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

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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.

Mikel Arteta will be desperate to guide Arsenal to FA Cup glory after a turbulent campaign

Mikel Arteta will be desperate to guide Arsenal to FA Cup glory after a turbulent campaign

Mikel Arteta will be desperate to guide Arsenal to FA Cup glory after a turbulent campaign

Arteta has instilled great unity into the Arsenal team following his appointment in December

Arteta has instilled great unity into the Arsenal team following his appointment in December

Arteta has instilled great unity into the Arsenal team following his appointment in December

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31343562 8573595 image a 52 1596054800983

‘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.

The Gunners booked their place in the FA Cup final after beating favourites Man City 2-0

The Gunners booked their place in the FA Cup final after beating favourites Man City 2-0

The Gunners booked their place in the FA Cup final after beating favourites Man City 2-0 

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.

The Spaniard inherited a group with fractures along nationality and first-language lines

The Spaniard inherited a group with fractures along nationality and first-language lines

The Spaniard inherited a group with fractures along nationality and first-language lines

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.

Arteta has been quick to discipline players, most notably youngster Matteo Guendouzi

Arteta has been quick to discipline players, most notably youngster Matteo Guendouzi

Arteta has been quick to discipline players, most notably youngster Matteo Guendouzi

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.

After lifting the FA Cup with Arsenal as a player, Arteta will be hoping to do the same as boss

After lifting the FA Cup with Arsenal as a player, Arteta will be hoping to do the same as boss

After lifting the FA Cup with Arsenal as a player, Arteta will be hoping to do the same as boss

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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Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta offers a blunt assessment on why Mesut Ozil’s exile continued

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arsenal boss mikel arteta offers a blunt assessment on why mesut ozils exile continued

Mikel Arteta suggested his Arsenal side is evolving without Mesut Ozil as the club’s highest-paid player again missed out on the squad for Wednesday’s Carabao Cup win at Leicester.

The Gunners made seven changes at the King Power Stadium as a Christian Fuchs own goal and late Eddie Nketiah tap-in sealed a 2-0 victory for the visitors.

Despite those alterations there was still no room in the matchday squad for either Ozil or Matteo Guendouzi, who have yet to kick a ball this season.

Mikel Arteta suggested his Arsenal side is evolving without Mesut Ozil as he missed out again

Mikel Arteta suggested his Arsenal side is evolving without Mesut Ozil as he missed out again

Mikel Arteta suggested his Arsenal side is evolving without Mesut Ozil as he missed out again

Ozil has not been involved since Project Restart having previously started every game

Ozil has not been involved since Project Restart having previously started every game

Ozil has not been involved since Project Restart having previously started every game

Ozil has not been involved at all since Project Restart having previously started every Premier League game under Arteta before lockdown.

Asked why the World Cup winner had fallen out of favour, Arteta replied: ‘The team is evolving, you can see the level they are achieving.

‘This is where we are at the moment. We want to evolve more and play better and compete better.

‘We need to keep maintaining that.

‘I’m really happy with the performance here, how difficult they’re making things for the coaching staff to select the squad.

Arteta said: 'The team is evolving, you can see the level they are achieving' as Ozil missed out

Arteta said: 'The team is evolving, you can see the level they are achieving' as Ozil missed out

Arteta said: ‘The team is evolving, you can see the level they are achieving’ as Ozil missed out

‘We are picking the players that we believe are the best for each game. You can see we keep training, it’s what we’re trying to do.

‘You can see that the players we are changing, we are using, it’s very difficult every week not for Mesut but for some other players as well to make the squad. Every week we try to pick the right players.

‘Of course I understand and I respect your questions but I have to try to do my job as fair as possible. I try to select the players that are, in my opinion, in better condition.’

Arsenal will face either Lincoln or Liverpool in round four and, if Jurgen Klopp’s Reds win on Thursday, it means two quick trips to Anfield for Arteta and his players.

The Premier League game on Monday night has been moved forwards to an 8pm kick-off to fall in line with new Covid guidelines for pub closing times.

