Amidst the satisfactory performances in the defense by the Gunners, a young prospect in the back four has caught the eye of Arteta. The 26-year-old defender Pablo Mari has shocked everyone at the club with his commitment and dedication to the field. Brought in after a successful loan deal with the Serie A side Flamengo, Mari missed a few games due to injury. But the Spaniard has still been able to impress the manager with his performances.
Mikel Arteta said “Well, I watched the game but I could not be there for a personal reason. When he joined the club he hadn’t played for a long time and he had a little niggle as well when he joined us, but his attitude and commitment has been really, really good and highly surprising. He did really well the other day and hopefully we can start to use him soon.”
Fabregas, Cazorla, Reyes… some great Spanish players have graced Arsenal club in English Premier League. The fact that Arsenal have been struggling to find a solid pair of centre-backs has been a headache for Arteta. The club showed an urgency to bring in reinforcements at the back in January. Since then, their performances have improved for good. But the problems in the attack are still prevalent.
Mikel Arteta has told his Arsenal players to enjoy the art of defending. Not since last April have Arsenal gone three games without conceding a goal and, under previous coach Unai Emery, they were one of the most open sides in the Premier League when it came to giving up chances to the opposition.
Mikel Arteta said “We tell them they have to enjoy defending as well. It is a big part of the game and like tonight, if you give simple balls away, you better run back and get that ball back as quickly as possible. But they play with a big heart. I see a lot of big efforts that a team, instead of splitting it just joins together really quickly. The wide players before used to have different behaviours now they are tracking back everybody. I think we are doing a lot of work on that to stay as compact as possible in many situations when we don’t have the ball and yes we are pleased with that because it is a big part.”
While Arteta’s start since replacing his compatriot has not been electric, there have been clear strides made at improving a porous backline and the Spaniard was pleased with their efforts once again on a rainy night on the outskirts of Athens.
Whilst the academy product Bukayo Saka received most of the plaudits for performance against Olympiacos , one player whose contributions shouldn’t be forgotten is Matteo Guendouzi. The Frenchman has been in the news over the past week for getting into a heated argument with Arteta on the club’s winter break out in Dubai. The fact he was dropped altogether from the squad that beat Newcastle seemed to reinforce that notion too.
Guendouzi won all five (two on the ground, and three in the air). The Frenchman refused to be bullied and put his foot in whenever needed, not settling for anything other than winning the ball. He showed Arteta that he can still be a major part of this team, and more importantly, showed the kind of attitude and spirit that will have vindicated the Spaniard’s decision to drop him against Newcastle.
Winning the 50/50 moments can quite often be so crucial in dictating how much of a part the supporters can play. Be weak, and lose out on those contests, and the fans will get up. But win them, and it can sap them of energy. And Guendouzi was the absolute epitome of that.