Great rivals go from pizza to peace & love
Video referees and restrained players mean United clash no longer a war zone says Arteta
LESS desire, less belief and much more VAR has driven the passion out of those infamous clashes between Arsenal and Manchester United.
A generation of fans grew up with images of Roy Keane contronting Patrick Vieira in the tunnel and Martin Keown’s snarling figure intimidating Ruud van Nistelrooy.
There was also the longstanding Pizzagate mystery of who deep-panned Sir Alex Ferguson – a crime Cesc Fabregas eventually held his hands up to.
But in recent seasons that seems to have gone.
Perhaps the mild-mannered Mikel Arteta and jovial Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are just shadows of the fiery bosses they used to serve – proud men who never seemed to miss a chance to stir the pot.
Arteta believes it is more down to the dip in fortunes of the two clubs since Ferguson and Arsene Wenger left – and the introduction of video refereeing.
“It has calmed down, not only with Arsenal and United fixtures,” he said. “In general, you see the way the derbies used to get played and it’s not the same now. The game is evolving, we are educating the players in a different way and they are not allowed to do some of the things they used to do.
“With VAR, that’s even less. You are much more controlled and policed, so you know you’re not going to get away with certain things.”
Before Jose Mourinho’s Premier League arrival at Chelsea in 2004-05, Arsenal and United had shared the nine previous titles. Today’s game is between the sides who finished eighth and third last season.
“Before, those two teams were the candidates to win the league,” Arteta said.
“Probably it was desire and how convinced they were that they were better than the other side and the fact that, squad- wise, they were much stronger than any other teams. They had the depth and quality other teams could not get anywhere near. In this league that’s not happening. Now there are six or seven teams every season that are capable of doing that.”
Arteta admits Arsenal, in particular, have lost some of the identity they had when he was a player underWenger.
Since the Frenchman’s departure in 2018, the squad has become overblown with too many fringe players.
Arteta felt that had diluted the core characteristics he wants to build his own squad with, and he has been busy removing players such as Mesut Ozil and Sokratis who he believes have no part in the future.
“The squad is much more manageable,” he said. “The next thing that has to be right is the balance with regard to the positions and the qualities within the squad.
“Then, the characters and personalities within the team.
“That is what they create, the values, the chemistry and the culture of the club. And I have to say that I think we are going in the right direction.”
Players are not allowed to do what they used to