LONDON – There is a secret motivational character behind Arsenal’s success so far this season, and it comes in the form of an Energiser Bunny who is none other than their manager Mikel Arteta.
The Spaniard, who has often been an animated figure on the touchline during games, was on Friday asked about his side’s title race ahead of the Gunners’ Premier League home clash against Brentford on Saturday.
“As a young manager, (I have) a lot of energy. I am an energy giver, I don’t like energy suckers, I just like to give,” said Arteta, 40, on how his team cope with the pressure.
“I like people who give energy in many different ways. Whether it’s hugging people (when we win) or looking for solutions, no excuses. So, energy, a lot of energy.”
Arteta’s men travelled to Everton last week as hot favourites to extend their lead at the top of the standings, but left after suffering just their second league defeat of the season.
Arsenal, who are chasing their first league title for 19 years, still have a five-point lead over Manchester City (45) with a game in hand.
Arteta was not too bothered about the defeat, adding: “Losing brings a lot of opportunities to look at other things (to improve). It’s great that the players believe in what we tell them.”
Despite the 1-0 setback last Saturday, the Gunners have shown their mettle in recent weeks, drawing against Newcastle before beating Tottenham and Manchester United.
After the Brentford clash at the Emirates on Saturday, Arsenal will host City on Wednesday.
Their recent record against the reigning champions is woeful – they have lost the past 10 league meetings, with an aggregate score of 26-3.
Arteta knows Arsenal must win every game to keep Pep Guardiola’s seasoned winners at arm’s length, even though he insisted he was thinking only about Saturday for now.
“Our only focus is on Brentford tomorrow,” Arteta said.
But his captain, Martin Odegaard, is confident, saying that there are “no limits” to what Arsenal can achieve this season.
“We’re in the title race now,” the midfielder, 24, told the Players’ Tribune. “There’s a long way to go and, trust me, no one is thinking about May yet.
“But if there’s anyone left who still doesn’t fully believe in this team, take it from me – there are no limits on what we can achieve.
“No one can tell me otherwise. I’m so proud to be captain of this club and I feel like I’m going to be here a long time.”
And he had warm words for the energetic Arteta.
“It’s hard to explain,” he said. “He’s passionate, he’s intense and sometimes, yeah he’s a bit crazy. But when he speaks, you understand that whatever he says will happen, will happen.
“He knew exactly what needed to change at the club. He told me how he wanted me to fit in and how I was going to improve. I got this strong feeling that he was on to something really special.”
Arsenal striker Gabriel Jesus has returned to training after a serious knee injury, but he is unlikely to feature on Saturday. Reiss Nelson is also back with the squad.
Mohamed Elneny is ruled out for the rest of the season after surgery, while Emile Smith Rowe is a doubt after an injury setback.
As for Brentford, who are in seventh place in the league, Frank Onyeka and Shandon Baptiste are doubts and Pontus Jansson is still sidelined.
“We have confidence – we believe we can go there and win,” said Brentford boss Thomas Frank, whose team have won two and drawn one of their last three league games without conceding.
“We are on this run of form where almost every player on the pitch is in a fantastic place.
“But we need to work very hard to go to the Emirates against the best team in the league.
“If we’re not on it, we could lose 4-0.” AFP