Arsenal during coronavirus shutdown: House Party, Arteta's video tactics sessions and welcoming new babies
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has had to find another way of enjoying his luxurious cars in recent weeks. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, the Arsenal captain can't really get out and drive any more so instead, he's wondering if, by only listening to the engine roaring, you can guess whether he has started his Lamborghini or his Ferrari. A new game to pass the time.
Not far from Aubameyang's house in North London, there are suddenly far more card games for Sokratis Papastathopoulos and his children in their home. Though there are also no more walks in the park for Alexandre Lacazette and his dog, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
It's the same stress for the Arsenal women's team. They're all staying busy with maintaining their fitness at home. Granted, it's easier to train and practice when your girlfriend is also your teammate, as is the case for striker Vivianne Miedema and winger Lisa Evans. Players of both squads have had to adapt to a new life, like all other footballers, whatever their level and their status, and like almost every other human being on the planet. They're working hard every day on their own, in their own gym or garden. For those who didn't have any equipment, mostly the younger players in either squad, Arsenal sent them exercise bikes and treadmills.
For the past three weeks, the men's squad have been closely following the individual programmes sent to them by Mikel Arteta and his staff. If they thought they would be able to get away with not doing too much work and treating this as a kind of holiday -- especially with Arteta spending two weeks in quarantine while recovering following news of his positive Coronavirus test on March 12 -- they could not have been more wrong. Arteta has been on their cases, all of them. Every day, he checks on his players via WhatsApp videos and messages.
On top of the fitness work he sends them so they are staying as fit as possible -- a blend of intensive cardio work and weights -- the biggest thing, and without a doubt the biggest difference between Arsenal and some of their Premier League peers, is the tactical work Arteta is demanding from his players despite the shutdown.
The Spanish manager prepared and sent individual videos to every member of his first-team squad. He looked at their movements, their actions and involvements in some of the matches they've played already this season and what they should, or could, have done better. It is very detailed and it is part of the reflection and self-analysis Arteta wants his players to undertake. Pep Guardiola's former assistant has spent hours rewatching every Arsenal games since he took over for Unai Emery on Dec. 20. Maybe more important than highlighting the positives, he has also closely examined the negatives from his team's displays.
Despite not being able to train together at London Colney, Arteta says he feels that they can still work tactically on their own by reviewing their performances. He wants his players to think and has therefore been sending them some of the patterns of play they had been working on at training prior to the shutdown so they can keep visualizing and remembering them.
Arsenal, like many other Premier League clubs, were initially expecting to return to training in late-March, but their return to the training ground was instead postponed until further notice. Much before that, and as one of the first clubs in the country to do it, they organised virtual video sessions.
In small groups of three or four, players connect to an app and have live fitness sessions -- cycling, yoga, muscular strengthening, and so on -- with a member of Arteta's staff. Players really enjoy them, as the sessions are both joyous and intense. Players can see each another on their screens and thus banter with one another, encouraging each other or shouting, swearing and laughing at their efforts. Those sessions have managed to keep the team spirit high and the players in a good mood despite the intensely difficult circumstances.
While the team's WhatsApp's group is maybe not as busy as usual these days, messages did pour in for Mesut Ozil and his wife Amine after the birth of their daughter Eda a few days ago. The face to face social networking app "House Party" has been a new feature in the Arsenal players' lives as well. They've had multiple video sessions together on the app and a lot of laughter. They probably never thought that they would miss one another so much.