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Arsenal head to Wembley with a greater sense of unity on and off the pitch thanks to Mikel Arteta

Whether it is the introduction of his Wheel of Fortune fines system, his whistle-stop welcome tour of the club’s various departments or his work on training ground.

Whether he is showing his humorous, humble or serious side while setting an example, educating or disciplining his players.

Through it all there has been a common theme underpinning some of the tweaks and work of Mikel Arteta since he became Arsenal manager back in December.

‘Togetherness,’ one source said this week. ‘He’s tried to bring much more of it.’

And it is a big reason why Arsenal will be contesting Saturday’s FA Cup final against Chelsea and head to Wembley with a greater sense of unity on and off the pitch.

At his unveiling, a few days after he was in the opposition dugout at the Emirates as Manchester City assistant while they hammered Arsenal 3-0, Arteta explained how the ‘energy’ needed changing.

He needed to ‘engage everybody’ at the club, he said. He meant everybody too as stunned staff soon discovered. The squad, of course, have been a big focus.

Once he returned to the club he captained Arteta, 38, inherited a group with some fractures, perhaps understandably, along nationality and first-language lines.

‘He has been trying to harbour a really good team spirit that goes a long way regardless of a players’ ability,’ another source said this week.

His fines system, an idea used at City, has added some fun to the process of instilling discipline, a principle pillar of Arteta’s managerial approach, policing the dressing room and bringing the group closer together.

Breaches, such as lateness or phones going off in meetings, come with punishments determined by a spin of the wheel of fortune.

The chance of being sanctioned is high with penalties including cleaning staff cars, the dressing room or being hit in the pocket with a fine.

So Ainsley Maitland-Niles, for one, could not believe his luck the first time he had to spin the wheel when he landed on the free pass and escaped a forfeit. 

On another occasion when flight issues delayed Joe Willock’s return from a quick trip to Paris, Arteta insisted he take his teammates out for dinner and foot the bill.

Arteta is big on discipline as the frozen out Matteo Guendouzi in particular, a notable absentee from the Spaniard’s plans along with Mesut Ozil, will testify.

Some of Arteta’s players have welcomed his approach when it comes to Guendouzi having grown frustrated with the antics the midfielder was able to get away with under Unai Emery.

Emery lacked the authority to improve the discipline and standards many felt had been allowed to drift under Arsene Wenger. Arteta has tackled the task head on and led by example.

He has his ‘non-negotiables’, demands a level of performance and standards of behaviour from everyone across the club.

He is a stickler for timekeeping. When he has to be somewhere at a certain time, he will be so expects the same from others.

On a rare occasion club insiders can remember he was not, when he was just four minutes late for a press conference, he made a point of offering a sincere apology to his waiting audience.

The slightly-baffled faces staring back at him thought nothing of it, especially having grown used to Wenger’s renowned delayed arrivals, but still Arteta insisted.

It is a sign of the humility that is well-known around the club. Within a couple of days of his starting his reign, Arteta had made a point of introducing himself to staff right across the club, delivering ‘team talks’ to employees in various different departments, including those based at Arsenal’s Highbury House offices near the Emirates Stadium.

Arteta spoke, approximately, on 12 different occasions but the message was the same – you might not be players but if you can make a difference in the club, it makes a difference to the team.

‘It was fantastic,’ one witness said. ‘He really made people feel like it is one club.’

Underlining the sense of unity he is trying to create, Arteta was behind Arsenal’s side of the joint-push with Chelsea to squeeze extra passes out of the FA so they could bring more staff and players to be part of cup final day.

Arteta’s early visits to the club’s various facilities were also an example of his people skills and the human touch he possesses which has impressed so many.

He is determined to treat everyone on the same level. Knowing the names of office staff is as important to him as knowing those of his players.

Meanwhile, his players get the same team-talk treatment on match days, with Arteta, immediately after every game, shutting the dressing room door once all of his players have returned and spending five minutes with them going through the game and his key messages.

His players have been just as impressed with Arteta as the non-playing staff, his knowledge and enthusiasm for the game and especially his attention to detail, described as ‘second to none.’

One of his players considers him, simply, a genius.

His early work centred on introducing some much-needed structure and patterns of play that were much-needed after the chaotic finish to Emery’s spell.

It is surely no coincidence that much-maligned players Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi, for example, look much more effective in a team with a clearer plan.

Two other big changes from the late-Wenger days have been noticed. Fitness wise Arsenal were ‘miles off’ back then and received too many days off. Their levels now are noticeably improved.

They rarely did much work on team shape in those days too but now it is ‘work on shape, shape, shape every day.’

The best proof came earlier this month when Arteta inspired Arsenal to morale-boosting, back-to-back wins against Liverpool and Manchester City.

Arteta’s side defended in a way that has not been associated with more recent Arsenal teams to overcome the newly-crowned champions and shock City in the semi-final.

Those two successes highlighted how much has been done on making Arsenal work harder as a unit, remain compact and tight and provided the latest evidence of their new-found determination to protect their goal that has been evident under Arteta.

He has drilled his players to become better at setting traps and forcing the opposition into areas that automatically spring Arsenal into pressing action.

Against City, whose 4-3-3 setup with one holding midfielder and two No 8s Arteta hopes to replicate in the long run, he also used his inside knowledge to devise a plan to counteract their use of cutbacks and short corners due to their lack of aerial threat, instructing Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos to be on alert and ready to drop back into the danger areas Guardiola’s side look for.

By now, Areta’s attention to such small details, his thorough match preparations and subsequent instructions are now expected by his players.

They have noted how especially attentive he is to opponents and the potential dangers they pose.

Since training resumed following lockdown, some team training sessions were moved so they were more in line with the new kick-off times introduced for Project Restart fixtures.

Arteta is big on video analysis too. On journeys to and from matches, he is quick to fire up his laptop to review match footage or plan for ones to come and known to have players sit alongside him at the front while they go through games and the players’ involvement together.

‘He leaves no stone unturned and the players know if they play how he wants them to play they have a real chance of winning the game,’ one source said.

It is a belief in Arsenal’s fledgling manager that is seemingly shared right throughout the club.

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