Arsenal’s Arteta moving on from ‘really challenging’ start

Sports

Mikel Arteta has delivered silverware already at Arsenal but is now focusing his attention on the new season, starting at Fulham.

Former Gunners captain Arteta was appointed as head coach at Emirates Stadium last December and guided a struggling side to last month’s FA Cup win.

Arsenal followed up that success by beating Liverpool in the Community Shield, and Arteta has now been named ‘manager’ in a restructure.

But the Spaniard is not resting on his laurels ahead of the new Premier League campaign.

“I look 10 years older as it has been really challenging,” Arteta said. “It was my first job as a head coach and other things happened, a lot of interruption, a lot of unexpected things. But we all together have been very consistent on what we were trying to achieve.

“There have been a lot of changes at the club, a lot of changes in our environment, but our direction is not going to change. We have created some belief that is really important among the players, the staff and our fans, and now our aim is to continue to do that key building, getting the team engaged to this process and making it better.

“What we’ve done in the past few months doesn’t really count now. It’s about the next season and how we start.”

Fulham’s Scott Parker is also facing a new challenge after securing promotion through the play-offs.

“The challenge now is that we’ve gone from being expected to win the majority of weeks and trying to get promoted, and we now go into a division where we understand it’s going to be a lot more difficult,” he said. “It’s a challenge that we have to embrace and take on, and I feel we are in a good place to do that.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Fulham – Alphonse Areola

The goalkeeper role was a problem position for Fulham last time they were in the top flight, so they have turned to World Cup winner Areola. He only signed this week but could go straight into the team to face a star-studded Arsenal attack.

Arsenal – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Injuries and transfers mean Arsenal’s XI is far from settled, but captain Aubameyang certainly will play. Amid reports he is about to sign a new contract, the forward has already enjoyed a great start to the season, starring in the Gunners’ Community Shield success.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Fulham have lost each of their past five Premier League matches against Arsenal, conceding nine goals in their two defeats against the Gunners the last time they were in the top flight in 2018-19 (1-5 home, 1-4 away).

– Arsenal are looking to win on matchday one in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2009-10 (three in a row), while Fulham have lost their opening day game in each of their past two seasons – 0-2 to Crystal Palace in 2018-19 and 0-1 to Barnsley last term.

– Fulham have lost their previous 10 Premier League London derbies – defeated in all 10 in the 2018-19 season – the longest ever such run by a club in top-flight history.

– Only Aubameyang (54), Mohamed Salah (54) and Jamie Vardy (50) have scored more league goals in England’s top four divisions than Aleksandar Mitrovic (49) since his Fulham debut in February 2018.

– Aubameyang has been directly involved in 16 goals in 13 Premier League appearances against newly promoted opponents (12 goals, four assists), scoring three goals and assisting one in two games against Fulham in 2018-19.

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