Mikel Arteta says he’s “relaxed” about Albert Stuivenberg taking charge of Arsenal when Manchester City visit the Emirates but he admits handing over the reins to one of his assistants won’t be easy.
The Spaniard will watch the Gunners from home after testing positive for Covid for the second time since the pandemic began and Stuivenberg, in the absence of other coaches who’ve also fallen ill, has been tasked with filling in.
The 51-year-old Dutchman was appointed at the same time as Steve Round when Arteta was tasked with building his support network in December 2019 and, until last summer, juggled his Arsenal responsibilities with an assistant coaching role with the Wales national team. His CV also includes stints with Manchester United, where he was an assistant to Louis van Gaal, and a season as head coach of Belgian side Genk.
Reflecting on his relationship with Stuivenberg, Arteta said: “I met him a few years ago through another coach. He’s a coach that I knew before because of his reputation and who he’d been working under before.
“We had a really good connection, we have the same belief, think about the game in the same way and share all of the values that we believe have to be installed in the club.
“He’s someone that is very close to me. He’s more than capable, he’s done it before so in that sense, I’m very relaxed about it.”
Given his all-action style on the touchline, it’s likely that Mikel Arteta is going to find watching his side from home a slightly surreal experience. He also revealed that Covid has hindered the way he’s been able to prep the team throughout the week.
“I’ve never experienced what I’m going to experience tomorrow but it is what it is,” he said.
“It’s not going to be easy, to feel frustrated and with a lack of options. I’ve not been in training sessions and not been able to prepare things like I want, to pass the messages that I want, to have the players feeling that you are next to them.
“It’s a different experience. We have to adapt to it and we have to do that the best possible way.”
Arteta made clear that Stuivenberg will be free to make decisions during the game but said, while the option is there for him to communicate, he hopes he doesn’t have to get too involved.
“Hopefully, things go well and I don’t have to do too much,” joked the Spaniard.
“The situation has been discussed and obviously we’ll have some communication.”
He added: “It’s going to be very strange and I will need a big room so that I can walk and move a little bit because I won’t be able to sit on my sofa.
“It’s a big, big game for us and it’s a really frustrating thing not to be able to be there helping the team, but I will do my best from here with everything that I can do and we have prepared for every scenario possible. We know what we have to do and then it will be down to the players to execute that as much as possible tomorrow.”