Arteta in awe of Leeds boss

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta's focus is on finishing as high up the league table as possible and resurrecting the Gunners' top-four hopes.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta's focus is on finishing as high up the league table as possible and resurrecting the Gunners' top-four hopes.PHOTO: REUTERS

Arsenal's rookie manager sees a tough fight from promotion-seeking side's veteran coach

LONDON • Mikel Arteta's next challenge with Arsenal is an intriguing FA Cup third-round home tie with Championship leaders Leeds today.

While the Spaniard is just over two weeks into his first managerial position, his Argentinian counterpart has 30 years of experience in the dugout, taking charge of teams like Argentina, Chile, Athletic Bilbao and Marseille.

But Leeds represents one of the biggest challenges of the 64-year-old Marcelo Bielsa's career, with the Yorkshire club's exile from the Premier League now into its 16th year.

However, Arteta believes that, under his tutelage, Leeds will finally return to the English top flight next season for the first time since their 2004 relegation.

The former Manchester City assistant coach, 37, said: "How he (Bielsa) makes them fight and run and challenge, and compete and never give up in any game under any circumstances.

"He generates that belief in the players, those demands and that is why, in my opinion, he is one of the most successful managers.

"The way they play, the manner they behave - I have followed their coach for a long time and I know how tough it will be."

Leeds' promotion bid ran out of steam at the end of last season, finishing third before losing to Derby in the play-off semi-finals.

Bielsa is determined that history does not repeat itself so he is expected to rotate his second-tier side at the Emirates.

KNOWING THE ENEMY WELL

The way they play, the manner they behave - I have followed their coach for a long time and I know how tough it will be.

MIKEL ARTETA, Arsenal manager, on the challenge of facing Marcelo Bielsa's side.

Arteta's focus is also on finishing as high up the league table as possible and resurrecting th Gunners' top-four hopes.

With doubts over Hector Bellerin and Gabriel Martinelli as well as several long-term absentees including Kieran Tierney and Calum Chambers, Arsenal are also set to field a youthful-looking side.

But ahead of the record 13-time FA Cup winners' first meeting with Leeds since January 2012, when club legend Thierry Henry scored the only goal at the same stage of the Cup, Arteta insisted he is still taking the competition "very seriously".

He said: "Obviously, it is a competition that is very attached to this football club in recent years and we have to try to go to the next round... We have to be challenging for the Cups and we'll try to do that again.

"I would like to have more fit players so I can rotate more, but we will see what we have... at the moment, we are managing a lot of injuries."

On the possibility of new faces this month, he added: "We're going to try to be in the market to see options that can strengthen the team.

"That's for sure and that's our obligation, and we're going to be working on that.

"My obligation is to give my opinion on the things we can improve. Obviously, we have some bad injuries, like Calum a few days ago.

"I want to improve the players I have here, get everybody on board and understanding what we're trying to do.

"If something extra comes up and it's the right opportunity to improve what we have, let's do it."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2020, with the headline 'Arteta in awe of Leeds boss'. Print Edition | Subscribe