Arteta's youngsters encapsulate new mentality

Arsenal Head Coach Mikel Arteta lifts the FA Community Shield with Kieran Tierney after the FA Community Shield match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium on August 29, 2020 in London, England.

The Arsenal of Mikel Arteta appears increasingly like a team unencumbered by fear. 

For all their developments in a tactical sense under Arteta, it is this change of mentality that feels most significant at the start of the Spaniard's first full season as a head coach.

Unai Emery, in his own words, tried to fix the mentality problem he inherited from Arsene Wenger. 

He was unable to do so, with the final months of his reign best summarised by the terror and panic in the eyes of his defenders every time the opposition had the ball.

So far at least, Arteta is succeeding where Emery could not. His players are aware of their limitations, and the considerable gap between them and the best sides in the league, but no longer do Arsenal go into matches against the big teams expecting a painful defeat.

This could be seen in their FA Cup triumph at the end of last season, when they beat Manchester City and Chelsea in stirring fashion, and also in Saturday's victory over Liverpool in the Community Shield.

Arsenal fielded a mix of regular stars and fringe players, and they had only spent one week training together before this. Liverpool, by contrast, had all been together in a training camp in Austria.

"Two days ago we started to have players back in training. I did not hear one excuse," Arteta said. "

'Oh, they had two weeks in Austria, better preparation'. None of that. I had the feeling they believed they could win.

"From the first minute they showed courage and passion."

It surely helps the mindset of the players when they have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in their attack.

The club captain, whose new contract is expected to be announced imminently, rifled into the far corner after a fine passing move to give Arsenal the lead.

It was the sort of goal that can only be scored by a player at the very top of his game.

The defenders and midfielders must know it is worth committing everything to the cause when it only takes a single moment for Aubameyang to put the ball in the net.

Arsenal's fearlessness was perhaps best encapsulated by Reiss Nelson, one of this current crop of highly rated academy graduates. Nelson was the first to volunteer to take a penalty in the shoot-out after the game had finished 1-1. "He said, 'Me first'," Arteta revealed.

Bukayo Saka, another youngster, had played a key role in Aubameyang's goal by spraying a cross-field pass into the striker's path. 

Arteta has hired two new coaches, Carlos Cuesta and Miguel Molina, to help oversee the development of these young players, and their progress could be crucial to the club's future.

"I get more and more impressed with them every day," Arteta said of a group that also includes Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah. 

"They want to be better than their teammates and really want chances."

The only concern will be the lack of time on the training field, and it is now less than two weeks until the new Premier League campaign.

Can Arteta drill home any new tactical information by then? It seems unlikely. What is certain, though, is that the club's mentality is changing.

This alone could be the difference between success and failure for Arsenal this season.
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