Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has admitted he can only play a bit-part role watching on from afar when his Gunners side host Premier League leaders Manchester City on New Year’s Day (Arsenal 5/1, draw 7/2, Man City 8/15 – Match Betting).
Arteta will be absent from the dugout for the first Premier League match of 2022 as he has tested positive for coronavirus and is currently being forced to self-isolate.
The Spaniard, who had to conduct his pre-match press conference remotely, revealed assistant coach Albert Stuivenburg will officially be in charge on Saturday and he admitted what he can do from a distance is limited.
Arteta is likely to have a hotline to the bench and will be in direct communication with his staff before, during and afterwards but he knows much of the preparation and coaching on the day is out of his hands.
“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,” Arteta said.
“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 themselves.”
Takehiro Tomiyasu, Cedric Soares and Callum Chambers all missed the win at Norwich because of positive covid tests and are likely to remain unavailable for the City test but Ainsley Maitland-Niles may return to contention.
Aside from those obvious issues, Arteta did not reveal any fresh injury or illness setbacks and insisted the squad was “in a good place” after recent big victories.
The Gunners, who are fourth in the table, four points clear of West Ham in fifth, beat Norwich 5-0 on Boxing Day after easily making the semis of the League Cup in their previous game when seeing off Sunderland 5-1. It’s now five wins on the spin all told, a run which includes a 4-1 win at Leeds and routine successes over West Ham and Southampton.
After a poor start to the season, Arteta’s men have recovered superbly and look well placed to challenge for a top-four finish this season. They are 7/4 to secure a Champions League place for next season and 1/4 for a top-six finish.