Daily Mail

The secrets of Arteta’s training ground brains trust

Mikel, Eddie and American friends talk managing egos, harsh truths and... buying honey in the grocery store


With Arsenal top of the table as the Premier League takes its break, Mikel Arteta might find time this week to raise a glass to his friends at ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’.

that is how England rugby union boss Eddie Jones playfully described his meetings with an internatio­nal coaching group, including Arteta, where some of sport’s sharpest minds swap secrets via Zoom. Also in the group are Mike Dunlap of the Milwaukee Bucks, basketball legend George Karl and Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur. ur.

it is a curious cross-pollinatio­n tion of sports and generation­s, a forum to share ideas. Many y details are hidden but Dunlap has allowed Sportsmail a peek behind the curtain, revealing what makes these coaches special. What makes ‘Coach Jones’ a ‘one per cent-er’ and why Arteta has the ‘it factor’.

‘What is stunning about ut both Eddie and Mikel is their eir intelligen­ce and their ideas,’ ’ says Dunlap. ‘they have a boundless van of ideas about sport, people, human nature and competitiv­e spirit.’

And what are the common themes? ‘Losing,’ says Dunlap. ‘When we’re brainstorm­ing - and Matt LaFleur is talking about, say, losing to the New York Jets and we’re sharing haring ideas… Mikel’s, Eddie’s and Coach Karl’s are fresh and bright. Sometimes, the silver bullet is obvious, “Your defence sucked”.’

Often, though, the lines separating defeat from victory are fine and it’s where problem solvingcom­es in. ‘Eddie and Mikel like to think outside the box,’ says Dunlap, 65. ‘if i went to the grocery store and there wasn’t sugar on the shelf then both would be very adept at saying, “Well, go to the next aisle and grab the honey”.’

And, though training and tactics may vary, there are ties that bind all coaches.

‘the thing that’s not different is human nature,’ says Dunlap. And both Arteta and Jones have mastered man-management.

‘to touch that nerve without harming the chemistry of the team,’ says Dunlap. ‘if they were both symphony conductors, they would be premier in understand­ing how to work that orchestra. Mikel knows how to put teams together and link the individual to the “we”.’ Meaning?

‘“here’s the benefit for you… and this is how we’re going to benefit as a team”. Sometimes with superstars that’s hard to do — they’re superstars because they’re fixated on themselves.’

Both Jones and Arteta are also notoriousl­y intense. So, are these calls any fun? ‘We laugh a lot!’ the Bucks coach insists. ‘Some of it is the frustratio­n of taking human beings out of their comfort zone and getting them to do extraordin­ary things. Essentiall­y, that is what a coach does.’

Arteta is delighted to be a part of it. ‘When i looked at the group and who was involved, i was surprised (to be invited),’ said the Arsenal boss recently. ‘these are people with so much experience, knowledge and different background­s. But it’s fascinatin­g, challengin­g, and inspiring.’

But what can Arsenal learn from rugby or basketball?

‘there are movements, patterns, things within the culture of a rugby team or a national team… the way they used to coach 20 years ago and how they coach today,’ said the Spaniard.

Arteta, who also speaks to LA Rams coach Sean McVay and has joined Jones at England camp, has found studying other sports can be more useful than seeking advice from within football.

‘the other coaches are willing to share everything, because it’s not a competitio­n,’ he said.

Jones, unsurprisi­ngly, keeps the conversati­on interestin­g. ‘i liken him to Anthony Bourdain,’ says Dunlap. ‘he has a healthy irreverenc­e to stock thought, to that standard way of saying things.’

And Arteta, 40, offers many ‘ideas about how to motivate his team’. Lightbulbs, drawings, open heart surgery — Arteta has used them all to stir emotions.

‘he understand­s how young players communicat­e,’ Jones said recently. ‘ he showed them the duck and the rabbit (an optical illusion, to prove the importance of unity). An old picture but it reinforces how important imagery is for young people to learn.’

‘i used to do exactly the same things,’ says Dunlap. ‘ You’re drawing down on ideas and then putting them in layman’s terms. With Generation Z, the medium has to be the message.

‘the great thing about the lightbulb is that he can be a month down the road and circle back to it — like a great comedian does.’

Arteta has also asked his peers to study his approach and offer feedback. ‘he has the “it” factor... he’s highly competitiv­e and intelligen­t,’ says Dunlap. ‘Put all those things together, that’s why he’s successful.’

On Jones, Dunlap adds: ‘he’s a beautiful storytelle­r and that always stains the brain. he’s highly organised — A leads to B, leads to C.’

the American was also struck by another trait: ‘humility.’ Not always a label attached to the England boss. ‘ You wouldn’t know if he was a stevedore or an elite coach… it’s so precious to meet somebody like that.’

Arteta agrees. ‘Eddie’s detail, approach, how he wants to gain advantages and get informatio­n off everybody, how meticulous he is, it’s incredible,’ said Arteta.

But one area that neither Jones nor Arteta has yet mined? Michael Jordan, Dunlap’s former boss at the Charlotte Bobcats.

‘he’s willing to tell people what they don’t want to hear,’ says Dunlap. ‘But if you’re eating dinner with him… you’re going to enjoy it. it’s not all just a hammer to the temple.’

Something to explore for Jones, perhaps, as he begins his own last dance with England. Recently, the Australian has been trying ‘mime training’ with England as they prepare for the All Blacks. it’s one Jones has borrowed from the NBA. From Dunlap?

‘No, i don’t have a good idea in me,’ he laughs. ‘i just like being in their wake and listening to them... they’re very special humans.’

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 ?? ?? Fab five: Arteta (main) confers with (clockwise from top right) NFL coach LaFleur, NBA legend Karl, Bucks boss Dunlap and England coach
Fab five: Arteta (main) confers with (clockwise from top right) NFL coach LaFleur, NBA legend Karl, Bucks boss Dunlap and England coach
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