Mikel Arteta has urged his players and staff to make the most of the impending summer break after a hectic season that has taken a toll on bodies and minds alike.
While many of the Arsenal first team squad will be involved in international tournaments of some sort – the European Championships, Under-21 European Championships, Copa America and Olympics all take place between June and August – and the boss himself is expecting a busy few months trying to reshape his squad, he couldn’t hide his excitement at the prospect of spending quality time with friends and family.
Speaking ahead of the penultimate game of the season, Arteta said: “It will only be for a low percentage of players [who get time off] because others have international duty but the advice from us, for those that have the opportunity, and I include the staff and myself, is to disconnect a little bit.
“It’s been a really demanding and challenging season and there’s a lot of people, our close ones, who need us. Our body as well is asking for something and when we have the opportunity that we didn’t have in the last year, we have to take it.”
Asked about the stresses and strains that football puts on family life, Arteta reflected: “I’m very lucky because I could not ask for anything else; starting with my wife, who understands every situation.
“All the time the support and the love is there and the energy they [the family] are able to create in the house when you come in after a win or a loss, which is always a different feeling, I always find the same environment.
“I have three boys and two dogs. The three boys, the energy, the love that they give me when they hug, you cannot describe that. They need from me that I give something back.
“In the summer, I cannot wait to have them next to me, jumping all over me. All the time, I give time to my wife. And then, I haven’t seen my mum, my dad, my sister, who I adore, for over a year now. I really need them. The same with my friends. I need to smile, laugh and enjoy and do those things.
“At the same time, you have to reflect on what you’ve done and be very critical of yourself and [weigh up] how you can be better next season.”
This time last year, Arteta suggested he could write a book about his first taste of football management. The way the last year has played out, you imagine he could write a few more. It has been a baptism of fire for a coach not yet into his forties. So what has he made of it all?
“There are parts which are like what management is like and some other things that I’ve been through that are unprecedented,” he said.
“I’ve faced them in the best possible way all the time, trying to be as fair, honest and analytical as possible.
“All the time with just one intention, which is to make the right decision for the football club and defend the football club as much as I possibly could and make the people who follow us and gives us their time, dedication and love as proud and happy as possible with the way we conduct ourselves and the way we play.”
Arteta also believes that the tough times will stand him in good stead for the future.
“I certainly have the same principles and way of trying to deal with situations but obviously you learn a lot,” he said.
“Experience makes you better, makes you challenge yourself, you have a few more scars on your body which are very necessary and you have a better overview of a lot of things that when you start you don’t think they are as important. I think that’s part of the evolution of a coach.”