Arteta targets ‘crucial summer’ of tough decisions to take Arsenal to next level

  • Coach stresses need to maintain energy and enthusiasm
  • Arteta thankful for support from friends after Brighton defeat

Mikel Arteta is steeling himself for a “crucial summer” in the development of his Arsenal side as they aim to bridge the gap from title chasers to winners, with significant transfer activity expected and difficult calls likely during the next stage of their evolution.

Arsenal can remain in the hunt for first place with a win at Nottingham Forest on Saturday, although they know Manchester City would settle the issue by beating Chelsea on Sunday. Assuming there is to be no unlikely twist Arteta must reflect on a season in which his squad could not sustain a push that has run City close. Granit Xhaka’s likely move to Bayer Leverkusen will signal a revamp of Arsenal’s midfield, with Declan Rice favoured to come in, and Arteta knows the club cannot afford missteps before August.

“Crucial, I would say,” said the manager when asked about the importance of the upcoming pre-season. “To go to the next level is going to be a crucial summer for us, that is for sure. First of all to make sure we maintain everything we have at the club right now: that we maintain expectations; that we maintain the enthusiasm and energy that are around the place; and we have proper preparation to fulfil the objectives and challenges we will have next season.”

Along with Xhaka, who has been a stalwart in his first XI but turns 31 in September and looks set to leave, fringe players such as Kieran Tierney, Rob Holding and Emile Smith Rowe may move on. “Tough decisions sometimes are something that depends on you, and sometimes depends on the players who want to seek a different challenge,” Arteta said, not referring to specific individuals, about the choices that must be made.

Arteta had cut a glum figure after the 3-0 defeat to Brighton on Sunday and said he subsequently needed 24 hours to “heal myself”. He was cheered by the number of people who reached out to put the result into context. “In the three years I have been at the club I have never had that many text messages after the game,” he said. “It was incredible. I think it was 122 messages I had, all talking about what we have done: ‘Please don’t lose perspective on what you guys have done.’

“That helps because it comes from friends, lots of colleagues, coaches as well, a lot of people at the club. Sometimes you need that. You can’t be only with that tunnel vision thinking: ‘I should have done that in the game, I should have changed that, we should have done that’, just killing and hammering yourself.”

Perhaps that reassurance explained why Arteta was on particularly good form, going into detail about the influence of a chocolate labrador named Win that he has integrated into the Arsenal training ground. He said Win is “the perfect representative of who we are right now” and also revealed an arboreal influence on his team’s endeavours.

“It is an olive tree that’s 150 years old, similar to the club,” he said. “We have to look after those roots every single day, make sure they don’t get poisoned, don’t get damaged and remain in the right condition.” The tree stands outside the window of his training ground office; he has previously taken a smaller, potted equivalent to team meetings to explain its symbolism.

More prosaically, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Martinelli will both join William Saliba in missing the season’s final two games. Zinchenko has not overcome a thigh problem while Martinelli has what Arteta called a “nasty injury” that forced him to depart early from the Brighton match after a tackle from Moisés Caicedo.


Nick Ames

The GuardianTramp

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