Having seen Javi Gracia take seven points from his first four games in charge of Leeds United, Mikel Arteta admits that he has been impressed with what Spaniard has brought to Elland Road.
The Whites made the decision to move on from Jesse March last month, and Arteta’s countryman swiftly picked up wins against Southampton and Wolves as well as drawing against Brighton & Hove Albion to help pull his team out of the relegation zone and up to 14th position in a congested bottom half of the table.
Their revival has been noted by Mikel, who is under no illusions that our clash at Emirates Stadium on Saturday will be as tough a test as the one we faced in the reverse fixture back in October where a Bukayo Saka goal separated the sides,
Assessing what we could be facing, he said: “They have a very clear DNA - how they behave, the character, the passion and energy that they play with. They’ve been doing it for a long, long time and now with a new manager as well with some new ideas, some players that have been injured that they have had some issues with they are back, so they are a very dangerous team.
“We have discussed openly and very clearly about what we are going to expect tomorrow, and that we have to be really good to beat them.
“They want the points as much as we want them. Hopefully we want them more than them and we can show that on Saturday, but obviously it’s a team that has its needs. They are playing at a really good level and they got a really good result in their last one [against Wolves], and like we have always done, we have to earn the right to win the game.”
Gracia is someone that Arteta has known of for a long time, as he played for Real Sociedad in San Sebastian where a young Mikel grew up watching his local side.
His managerial career has taken him to clubs such as Malaga, Rubin Kazan, Valencia and Watford, and that experience and tactical nous was what attracted Leeds to appointing him. Mikel feels that was a good move.
“I know him as a player as he used to play in my hometown really well,” he said. “He is a really good coach, really dedicated, thoughtful and very clear in his ideas of how he wants his team to play.
“He can vary as well, as he has done at many clubs with his way of playing and formations, so he is very adaptable. He’s coached so many teams already so that shows the quality that he has, and I think so far he has done really well.”
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