Mikel Arteta thinks his players are enjoying their football at the moment and says their focus on the pitch is being rewarded.
When the Spaniard took over as head coach in December, he found a club in defensive disarray. From the outset he stressed the importance of collective responsibility and bit by bit his messages have been getting through.
7 clean sheets in the last 15 Premier League games, including four in the last five, have been the bedrock of an upturn in form. The players have even taken to a formational tweak with Arteta switching between a conventional back four to a three-man unit with wing-backs.
After yesterday’s 2-0 win over Wolves, Arteta praised the resolve of his players and challenged them to keep it up.
“I’m very pleased,” he told Arsenal.com. “They’re playing in a little bit different positions from what they are used to and it’s a formation that we haven’t used much or trained much, but the effort and attention and everything they are trying to do, that’s when it brings the focus and then the results.
“I think they are really happy and that they are enjoying playing with each other in the way that they are training and the way that they are behaving. Hopefully we can continue.
“It’s a long process but the hardest thing is that continuity all the time and that we don’t come back to where we were and go back to bad habits. If we do that then we will compete every game.”
Shkodran Mustafi has been a particularly important member of the defence. Something of a personal project for Arteta, the German has played in 12 out of 15 Premier League games since the boss took over in December.
It’s quite a turnaround for someone who was told they were surplus to requirements this time last year.
“We try to help every player to improve, first of all to feel that we trust them,” said Arteta.
“They can make mistakes, of course, but if they are willing and they are happy to try again, I think they will get the rewarded.
“Musti’s attitude, his training, attention levels, the questions he’s asking and how much he wants to help everybody has been really good since I joined. I think it’s a consequence of his performances.”