Mikel Arteta's Ability to Pair Experienced Players With Youngsters Will Help Arsenal Challenge for Trophies

13 September 2020 05:00

Mikel Arteta's start at Arsenal has been nothing short of spectacular, guiding a side that looked dead and buried under fellow Spaniard Unai Emery to a competitive one fans enjoy watching again.

Obviously, they are not the finished article - just look at the brief defensive mix-up in the first couple of minutes against Fulham for evidence of that - but when you think about how Arteta has changed the culture of the club in such a short space of time, you have to congratulate him.

Now that it is all smiles at the Emirates again, we can finally see Arteta's coaching and man-management skills in action. One thing that has gone under the radar is his ability to pair more experienced players with his younger, less worldly prospects. Seasoned pros are now nurturing a player or two, easing their transition into more competitive football and urging them to learn a win-at-all-costs mentality from a young age.

Some of those more experienced players were already at the club before Arteta joined, but looking at his business so far and the players he has targeted, it is a clever strategy that he will continue to use in upcoming transfer windows. It's simple but it could be something that will help Arsenal to be competitive now and in the future.

We know David Luiz splits opinion as a defender, but no one can doubt his humility nor his desire to succeed. As one of the most decorated players in the Premier League, Luiz has proven he can be a huge asset to any side.

After a dark performance against Manchester City in June, the majority of fans urged the club to part ways with Luiz. However, Arteta went against their wishes and stood by his man, persuading the club to activate a clause in his contract that'll keep the Brazilian at Arsenal until the end of the 2020/21 season.

Why? Because he knows how important players are off the pitch as well as on it - sure, that's a cliché, but it is also so very true.

Us fans often forget how difficult it is for players to settle in at a new club, especially if they're coming from abroad. Following Arteta's decision to target Gabriel Magalhaes this summer, Luiz now has the responsibility to nurture two of Arsenal's brightest new defensive talents in William Saliba and Gabriel in a back three this season.

As a Brazilian and someone who played in France for a large proportion of his career, Luiz speaks both French and Portuguese, meaning he can communicate with the two players who are tipped to be Arsenal's centre-back pairing for the next decade.

Luiz isn't the exception, either. Fans doubted Arteta's decision to bring 32-year-old Willian to the club on a three-year deal, particularly because the transfer put a large dent in Arsenal's wage structure. Nevertheless, the Brazilian - a two-time Premier League winner with Chelsea - will help provide competition, balance and experience to his squad.

As a more versatile attacker who can play on the wing or centrally, Willian will help the likes of Gabriel Martinelli, Reiss Nelson and even Emile Smith Rowe. Martinelli, another Brazilian who cannot currently speak English, will probably benefit most from Willian's tuition, helping him to learn the importance of positioning and spatial awareness in the English game.

And what about club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and young finisher Eddie Nketiah?

There is no one better for Nketiah to learn from than Aubameyang. Having already scored 55 goals in the Premier League since his arrival at Arsenal in 2018, Aubameyang is truly elite.

Though they have not spent too much time on the pitch together yet, primarily because of competition for places with Alexandre Lacazette, Nketiah has already revealed to Arsenal's website that he is "privileged" to learn from Aubameyang.

"Pierre is a top player and a top person. He leads by example and I think everyone is trying to do their bit to chip in with the goals and obviously when I’m on I’m trying to score and contribute to the team. Pierre is doing excellently at the moment and he’s such a great guy and such a great person to learn off. I’m privileged to play with him and it’s nice to get back out there and play alongside him."

As captain of the football club, Aubameyang is expected to be a leader. But it is clear that Nketiah looks up to him, which is precisely what Arteta wants his young players to be doing.

Arteta is building something at Arsenal; but he cannot do it alone. He has clearly spoken to his more accomplished players to take on greater responsibility off the pitch and - so far at least - they have responded well to that instruction.

When this crop of experienced players finally run out of steam, Arteta could have a batch of stars ready to challenge for glory themselves. If that is the case, he will have handled his early years at the club beautifully.

Source: 90min