‘You can imagine, probably the toughest place to go in Europe or the world. That’s the fixtures, we have to go there,’ Arteta added on the prospect of two away games against the champions.

‘Let’s go first on Monday, let’s prepare well and see how it goes.’

Arsenal will face either Lincoln or Liverpool in round four after 2-0 victory over Leicester

Arsenal will face either Lincoln or Liverpool in round four after 2-0 victory over Leicester

Arsenal will face either Lincoln or Liverpool in round four after 2-0 victory over Leicester

While Arteta shuffled his pack, Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers played with an entire new deck as the Foxes side showed 11 alterations from Sunday’s win over Burnley.

‘I think if we are going to lose a game, I would lose in that way in terms of the players showed good energy in the game,’ Rodgers said following the defeat.

‘There were moments of quality in it and even though there were lots of players playing their first minutes of the season the cohesion in the team was very good.

‘I’m obviously disappointed with the goals, that was the only criticism – it was two scruffy goals that we lost to.’

Wilfred Ndidi was not involved for Leicester and Rodgers revealed after the match that the Nigeria international may be sidelined for up to 12 weeks with an abductor injury suffered against Burnley.

‘We are just waiting to hear more on that, but he could be anything between six and 12 weeks,’ he said.

‘It is an abductor injury – it may have come off the bone which could be a nasty injury, so we will wait to see if needs an operation – it does then it will be 12 weeks.’

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Everton fans fume over two more Jordan Pickford errors in their Carabao Cup win over Fleetwood

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everton fans fume over two more jordan pickford errors in their carabao cup win over fleetwood

Jordan Pickford was back in the spotlight after making two high-profile errors in Everton‘s Carabao Cup victory over Fleetwood.  

The goalkeeper was at fault for both the hosts’ goals, first dithering over a clearance which was eventually charged down for Mark Duffy to make it 2-1 and then changing his mind over a cross and failing to keep out Callum Camps’ overhead kick straight at him for 3-2.

Goals from Bernard and Michael Keane spared the shot-stopper’s blushes but Everton fans aired their frustrations on Twitter, with some fans calling for Carlo Ancelotti to find a new No1. 

Jordan Pickford made two errors in Everton's Carabao Cup win over Fleetwood on Wednesday

Jordan Pickford made two errors in Everton's Carabao Cup win over Fleetwood on Wednesday

Jordan Pickford made two errors in Everton’s Carabao Cup win over Fleetwood on Wednesday

Some fans called for Carlo Ancelotti to find a new No 1 after the shot-stopper's mistakes

Some fans called for Carlo Ancelotti to find a new No 1 after the shot-stopper's mistakes

Some fans called for Carlo Ancelotti to find a new No 1 after the shot-stopper’s mistakes

33547222 8766049 Some fans called for Carlo Ancelotti to find a new No1 after the a 101 1600900146887

33547222 8766049 Some fans called for Carlo Ancelotti to find a new No1 after the a 101 1600900146887

 

One supporter wrote: ‘Jordan Pickford is going to cost Everton so many goals this season. Ancelotti needs to replace him ASAP.’

Another added: ‘Don’t think we’ll be able to bring in a top keeper this window but next summer we NEED a new top class GK Jordan Pickford man.’

But Ancelotti refused to blame the England international for the first goal, instead claiming the goalkeeper had been put in a difficult position by his team-mates. 

‘I think the first goal it was not any individual mistakes, we passed the ball back to Jordan and it was a really difficult ball,’ said the Everton boss.

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33547220 8766049 image a 104 1600900191922

‘We could have behaved differently, so we didn’t do that well. Of course you have to improve there.

‘You want to build up from the back but when there is not risk. If it is risky it is not good, we can concede a goal like we did tonight and it is a good lesson for the future.

‘I didn’t speak to him (Pickford). I have to speak with the players that were involved when we were building up. He was not the only one, Jordan.’

But some fans were less forgiving than the Italian, with one tweeting: ‘If Jordan Pickford was a fisherman he still wouldn’t catch anything.’

