‘Arsenal players were sceptical of Arteta appointment’ – Willock won over by promising coach

Mikel Arteta Arsenal 2019-20
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The Gunners star admits that few at Emirates Stadium knew what to expect when a former club captain short on managerial experience was snapped up

Joe Willock admits some Arsenal players were “a bit sceptical” of Mikel Arteta when a former club captain was appointed as the Gunners’ new boss, but any doubters have been quickly won over.

Those at Emirates Stadium were forced into a managerial rethink back in November 2019.

A disappointing start to the current campaign led to Unai Emery being relieved of his services and Freddie Ljungberg being placed in interim charge of first-team affairs.

Arsenal embarked on a lengthy hunt for a suitable candidate to fill a high-profile post and eventually saw that path lead them towards a familiar face.

Arteta had little experience of which to speak, having only previously worked as an assistant to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, but a calculated gamble was taken on a highly-rated coach.

The Gunners remain very much a work in progress, on and off the field, but positive steps in the right direction are being taken by a team that is already through to the 2020 FA Cup final.

“To be fair when he [Arteta] came in, we were a bit sceptical about what he could do,” Willock told The Beautiful Game Podcast.

“Obviously he’s a very young manager and most of the players that play now have all played with him. So we were a bit hesitant on how to approach the situation.

“But we all let him in with open arms and we all thought let’s see what he has to offer.

“He’s come in and to be honest, he’s been nothing short of amazing really - his detail, the way his man-management is with every single player. And we’re just all excited to work with him.

“I’m learning about the game in ways I’ve never learned them before. He’s an amazing man and I’m not just saying that because he’s my boss.”

Arteta is still working on reshaping Arsenal as he sees fit, but improvement has been made across his tenure.

The Gunners have always boasted plenty of attacking options, but defensive leaks are also starting to be plugged.

Academy graduate Willock considers that to be a major positive, adding: “We used to give the opposition gifts and hope. He is cutting out that hope.

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“We cut out that hope and in every challenge and every duel, we are the ones who are stamping our authority.

“To have that winning mentality, in every different circumstance we have to be on it and that’s what we’ve been working on in training and it is showing on the pitch.”

Arsenal are destined to miss out on a place in the Premier League’s top four this season, but European qualification and FA Cup glory is there to be shot at by a side working towards long-term goals.