Published On: Sun, Mar 22nd, 2020

Arsenal news: How Mikel Arteta is using coronavirus break to boost Champions League push | Football | Sport

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has been using his team’s enforced time away from the training ground to work on ways his side can improve as they seek to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

The Gunners announced on March 12 that Arteta had contracted the coronavirus, with the COVID-19 pandemic since forcing the postponement of football and sports across Europe.

The Premier League will shut down until April 30 at the earliest as countries go into lockdown in hope to stem the spread of the deadly virus, which has claimed the lives of almost 15,000 people across the globe.

In the UK, there have been over 5,500 cases and nearly 300 deaths.

Arsenal’s first team can return to training this Tuesday (March 24) with over 100 members of staff, including the players, having been in self-isolation since Arteta tested positive for the disease.

Some top-flight clubs are still training at a lesser capacity than normal while others have completely cancelled sessions for several weeks to keep their squads healthy.

Arsenal’s London Colney headquarters has undergone a deep clean and with the north London club’s 14-day period of quarantine over, they can return to training this week.

It has now been decided by Arsenal bosses whether or not the first team will indeed return to their training complex in the days to come, however.

As it stands, first-team players are continuing to follow individual training plans at home with the club having provided gym equipment – especially fitness bikes – to players.

Yet while Arsenal’s staff are all in their own homes, Arteta has been in daily contact with his colleagues.

The 37-year-old coach was confirmed to be “feeling much better” since his diagnosis in an official statement earlier this week, which added: “He’s in good spirits, doing detailed planning with the coaches and speaking to the players regularly.”

And in a fresh update, have said Arteta has had daily videoconference meetings with his assistant head coaches, Steve Round, Freddie Ljungberg and Albert Stuivenberg.

The Gunners boss and his team have been drawing up new tactical plans and tactical exercises, add, in order to get the best of the squad if the season eventually resumes.

It is expected the season may have to be played behind closed doors in order to complete it in time to allow the 2020-21 campaign to start on August 8 as planned.

And Arteta will hope to have his side fully fit and firing should the current season be completed as is hoped.

With 29 games played, Arsenal having only played 28, Arteta’s charges are eight points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea but can cut that gap to five if they win their game in hand.

The Londoners have not played in the Champions League since 2016-17 and have seen their finances take a hit as a result, with the remit of Arteta’s job to restore Arsenal as a regular top-four finisher before establishing them as a title contender once again.

Elsewhere, Arsenal chiefs head of football Raul Sanllehi and managing director Vinai Venkatesham have also held daily meetings from home to keep staff updated on the goings on within the club and the Premier League.

The ever-changing situation means there is a chance the Premier League season may not be resumed, though the timeframe to do so was extended “indefinitely” by the Football Association this week.

English football’s governing body said in a statement: “The FA, Premier League, EFL and women’s professional game, together with the PFA and LMA, understand we are in unprecedented times and our thoughts are with everyone affected by COVID-19.

“We’re united in our commitment to finding ways of resuming the 2019-20 football season and ensuring all domestic and European club league and cup matches are played as soon as it is safe and possible to do so.

“We’ve collectively supported UEFA in postponing EURO 2020 to create space in the calendar to ensure domestic and European club league and cup matches have an increased opportunity to be played and, in doing so, maintain the integrity of each competition.

“The FA’s Rules and Regulations state that ‘the season shall terminate not later than the 1 June’ and ‘each competition shall, within the limit laid down by The FA, determine the length of its own playing season’.

“However, our Board has agreed for this limit to be extended indefinitely for the 2019-20 season in relation to professional football. Additionally, we’ve collectively agreed that the professional game in England will be further postponed until no earlier than Thursday 30 April.

“The progress of COVID-19 remains unclear and we can reassure everyone the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters are our priority.

“We will continue to follow Government advice and work collaboratively to keep the situation under review and explore all options available to find ways of resuming the season when the conditions allow.

“We would all like to re-emphasise that our thoughts are with everyone affected by COVID-19.”

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