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'I wanted to know who he is, what he is trying to do': Arteta studies Giovagnoli ahead of Dundalk clash

The sides will meet in their Europa League group game tonight.

MIKEL ARTETA EXPLAINED yesterday that he needed to learn about the man to understand his team.

sean-murray-and-brian-gartland Sean Murray and Brian Gartland at the airport departing for the clash with Arsenal. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“I read a very long interview of his because I wanted to know who he is, what he is trying to do and this is how I found out about what happened,” the Arsenal manager said of Dundalk boss Filippo Giovagnoli.

“It’s a great story. Straight away, he said that he could feel that the players believed in what they were doing which is everything that a coach wants. I think they have created a really good chemistry.

“You can see how united they are. They will be coming here with an incredible passion.”

That last line, while delivered without malice, is the sort of cliché which Dundalk thought they had obliterated during their first Europa League campaign in 2016.

Under Stephen Kenny they played a brand of football which had Zenit St Petersburg, AZ Alkmaar and Maccabi Tel-Aviv all re-evaluating their assessment of what Irish teams – and players – were capable of.

Four years later and, while much has changed at Oriel Park, they remain the underdogs of their Europa League group.

“Listen, Mikel Arteta is an inspiration for us,” Giovagnoli insisted. “The style that he wants to implement with Arsenal is completely an inspiration for us, trust me. The way they want to build up, they even did it against Liverpool, one of the teams that press better in the world, they didn’t care, they just wanted to build up from the goal.

“It’s an attacking style but true principles of build up, it’s amazing. Their reaction to losing the ball is amazing. They defend forward and what they try to apply is amazing. You can see what he wants to do and of course it’s going to take time to consolidate the style he wants to apply but he’s in the right way to do it.”

arsenal-v-leicester-city-premier-league-emirates-stadium Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta. Source: PA

If Dundalk are to have any chance of causing a sensation at the Emirates, Giovagnoli is adamant they must use their heads in how they execute their game plan.

For Sean Murray, he has taken such instructions literally with a slew of timely headed goals. His three in Europe this season – against Sheriff, KI and Molde – have made sure the midfielder goes down in Lilywhite lore.

“I think it’s less about my heading ability and more about the timing of the runs,” he added. “I’ve been getting in the box at the right time and the wingers have been putting in crosses so you can’t really ask for much more.

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“They’re all in and around the six-yard box and, as you can see, all I’ve to do is get a little touch on it which is perfect for anyone.

“I missed a lot of games last year through injury, played a lot of games not at full fitness as well. Hopefully I’m getting there now and the run of games I’m having is definitely helping towards that.

“I think playing higher up the pitch and getting to know the position I’m playing in and that’s getting me in the box more often and chances are falling to me.”

Having spent his formative years at Watford, who actually took over Arsenal’s old training ground right next door to their upgraded one, Murray got an up close sense of how the elite operate.

He remembers Hector Bellerin being sent over for a loan spell when he was a teenager, and while their careers diverged towards different stratospheres since, tonight they will occupy the same stage.

“He was a great player, a great guy. I’m happy to see how well his career has gone. He was good, he did the simple things very well,” Murray said.

“We were playing in the Championship at the time and he adapted to the game so well, so credit to him.

“Clearly, it’s not going to be a lot of time when we have the ball and we need to keep it when we do have it. It’s going to be difficult but I think that’s where we need to show a bit of confidence and bravery to take the ball and do our best with it.

Our chances are going to be limited, we know that. But we need to do the best we can. We’ve to look at the games they’ve played and obviously they are a great team. But there are some weaknesses there, if you can say that.”

Arsenal v Dundalk, Virgin Media 2/BT Sport 2, 8.0

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About the author:

David Sneyd

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