Mikel Arteta says he is doing “much better” after some “rough days” suffering from coronavirus, though he is still set to be absent for Arsenal’s clash with Manchester City on New Year’s Day.
Arsenal confirmed on Wednesday that Arteta had tested positive for COVID-19, thus ensuring he would be unavailable to attend their first match of 2022.
The Spaniard was the first major Premier League figure to get the virus at the start of the pandemic back in March 2020, which coincidentally led to Arsenal’s game with City being postponed at the time.
The Gunners head into the game against the Premier League leaders in good form having won each of their past four top-flight games, including a 5-0 thrashing of Norwich City on Boxing Day.
As such, the absence of Arteta for a big game is a blow, but his condition has seemingly improved significantly and he still expects to be able to have some impact on the contest, while his illness does not appear to have been passed on to any of his players.
“I’m feeling much better today,” he told reporters. “I had a couple of rough days but obviously I have experienced this before, so not bad at all [now].
“The rest of the squad is in a good place. We tested the players; we don’t have any news other than the ones before.
“We try to communicate with them as much as possible, and we rely on the rest of the players and staff and I trust them 100 percent.”
Elaborating on how it will work without him on Saturday, Arteta added: “Albert [Stuivenberg, Arsenal assistant] will be in charge with the rest of the team and depending on who of the coaches are available because we’ve had issues in that department recently, everybody will be there trying to help as much as possible.
Mikel Arteta will miss our match against Manchester City on New Year’s Day, after testing positive for COVID-19
“We will be in touch but as well I want to give them the responsibility and the freedom to make decisions on the pitch and to express themselves because it’s completely different being on the touchline and close to the players than at home.
“I’m going to be here to support and help in certain moments but they have to get the momentum of the game and communication with the players themselves.
“I never experienced this before. It is what it is. It won’t be easy, I’m frustrated and with a lack of options as I’m not in training so can’t prepare as I would like, put [out] the messages I want, have the players feeling you are next to them, but you have to adapt, and we’ve tried our best to get prepared.
“[It’s] very strange. I think I will need a big room so I can walk and move a little bit. It’s a really frustrating thing not to be able to be there, helping the team, but I will do my best from here with everything I can do.
“We’ve prepared for every scenario possible. They know what they have to do, then it will be down to the players to execute as much as possible what we want to do.”
One player who certainly will not be present against City, however, is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The striker was stripped of the captaincy this month, reportedly after returning late from a trip abroad, and Arteta has left him out ever since.
He has been allowed to link up with the Gabon national team early ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations, with Arteta confirming that request was granted because Aubameyang was not going to be selected to face City.
“We had a letter from the national team asking for permission to get the player,” Arteta revealed.
“He wasn’t going to be involved [on Saturday], so for his fitness and to keep him competing, it was the right thing to do.”
It was put to Arteta that Arsenal players had shown their backing to him and his decision to take the armband off Aubameyang with their recent performances, though he dismissed the importance of this.
“For me, it’s not about being right or wrong, it’s about making the decisions that you believe are a consequence of what you’re asking them to do. As I said, we’ll go game by game,” he said.
As for Aubameyang’s future at the club, Arteta once again refused to commit, either way, adding: “At the moment he’s gone. He needs to focus on the national team. We had the conversation, that was the best way to do it. As I said before, we’ll address it game by game.”