Mikel Arteta ready to pinch and probe as Arsenal seek to master dark arts

By Sports Desk February 23, 2024

Mikel Arteta wants his players to improve their use of the dark arts and believes it is not in Arsenal’s “DNA” to be nasty on the pitch.

The Gunners boss wants his players to harness the ability to be more streetwise in approaching clever opponents and is training his Premier League title challengers to improve.

Declan Rice admitted after a 1-0 defeat in Porto on Wednesday night that Arsenal need to be more “savvy” as a last-gasp goal saw them beaten in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie.

Porto did a great job of slowing the game down at the Estadio do Dragao, with 36 fouls committed by both teams combined – a Champions League record this season.

Newcastle could prove a similarly tough nut to crack for Arteta’s side at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday night – but Arteta will be hoping his techniques work their magic.

“There are ways to do it,” Arteta replied when asked how a manager develops dark arts in his squad.

“It is the way you talk to them, showing them clips, training – putting them through scenarios, pinching them a few times as well.

“Learning from other players who do it really well and from teams who are masters at it. There are ways to do it.

“It’s very important. That’s a way of competing for a team, you know. And you can tell that the best players in the world have the ability to take advantage – always.”

Arteta conceded such an approach has been missing from Arsenal and that it is something that is considered in recruiting new players.

“Overall when you build a squad you need that certainly – but it comes,” he added.

“Sometimes it comes from the culture of the club. You see that there are clubs that they have that in their DNA.

“It is not something that you would directly link with Arsenal, that’s for sure but it is something that has to be developed.

“We have many other things and a lot of other clubs don’t have what we do. You want to have the best of the best – that’s the aim.

“You have to control your emotions, that’s for sure, if not you get dragged into a game that will take you away from what we want – but certainly I have seen my team face very difficult opponents, very difficult situations, face to face and we are not going to get away from that.”

Pushed on if his players were nasty enough, the Spaniard added: “Nasty? I don’t know. They are incredible players, that is for sure.

“I think this team has got enough intelligence and enough experience to deal with many situations.”

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