Another on-looker wrote: ‘Everton seem to have brought in some very good players this transfer market, pity Jordan Pickford will undo all their good work.’

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33547226 8766049 image a 100 1600900139722

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33547230 8766049 image a 106 1600900267798

Carlo Ancelotti refused to blame the England international for the goals Everton conceded

Carlo Ancelotti refused to blame the England international for the goals Everton conceded

Carlo Ancelotti refused to blame the England international for the goals Everton conceded

A brace from Richarlison and goals from Alex Iwobi, Bernard and Michael Keane set up a fourth-round tie with West Ham and Fleetwood boss Joey Barton highlighted the gulf in class between the Premier League outfit and his League One side.

‘We had a 18-year-old, a 19-year-old and a 21-year-old at centre-back. We never had any ball but we knew that would be the case,’ he said.

‘We then gave them a goal and they got the second goal. We adjusted at half-time, brought Duffy on and then we got a gift by closing the keeper down.

‘Then we shoot ourselves in the foot by conceding in a few minutes and then we got back into it again – but they have the quality to pick you off on the counter.

Pickford was unable to keep out Callum Camps' overhead kick despite it being straight at him

Pickford was unable to keep out Callum Camps' overhead kick despite it being straight at him

Pickford was unable to keep out Callum Camps’ overhead kick despite it being straight at him

‘I am pleased we made it into a cup tie because at half-time it looked like being a long 45 minutes.’ 

On Everton fielding a strong side, Barton added: ‘I am delighted with that because it shows Everton are taking the competition seriously.

‘It pays us enormous respect that they turned up and played in the correct manner, especially when you look at the gulf in class at both clubs. 5-2 probably flatters them at the end but they were way above us tonight.’

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Frank Lampard on the cusp of completing swoop for Edouard Mendy from Rennes

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frank lampard on the cusp of completing swoop for edouard mendy from rennes

Frank Lampard believes the club’s £22million move for Rennes’ goalkeeper Edouard Mendy is on the verge of completion.

The Chelsea boss has been trying to bring in a new shot-stopper all summer and looks to finally have his man. 

If Mendy arrives in time he could be set to make his debut in this weekend’s trip to West Brom, with Kepa Arrizabalaga facing the drop after a difficult start to the season. 

Chelsea's move for goalkeeper Edouard Mendy from Rennes is on the verge of completion

Chelsea's move for goalkeeper Edouard Mendy from Rennes is on the verge of completion

Chelsea’s move for goalkeeper Edouard Mendy from Rennes is on the verge of completion 

Frank Lampard believes the shot-stopper's medical is done ahead of a £22million transfer

Frank Lampard believes the shot-stopper's medical is done ahead of a £22million transfer

Frank Lampard believes the shot-stopper’s medical is done ahead of a £22million transfer

‘With Mendy, the medical, I think it’s done, but I want to be a bit careful and don’t want to give absolute confirmation until I see him, possibly over the next 24 hours,’ said Lampard. 

‘But it seems like it’s on the verge of being done.’

Current No1 Arrizabalaga has struggled in the opening games of the season. The ‘keeper let a weak shot squeeze past him in the first match against Brighton and was under-fire against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. 

Current No1 Kepa Arrizabalaga could face being dropped for this weekend's trip to West Brom

Current No1 Kepa Arrizabalaga could face being dropped for this weekend's trip to West Brom

Current No1 Kepa Arrizabalaga could face being dropped for this weekend’s trip to West Brom

The Spaniard was at fault for the Reds’ second goal after his uncertainty on the ball allowed Sadio Mane to intercept his clearance before finishing into the net.

Chelsea beat Championships side Barnsley 6-0 to progress to the fourth-round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night, with new signing Kai Havertz scoring a hat-trick.

Tammy Abraham, Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud also got on the scoresheet while Willy Caballero kept a clean sheet in his first start of the season.

New signings Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell made their debuts at Stamford Bridge. 

Silva played 61 minutes before he was substituted for Kurt Zouma while Chilwell replaced Havertz for the final 25 minutes and grabbed an assist by setting up Giroud.  

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