How Dubai break helped Arsenal reinvigorate
Mesut Özil, back in the reckoning again after an abysmal season, put it down to renewed team spirit.
Dubai has long been a favourite stop for Arsenal's players but this past week, the emirate became one healing retreat for a team that's currently enduring one of its worst seasons in history.
Only last March, Unai Emery came visiting to test his bench strength against Al Nasr at the official inauguration of the Al Maktoum stadium here.
But new Gunners boss Mikel Arteta said on Monday, a day before heading back to London before the English Premier League resumes after a short break, that this Dubai trip was more than a holiday for the team.
"It was the first experience for me as the manager to bring the team here. There were reasons to come here and we are really happy that we made that decision," he said during a media huddle at the Nad Al Sheba grounds where the team has been training since arriving here last Thursday.
"The facilities here are phenomenal. The weather, the conditions here (are perfect for us) to work. We are here to work, This is not a holiday. It is a mini pre-season. We are working really hard. We have been working on a lot of things that are going to be useful for us in the coming months. Besides, we have been living together - player, staff, backroom staff, everybody," he added, stressing on how training in Dubai helped change the team culture during the short 'off-season'.
"For us it (this Dubai trip) is very useful. We haven't had time together for four days since I joined because we had so many games. So, we needed a bit of getaway, put things in place and train."
Arteta, has now helped Arsenal string together three draws including a hard-fought 2-all finish against Chelsea and a 2-0 win over Manchester United in all four Premier League games this year. One of Arteta's key men, Mesut Özil, back in the reckoning again after an abysmal season, put it down to renewed team spirit - a lot of which brewed, he said, in sunny Dubai. "We like Dubai. The weather is much better than in London. It is for the first time that we have had a winter break in England, so we enjoyed as a team," he said.
"It's good for the team. We spent time together. Normally in London it's like that. We work three-four hours together and then everyone goes back to their homes but here, after training, we have lunch together, we spend a lot of time together and we grow as a team," he added, hinting on how the team bonded in just a few days.
Hector Bellerin, another of Arteta's key men and fighting fit again after a long injury layoff, hailed Dubai's "great weather and facilities" too.
"In times of rehab, in times that you need to go to work, it's very good compared to the weather in London. You take a break from rain and come to the sun. People are lovely and we always have a great time here."
Arsenal fly back to London on Tuesday ahead of their next Premier League game on Sunday, February 16, against Newcastle United. They are currently 10th with just 31 points from 25 games - one of their worst runs in decades.
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