It doesn’t take Takehiro Tomiyasu long to reveal the secret behind Arsenal's incredible success this season.
“We understand more [about] Mikel’s football,” he says.
“We’ve got depth, we’ve got some new players, but the biggest thing is we understand Mikel’s football more than last season.”
Given Arsenal’s remarkable transformation under Arteta in the space of just 12 months, it’s difficult to argue with the Japanese international.
The Gunners sit top of the pile at the halfway stage of the Premier League season.
They have amassed 50 points from their first 19 games, more than any other Arsenal side in history at this stage of the competition.
So far they have tasted defeat just once, at Manchester United way back in September, a loss they avenged by beating Erik ten Hag’s side 3-2 in a thrilling contest at Emirates Stadium just under a fortnight ago.
It was a victory that perfectly encapsulated the new Arsenal that Arteta has built.
There was vibrancy, determination and an unwavering will to win. There was also quality all over the pitch.
“Last season we understood,” said Tomiyasu, “But we couldn’t express it.
“But this season we understand and we are showing how he wants us to play. This is the big difference.”(C)ASICS
When Arteta arrived at Arsenal in December, 2019, he took on a club that had been split by years of division and in-fighting.
He was determined to bring everyone together once again and to get the club that he once captained as a player back competing for the biggest trophies in the game.
He knew it would take time and that some difficult decisions would need to be made.
But Arteta has shown he will do whatever it takes to build a squad that he has complete trust and belief in.
He has that now and in Tomiyasu he has a player who is thriving under his stewardship, even if he is not playing as regularly as he was when he first joined from Bologna in the summer of 2021.
“Mikel knows about football, he knows about football structure, [he knows] everything,” said the Gunners’ right-back.
“Our job is to just explain on the pitch what he says. I believe him. He’s just amazing.
“He’s the best manager I’ve ever played with.”
Tomiyasu came on for the second half of Arsenal’s thrilling win against Manchester United a fortnight ago which saw them restore their five point lead at the top of the Premier League.
Starting a game amongst the substitutes is something he has had to become accustomed to this season, with the form of Ben White limiting his number of league starts to just four.
But he has still clocked up 23 appearances in all competitions and is often the first substitute brought on in games, a clear sign of the trust Arteta still has in him.Getty Images
“You have to accept the reality,’ Tomiyasu says. “Ben White has been doing very well. He is fantastic.
“Of course I want to play from the start. The only thing I can do is prove my value on the pitch and show what I can do.
“I just want to help the team. It doesn’t matter if I’m playing from the start or not. When I’m on the pitch I give everything.”
That is the type of attitude that has been the hallmark of Arsenal’s spectacular form so far this season.
Given the way they ended the previous campaign, few would have predicted Arteta’s side would have been anywhere near the title picture at this stage of proceedings, let alone leading it.
But the unity and work ethic that has been instilled into the squad has created a machine that, up to now, has passed every test that has come it's way.
Liverpool have been beaten, as have United. Tottenham have been brushed aside twice and Chelsea were outclassed at Stamford Bridge.
A half century of points have been wracked up from just 19 games to leave supporters dreaming of a first league title in 19 years.
But are the players allowing themselves to dream about it?
“Of course,” said Tomiyasu. “To win the Premier League is the biggest dream for every player.
“But we’ve only played 19 games now and it’s too soon to speak about it. We have to play game by game, as Mikel says.
“We have to go for it and we will go for it. We are focused.”(C)ASICS
Arsenal players consistently point to their training sessions as a key ingredient to their success this season.
The intensity that Arteta demands from them every day is ‘non-negotiable’, as the manager has consistently pointed out since the day he first returned to Emirates Stadium from Manchester City.
They train just as they play and if the standards dip, then they know Arteta will immediately take action.
That’s what makes the sessions at London Colney so demanding as they are designed to test the players to their limit in a bid to ensure they are ready for anything that may come their way on a match day.
So who is the one player Tomiyasu has to come up against in training that he is more than happy not to have to face at the weekend?
“Gabriel Martinelli,” he says with a smile. “He never stops.
“He has pace, aggression. He’s still young, but when he has the ball he wants to make the difference, he wants to do something.”
Tomiyasu was speaking to GOAL after signing a boot deal with Asics. “Usually when I try new boots I feel pain on my heel,” he said. “But with Asics I don’t have any discomfort.
“They are light, and comfortable. For me, comfort is the most important thing. That’s why I choose Asics.”