Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal’s current struggles are a test of character for the entire club not just his players.
Currently 15th in the Premier League table, without a league win in more than six weeks and having scored just 10 goals in 12 games, it’s pretty obvious that things aren’t going particularly well for the Spaniard at the moment.
You suspect the boss would like to give every one of his squad an old fashioned paddlin’ right now, but in front of the cameras, he continues to stress the importance of unity.
Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s game with Southampton, he said: “It is a big test and it’s good to see how we react but I wouldn’t put it on the players, I’d put it on the club; how do we react in difficult moments as a club?”
“As well, it’s something that we [collectively] transmit to the players, the moment that there are cracks, how do we react?
“Do we blame each other? Do we criticise each other? Do we start to act united and push the boat together?
Referencing the backing he’s received from technical director Edu and CEO Vinai Venkatesham, he continued: “The example has to come from above and we’ve had some good examples in the last few days [Vinai and Edu speaking to the press] and then, yeah, the players, like I have to do, have to take responsibility.
“They have to put it right on the pitch, which is the only area where it makes a difference.”
When it was put to Arteta that his high-profile players, most of whom are used to challenging for European football, may need a different mindset to get out of their current malaise, the boss was inclined to agree.
“It’s true that going through some defeats in a consecutive way – for example, the home form we’ve had in the last four games – is a hard one to swallow,” he said.
“It’s a hard one to accept. It is completely different because the energy that is created when you are fighting for trophies and with the top teams in the table is a very re-energising energy for the passion you put into a game.
“The other one is a pressure that constrains you a little bit, it makes you a bit tighter and nervous. You have to deal with that, for some of them it’s something new and we need to get through that.”
For all the recent negative headlines and all the trials and tribulations that 2020 have thrown at him, Arteta maintains that there have been improvements under his watch.
That said, he admits that anyone looking from the outside at Premier League results alone could make a convincing argument that little has changed in the year he’s been in charge.
“If you just look at the results somebody could defend that argument, for sure. I’m not here to say anything different.
“I see a lot of differences between where we were and where we are today but at the end of the day, you need the results to back that. It’s the only way.”
He was also keen to stress that having made the step up from assistant coach at Manchester City to being the main man in the dugout at Arsenal, that he very much appreciates his position.
“I love my job, believe me. If not, I wouldn’t be sitting here. Tough times are necessary and the great moments, you have to make sure you enjoy them because in football there are not that many to enjoy. In the tough moments, you have to be prepared for that and be a fighter.”