Mikel Arteta has admitted frustration at being forced to watch Arsenal’s meeting with Manchester City in isolation as he recovers from Covid but is still hoping to have an influence from afar on New Year’s Day against the runaway Premier League leaders.
With Arteta recovering after what he described as “a couple of rough days” with the virus, his assistant Albert Stuivenberg will take charge at the Emirates as Arsenal attempt to record their first Premier League victory over City since Pep Guardiola’s arrival in 2016. Who will be alongside the Dutchman, an assistant to Louis van Gaal at Manchester United and Ryan Giggs with Wales before joining Arsenal in 2019, remains uncertain given the large number of cases within the coaching staff.
Arteta will watch at home via a feed provided by the club but intends to leave most of the instructions to his trusted deputy.
“I will need a big room so I can walk and move a little bit because I won’t be able to just sit on my sofa,” he said. “We will be in touch but as well I want to give them the responsibility and freedom to make decisions on the pitch and express themselves. It’s totally different being on the touchline close to the players and the action so I’m going to be there to support in certain moments but they have to get the momentum of the game and communicate with the players themselves.”
Arteta added: “It’s not going to be easy – it will feel frustrating and like I have a lack of options. I haven’t been in training sessions or been able to prepare the players but we have to adapt to it.”
The Arsenal manager – who confirmed that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had been allowed to report early for Africa Cup of Nations duty with Gabon after being stripped of the captaincy – spent more than three years working under Guardiola at City as an assistant. He revealed that he had spoken with his compatriot on Thursday “because we have that relationship” and believes Arsenal have improved immeasurably since their 5-0 thrashing at the Etihad in August when Granit Xhaka was sent off in the first half.
“It was a real challenge and we suffered,” said Arteta. “But sometimes that helps you to become a better team. You need to stick together to understand what the level is and the mistakes that you cannot make against this type of opposition. We know the opposition that we are facing but I’m focused on trying to compete in every moment. The most important thing is that we have the belief that we can go and win the game.”