Mikel Arteta is unsure whether he’s brought the ‘fun’ back to Arsenal but he is adamant that his players must recognise what a privilege it is to wear the club’s colours.
After the New Year’s Day 2-0 win over Manchester United, defensive duo Sokratis and David Luiz both hinted that the mood in the camp had improved since the Spaniard became head coach.
Some interpreted their comments as a pop at former coach Unai Emery – a stickler for long video analysis sessions – while others have said it could be down to having instructions relayed more clearly.
On rejoining the Gunners, Arteta revealed that he was determined to enjoy his life in football as a coach having not fully appreciated his time as a player. He’s urged his players to take stock of their situation and to enjoy themselves while they represent Arsenal.
“I don’t know [if I’ve brought the fun back], I try to bring good energy, good spirit and trying to be positive with them that there’s still a long way to play in this league,” he said.
“I’m trying to give them clarity and direction and to play football and enjoy this profession. That’s the reason why they are here.
“They are such privileged boys to be playing for this football club and they have to realise it every day.
“We have to help them to realise that they are here to have fun as well, not just to have pressure and to live with fear about playing in that stadium. When you get the crowd going, they are so privileged to be on that pitch.”
Speaking ahead of Monday’s game with Leeds United, Arteta also said that he wants his players challenging for honours in the second half of the season.
The Gunners may be languishing in mid-table in the Premier League but the Europa League and FA Cup both represent opportunities to build momentum and win over fans.
The latter competition could be seen as something of a red herring given our desire to get back in the Champions League, but it means a lot to Arteta who twice collected medals at Wembley in 2014 and 2015.
“Absolutely [it means a lot],” he said. “That final day of the season at Wembley and the memories that I’ve got with this football club… We have to be challenging for the cups and we’ll try to do that again this season.
He added: “I would like to have more fit players so I can rotate more, but we will see what we have after tomorrow.
“But obviously it is a competition that is very attached to this football club in recent years and we have to take to very seriously and we have to try to go to the next round.”