The upcoming episodes of All or Nothing: Arsenal have revealed a tense conversation between Mikel Arteta and Ben White in a tactical meeting, while the Spanish coach was also livid with a lack of effort from four players in training.
With Arsenal needing to produce a good run of results in their pursuit of a top-four berth last season, they showed a few frailties at the back when they travelled to Watford in March – something they would need to eradicate for a looming clash with Liverpool.
Although the Gunners left Vicarage Road with all three points, they conceded twice in the 3-2 victory – with Cucho Hernandez and Moussa Sissoko both on the score sheet – and were perhaps a little fortunate not to concede a third.
Arteta was unimpressed with what he saw from his back-line that day and pulled his defensive unit aside for a separate meeting to discuss the issues and how they could improve – though seemed to be a little annoyed by White’s response, singling him out.
After showing a slide explaining what he wanted from his defenders, and highlighting some issues against Watford, Arteta says to his players: ‘The other day we suffered, we had difficulties defensively. You agree with that? Yeah? So we need to understand why, ok? The first one, as a line you have to be one. We were one line, yes or no?’
Arteta’s question was met with complete silence from the players so he eventually called on White to answer him, who replied: ‘Na, I think we’ve been much better.’
Arteta continued to direct his questions at White, saying: ‘Communication, coaching, were you active coaching the other day during the game?’
Mikel Arteta’s key notes for Arsenal defence
OUR OBJECTIVE AS BACK LINE:
BE ONE > COORDINATION
DEFEND IN BEHIND
DEFEND THE BOX + DUELS
White admitted he had not been as vocal as usual, with Arteta replying: ‘No. So we need to understand why and if we don’t see it, and we don’t agree on something, it’s very difficult to keep improving.’
Unfortunately for Arsenal, Arteta’s chat did not have the desired effect with the north Londoners going on to lose 2-0 at home to Liverpool in their next match as Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino both netted in the second half.
White looked shell-shocked in the dressing room after full-time, saying: ‘F**k me, they’re so clinical! And the second one… he’s literally just got his toe in front of me.’
The All or Nothing documentary highlights Arteta’s desire to try and change the culture at the club and, while he was self-isolating with Covid at the end of December, he used the time to watch hours and hours of training footage.
He was far from happy with what he saw, even claiming he would have kicked four players out of their most recent training session had he been there due to their lack of effort, joking around and constant complaining.
‘I had a lot of time to watch things, I watched 21 training sessions. There are a few players that train exceptionally well, there is a vast majority of players that train well and there is a group of players that they just come,’ he told the squad.
‘The training session on Sunday, if I was here, four players they go out of the training session. Four! Four players after 15 minutes go.
‘We are not training in the park, we are not in nursery, and we are not here wasting our time. Too many players laughing, and the other thing is complaining. Someone gives a bad pass, complain. I give a bad pass, it’s his mistake. No. We have to raise the level and it goes for everybody.’
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