It’s hard to believe that Mikel Arteta’s Covid-19 diagnosis was less than a month ago.
While the boss was quick to make a full recovery after a stint of self-isolation, thousands of others around the world have not been so lucky.
The world has changed in ways we couldn’t have imagined and football, financial arguments aside, has taken a back seat. Domestic seasons are on hold, international tournaments have been cancelled and with no end in sight to self-distancing rules, no balls will be kicked in anger until late May at the earliest. Possibly.
Having endured a ridiculously busy first couple of months in charge, Arteta says he’s using this opportunity to reflect on what he’s achieved and to deepen relationships with his squad, albeit using unorthodox means.
“This is a good time to reflect on what we’re doing,” he told Sky Sports.
“I joined at the busiest moment in the calendar year in December. We had some momentum, and it’s a shame that we had to lose it but we have to make the most out of this time.”
Arsenal were initially holding daily meetings and players were said to be following personal training programmes. With no end it sight, it’s thought that strict routines have been relaxed but contact remains.
“We’re doing work with them and we’re trying to engage them,” Arteta added.
“We’re close to them and up until now, it’s been a very positive response from them. We cannot touch each other at the moment, but we’re having group and individual talks.
“It’s so important that we keep connected so they can see there’s a relation between what we’re doing now and when we restart training. They are bored and as young players they have a lot of energy!”
Arteta also joked that being around his three young kids every day has given him an insight into the work that goes into running a home.
“The experienced players have families around them and kids that are occupying them. Those of us with children only realise now how hard it is at home when we are away for our wives!”
With the likes of Jack Grealish and Kyle Walker falling foul of the authorities in recent weeks despite fronting campaigns telling peoplen to stay indoors, the importance of checking in on players and keeping them out of mischief is very apparent.
“For the young players, some of them are alone in their apartments and there are long days,” noted the boss.
“We have to be caring for them and we have to keep them busy and try to do things to improve their development and education.
“I like to make them all think and assess themselves as people, too. I’d only been here for three months, so it’s been a chance to get to know them a little bit more, break some boundaries. We’re having some really good conversations.”
Earlier this week, the FA warned that many clubs in England are facing financial ruin as a result of lost income from matchday and broadcast revenue. Against that backdrop, it seems hard to imagine clubs splashing big cash when the transfer window opens again. With a squad to strengthen and the outlook unclear, Arteta confirmed that he is having to be flexible in his planning.
“I’m planning two or three different scenarios that we can face,” he said. “Depending on one of those three, we will be able to do more, less or nothing.
“We have to react daily. We don’t know what the financial situation is going to be, we don’t know the rules, the timing, the window. There are so many things we cannot control at the moment.”