Darren Burgess, Arsenal’s Director of High Performance, says midfield duo Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira are the club’s best performers in training with both men taking every session personally.
Burgess joined the Gunners from AFL side Port Adelaide in July 2017 having previously spent time at Liverpool and cuts an impressive figure at London Colney, supervising, “the fitness, the nutrition, the rehab, the physios, the doctors, the analysts and the psychologists for the first team and the Academy.”
Speaking to former Australia international Mark Schwarzer for Optus Sports, the former Port Adelaide coach explained which players most impress him on a day-to-day basis.
“I’ll tell you who I really like, the two central midfielders; Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka,” he said.
“I love the fact that Lucas Torreira, in every single drill, takes it personally if someone gets by him. I love that in him. Granit Xhaka is exactly the same whether it’s in the gym or on the pitch.
“Every moment counts and I reckon that separates the really good players and the top players. Some think they can turn it on in the game, you just can’t at this level, you have to train that way and those two do it superbly.”
Burgess also explained why he jumped at the chance to return to England, the similarities between Unai Emery and Arsene Wenger and how he’s tried to reshape the mentality of training sessions.
“It was a risk [coming to Arsenal], it was a really big risk coming here because I signed for three years but Arsene only had two years [left], so I knew that there was probably going to be a change of manager,” he explained.
“The chance to be here and get back into the Premier League was too good. Unai, fortunately for me, has been a great fit for us because he really does embrace everything about performance. He loves to get the extra 1 percent and looks to us to get that.
“I think in the Premier League, probably because of the money, and the reluctance to injure players because they are worth so much, they try to protect the players a little bit. I believe that you build resilience into players and that protects them from injury. We’ve had a much more aggressive training approach since I’ve been here.
“First, they [Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery] are both workaholics. Seriously, I’ve rarely worked with two people who obsess over football so much. Arsene would look at the totality whereas Unai breaks down a lot of different movements and aspects of the game. Arsene’s training sessions were more possession and game based.
“Unai has that but also breaks down different aspects, be they set plays, throws ins, moving the ball from this area to that, there’s a more defined outcome in the training sessions.
“Unai typically trains four days going into a game. When you’re playing Thursday, Sunday, Thursday, Sunday that basically means you have zero days off. The volume of games and the pressure on every game at a club like this is enormous.”
Big thanks to @TimSmith85 for the heads up on the video.