may be we need 100-105 points and we can do it in many different ways. At the moment we are far from it but we need to go step by step because this club deserves nothing less than that.
“I want to improve game by game and day by day, I think we need to think about the present and not too much about the future. Everytime we have been talking about the future and what we can do but we need to focus on what we have at the moment and how we can maximise our resources here.”
Striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was handed over the captaincy by Emery in November, weeks before the latter was sacked as boss and has continued to wear the armband under Arteta’s reign.
The 30-year-old admits Arsenal have started to move in a new direction under their new Spanish manager. “When you see how many great players have captained this team, I feel proud and will always try and give my best and do my best for the team,” the Gabon international said.
“He (Arteta) is doing very well and I think we are improving everyday and are feeling much better now than at the beginning of the season.”
Aubameyang is currently the third highest scorer this term with 14 goals so far, with only Jamie Vardy (17) and Sergio Aguero (16) ahead of him and he does admit it would be nice to finish as the league’s Golden Boot winner.
“Yes, why not? First of all, I always say the most important thing is the team and then our personal targets. If I can be the topscorer then good but at the moment, we try to get some wins and it will be good if we can do that.”
— The writer is a sports journalist based in the UAE