Mikel Arteta says he made a point of telling his Arsenal stars how lucky they are to represent the club as part of a plan to restore energy to the club.
When the Spaniard took over from interim boss Freddie Ljungberg in December, he found a dressing room lacking self-belief and discipline after a torried six months under Unai Emery.
Having captained the club prior to his retirement in 2016, Arteta was instantly struck by the ‘disconnect’ between players and made it an immediate priority to rectify the situation.
Speaking to Ian Wright on the Adidas Twitter account, he admits his project is a work in progress but he’s optimistic for the future.
“It is happening [the transformation],” said Arteta. “Coming into the club in that moment wasn’t easy but you mention a key word which is ‘energy’ and I felt that the energy around the training ground and the stadium wasn’t right for this magnificent club.
“I was here and was lucky to play here so everyone first of all has to feel in that way. There was a lot of disconnection in many areas and I wanted to bring everyone together.
“First of all to make everyone understand how lucky we are to be here and then a very clear direction of where we have to be.”
He went on to stress just how important it is to get the players to believe in him and his methods.
“I need the players, they are the actors. I have to convince them to follow me, but with a why, with a purpose. Why are we doing it? The reason behind it and how we’re going to do it.
“If they understand and they believe me that this is the way for them to enjoy more their profession, to be more successful, to be more competitive, I think then, we can transmit that to the fans, the world, our employees, our staff around the world.
“I have this belief, hopefully they can follow us and hopefully the fans and everyone can buy into it and we can generate that bond that is very much needed.”
Arteta also suggested that it’s never a good start if existing players or potential recruits need to be persuaded that Arsenal is the right place to be.
“The moment we mention Arsenal, Ian you know what it means around the world,” said Arteta.
“Everybody wants to come here and we have a really clear idea of what we are.
“It doesn’t need much convincing and if they do, for me it’s not a good starting point. If I have to convince a player to stay or to join us. To Arsenal? It holds me back a little bit.
“It has to be ‘what do we have to do? I want to play for that club and represent exactly the values the style of play that I want’. That’s the kind of emotion I want to hear at the start.
“The same with the players that are here. Once you finish what are the feelings you have towards the club? That’s what really interests me.”
Arsenal and Arteta are still none the wiser as to when football might return. While Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has give the green light for Bundesliga matches to take place this month, it looks like it could be another five week at least before Premier League sides resume the 2019/20 season.
Between now and then, Arteta believes that clubs must educate their players in the ‘very strict’ safety rules which make up part of ‘Project Restart’.
“There is a lot of question marks,” said Arteta. “I think the hardest thing is educating the players and everybody involved at the training grounds and on match days, that this is different.
“We have to be very strict with the protocols. Common sense will dictate when we can go to the next step, and the next step, and so on.
“We cannot rush it. We are all aiming to play, we need to play, we are willing to play – it is important for society and the economy.
“We have that responsibility. We just have to be ready for whenever they say ‘Go ahead, open that door’ so we can hit the gas.”