Bernd Leno says Mikel Arteta set about transforming Arsenal’s team spirit and professionalism from his first day and believes things have ‘completely changed’ at the Emirates.
In a damning endictment of the Unai Emery era, the German claimed the players were left confused by tactics and were not together either in the dressing room or on the pitch.
While the Gunners haven’t benefitted from a huge upturn in positive results since Arteta took over, a number of players have praised the Spaniard for transmitting a clear playing philosophy and for putting smiles back on their faces.
“In this short time he has made a big impact,” said Leno. You can see the intensity we play. Also the structure in the team and the mentality all over the pitch.
“Before, I don’t want to say it was a mess, it was a little bit confusing. Everybody was doing different things. We were not a team, not in the dressing room, not on the pitch, and you could see this.
“With Mikel it changed completely. The first day he came, he was not talking too much about tactics, he was talking about how we behave in the dressing room. [He said] when we go to the games we have to be more professional, more like a team.
“It’s not only what he has learned from Pep Guardiola, when you talk to all the people who worked with him, they say he’s a very clever guy with tactics and how to improve players.”
Bernd Leno on Mikel Arteta making changes at Arsenal…
?"Before I don't want to say it was a mess it was a little bit confusing everyone was doing different things" pic.twitter.com/BZiam6wqzF
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) February 6, 2020
Against the backdrop of Arteta’s arrival was the spectre of players leaving. Granit Xhaka eventually changed his mind about a move to Hertha Berlin while Barcelona showed interest in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Despite all the rumours, Leno maintains that the squad are focused on the jobs.
“I think not too many players talked about this,” said the goalkeeper.
“Of course there are many rumours and other people talk about this, but you never had the feeling that any player was thinking about another club or wanted to leave or was refusing to train, or something like that, or they didn’t have the mentality in the training.
“Everybody can see we have a new manager and a new mentality. We want to build something here at Arsenal.
“Maybe it takes a little bit of time, but of course we also want to have good results straight away now.
“You can see on the pitch all these rumours [don’t affect] these players – they are fighting, they are leading the team and this is the only way.”
While Leno accepts that Manchester City and Liverpool have been streets ahead of Arsenal in the Premier League over the last couple of seasons, he insists that the Europa League and FA Cup offer up great opportunities to build confidence and win silverware before the end of May.
“In the Europa League and FA Cup we have so many difficult games, so many big games because we saw last season that in the Europa League quarter-finals and semi-finals you get Champions League teams.
“They are all playing for the title and the final was Arsenal against Chelsea [last season], so it was a very, very big game.
“We want to have this final again and also in the FA Cup. Everybody told me that the FA Cup final at Wembley is unbelievable with the atmosphere and it is also a trophy, a title and we are looking forward to playing these games. Hopefully we can win a title this season.”