Former Arsenal academy star explains ‘mad’ thing Mikel Arteta would do before games

Former Hale End star Matt Smith was a surprise inclusion in several Arsenal matchday squads under Mikel Arteta, and he has now shared his insight into the Spaniard’s coaching methods.

Smith never made a senior appearance for Arsenal before joining Wigan Athletic on a free transfer this summer, but featured in several squads ahead of Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi in Arteta’s first season, including in the 2020 FA Cup final victory over Chelsea.
This gave the youngster an excellent learning experience to take with him for the rest of his career, even though he was never given a chance on the pitch, and he went on to impress in a midfield role for clubs in lower divisions on loan spells prior to his permanent exit.

Smith has now explained Arteta’s eccentric matchday routines he implemented into the squad from the very start of his managerial career.

Matt Smith shares Mikel Arteta Arsenal matchday practices

Speaking in an interview with The Athletic, Smith revealed that Arteta would set up games for the players to help them prepare for each different game, in the build-up to kick-off.
“We had meetings at the hotel before the match and there would always be a game or something silly to get everyone switched on and working together as a team,” Smith stated.

“Some involved tennis balls and other times there were quizzes, which would be about the tactical information on the opposition we’d been learning all week. You had to get into groups and play things like Pictionary.

“It was an ‘are you ready for the game?’ type of thing but it was mad because, at times, it was only two hours before kick-off!”
This is not the first time Arteta’s somewhat strange methods have been highlighted, as there have been several occasions where the former midfielder would implement a surprise strategy.

Arteta has previously played Liverpool’s club anthem during training to help prepare for a trip to Anfield, which was derided after Arsenal lost 4-0 in the resulting game.

Nevertheless, his methods are clearly admired by the players experiencing them, and with Arsenal evolving into a title-challenging side since the days when Smith would be alongside the likes of Bukayo Saka and Joe Willock on the bench, there is definitely merit to Arteta’s madness when it comes to trying to gain a psychological gain before each game.

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