Mikel Arteta has opened up on the stresses of football management but despite the pressure that comes with the top job at Arsenal, the Spaniard insisted: “I just love what I do.”
The spotlight has fallen on managers in the last week after Jurgen Klopp announced he was leaving Liverpool at the end of the season because he is “running out of energy”.
From early wake-up calls, to formulating his next tactical plan to the pressures the job brings on his family life, the Arsenal boss admits to the difficulties of finding the right balance.
But speaking exclusively to Sky Sports ahead of Arsenal’s crunch Premier League clash with title rivals Liverpool – live on Sky Sports (kick-off 4.30pm) – Arteta revealed it is games like the one on Sunday that get him out of bed early in the morning and keep him energised, despite the pressure placed on him.
“We are so privileged to do what we do every day,” the Gunners boss told Sky Sports. “I just love what I do.”
“For me, the beauty, the energy, the passion and the will to play big games like this one against Liverpool on Sunday is much bigger than the stress or the pressure.”
Arteta’s early wake-up calls: ‘Plans start to come together’
Arsenal secured a second straight Premier League win on Tuesday evening when they beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 at the City Ground.
Arteta admits the adrenaline flows after any game but revealed he doesn’t have any issues with sleep. However, he is an early riser and it is in those moments early in the morning where many of his plans start to come to fruition.
“I don’t have any problems falling asleep,” Arteta said. “I sleep quite well but I wake up early.
“It can be 5am, 4.30 am or 5.30am, and then it is into the next one. Your brain just works into the next one and then the next one and I start to put things together.
“It’s a good period where your brain works in a way where you start to formalise the right questions and I start to put some ideas together.
“That’s the moment to get up and I start to write things and I start to think from every angle about what the best way is to prepare for the next game to give us the best chance to win it.”
‘Family understanding crucial for balance’
While burnout isn’t quite on Arteta’s radar just yet, the 41-year-old fully understood Klopp’s reasons for needing to leave his post at Anfield at the end of the season.
But what keeps Arteta’s energy high at the moment? Family is high on the list but his staff and players also play a huge role.
He said: “The first thing that happens after a long day is my three kids run to the front door and jump all over me. My dog does the same.
“Then it is my wife and then the staff. The staff we have around are always willing to lift the energy, be positive, be around and do anything they can to support me and help the team.
“And then, what you really need is to look at your players and tell them to jump from there to there, and they start to take a walk to go there. That means that they follow you and that is a really powerful thing.
“That gives you the energy to go again.”
They have to understand, want to talk about it and then just give love and stay away from it and talk about many other topics that are equally important in life as well. That balance is really important and I’m lucky because I’ve got it.
When asked if the whole family needs to buy in to support him in what is a testing job, he added: “100 per cent.”
“They have to understand, want to talk about it and then just give love and stay away from it and talk about many other topics that are equally important in life as well.
“That balance is really important and I’m lucky because I’ve got it.”
And what does a football manager do for himself to get away from the game for a few minutes?
“There are a lot of things you can do but as an individual, your body tells you exactly what you need,” Arteta added.
“In my opinion, meditation works really well. It empties your mind and after it is in a much better condition to work again.
“Reading is also something I really like and I do read about many different topics, other industries, our industry and about other colleagues that have done things as well. It’s really good.”
Arteta on Liverpool clash: ‘We have to be us’
Attention then turns to Super Sunday. Arteta’s Arsenal host Klopp’s top-of-the-table side, who they sit five points behind in the Premier League, in a game which could have a major influence on where the title goes this year, live on Sky Sports, kick-off 4.30pm.
The two sides are familiar with each other. Last month, Arsenal lost to Liverpool in the FA Cup third round, in a match where the Gunners forwards missed a host of chances before losing 2-0 to two late goals. In December, the two sides could not be separated at Anfield.
“We know a lot about each other,” Areteta said. “We’ve played against each other for many years now and there are certain things against Liverpool and against us that you have to do.
“The intensity of the match is going to be super high. The individual demands, the focus, the attention and the quality you have to deliver on the day is there.
When asked what Arsenal need to do to come out on top against Liverpool, he added: “The non-negotiable is that we are us. We have to play like we are, we play the game that we want to play, and the players have the belief and desire to play the way we want to play.
“The margins are so small. We have to earn the right to win the game on Sunday. In order to do that, we have to perform like we are doing or better. That’s it. The rest will be a consequence of that.
“It is easier said than done, yes. But we have accomplished it in the last two games against Liverpool. Now we have to put the extra things in, and we have to win.”
We have to earn the right to win the game on Sunday. In order to do that, we have to perform like we are doing or better.
Arteta’s admiration for Klopp and Liverpool
Sunday’s game could be Arteta’s last against Klopp for a while. With Arteta’s time as an assistant to Pep Guardiola at Man City and now in his role at Arsenal, is Klopp the manager he has thought about the most in trying to find a solution to beating him?
“I don’t know if he’s the most, but he is one of the most,” Arteta said.
“Believe me, in this league we have top, top managers and they make you think a lot.
“I love it [going head to head with other managers]. It’s a test and you want to become better and you want to test yourself against the best.
“This [the Premier League] is the best place to be and it is so fulfilling because it challenges you to go to another level and think in a different way, go in a different direction before coming back to what you want to do.
When asked what Klopp’s biggest contribution to Liverpool and the Premier League is, Arteta added: “A very clear identity.
“He has transformed Liverpool because you can see they are all united.
“The crowd, the players, the bond and the chemistry that he has generated, plus a really competitive mindset and a team that for 96 minutes gets under your skin.
“They have been able to do it in England and in Europe for many years. They have set a new bar and that deserves a lot of respect and admiration.”
Watch the big title-race game between Arsenal vs Liverpool live on Sky Sports Premier League this Sunday; kick-off 4.30pm
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