William Saliba has given an insight into how Mikel Arteta has created a tight-knit squad at Arsenal.
Mikel Arteta and his coaching staff have made creating a close, welcoming dressing room atmosphere a key part of their mission at Arsenal, and William Saliba and his teammates are enjoying the benefits of that.
Arteta speaks regularly about the importance of unity in the squad. He speaks of the Arsenal team as being like a family. As such, he encourages his players to behave and interact in ways which will strengthen the bonds between them.
As well as making London Colney a more harmonious and happy place for the Arsenal players to train on a daily basis, Saliba also believes that this togetherness helps them on the pitch on match days.
Speaking to the official Arsenal website, the French centre-back said, “we do a lot of things to be closer and closer and to learn about each other. The coaches will speak to us about how important it is to be a unit, and to be together, not just with the fans, but as a team as well. An example is when we were on tour in America, for every meal we always mixed the tables. We don’t choose the table where we sit at lunch or dinner.”
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So much of football is about partnerships. Saliba himself has cultivated a solid partnership with Gabriel Magalhaes in the heart of the Gunners’ rearguard. These partnerships can be seen elsewhere at the Emirates Stadium, too, such as in the way that Bukayo Saka and Ben White regularly link up, or how Oleksandr Zinchenko frequently looks to pick out Gabriel Martinelli.
These partnerships are built through understanding that is developed on and off the pitch. Encouraging the players to socialise together could make them more cohesive tactically in a footballing sense.
As Saliba says, “it really helps when you are on the pitch. When you are playing and you can feel that the whole team is together, that everyone likes each other, and wants everyone to do well – it raises the whole level.”
This kind of squad cohesion will be particularly tested in high pressure moments. With Arsenal hoping to mount another Premier League title challenge this season, there will be plenty of nervous moments throughout the campaign.
Strong team spirit and a collective sense of support and responsibility can help a squad respond to setbacks and mistakes. Ultimately, that could mean the difference between success and failure for the Gunners this season, which is why Arteta is working so hard to cultivate it.