The man responsible for Arsenal’s defensive transformation who Arteta rely upon to resist Leicester city

The Gunners’ Dutch assistant coach played an important role in the win over the Foxes and has been key to the recent turnaround

Being a football manager can be a lonely job at times.

You need only look at the images of Nuno Espirito Santo standing solemnly in the technical area at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as 60-odd thousand fans booed his decision to replace Lucas Mourawith Steven Bergwijn during Spurs’ 3-0 defeat to Manchester United on Saturday as proof of this.

It’s an intense pressure that Mikel Arteta himself has experienced just this season with Arsenal’s poor start to the Premier League campaign. It’s in times like these where you need backroom staff you can rely on.

Luckily for the Spaniard he’s not lacking in that department.

During the behind closed doors matches last season those in attendance were in the privileged position to be able to hear the instructions barked by those on the sidelines to players.

Among the most vocal at Arsenal were young coaches Carlos Cuesta and Miguel Molina, while Steve Round and Inaki Cana could be heard given instructions on occasion.

The more calm and measured presence in the dugout though was Albert Stuivenberg.

The Dutch coach who sits alongside Arteta has become infamous for the AirPods he wears to receive instructions from analysts. Some have even joked that he may be actually listening to classical music in them such is his relaxed demeanour from the bench.

But don’t let this calm exterior fool you. Stuivenberg is just as passionate as any of his colleagues.

As Granit Xhaka committed an error to gift a goal to Chris Wood in the 1-1 draw with Burnley at Turf Moor last season, the 51-year-old could be seen punching the seat next to him in frustration.

It’s this passion that has been so key to the bond he and Arteta have which has roots back in the Spaniard’s playing days.

As Arteta approached the final year of his playing career, injuries kept him from the field and he was given permission by Arsene Wenger to go and pursue his UEFA A coaching license under the Welsh FA programme.

His mentor at that FAW course was Osian Roberts who would go on to introduce the future Gunners manager to his future assistant coach.

The pair kept in touch after that event and when Arteta was appointed to the main job at the Emirates in 2019, Stuivenberg, who had spent time as assistant to Ryan Giggs with Wales and Louis van Gaal at Manchester United, was one of the first appointments to his backroom staff.

It is the Dutchman to whom Arteta turns in moments of frustration during matches. On Saturday for example as Emile Smith Rowe was not on his toes to intercept a loose Leicester pass, the Spaniard turned back from the pitch to offer a look of indignation to his supportive assistant.

Stuivenberg tends to specialise in the technical side of things at Arsenal. He is a big user of video analysis and can be seen giving instructions to substitutes using an iPad in most matches as they prepare to come on.

It is this attention to detail that is understood to have been instrumental to turning the Gunners defence from one that had conceded nine goals in its first three Premier League matches to one that has conceded just four in its following seven

It was telling that after receiving the manager of the month award for September that Arteta immediately looked to dedicate the accolade to his backroom staff.

“It’s a great feeling, it means we went on a good run and won matches,” he said. “But for me it’s much more than that.

“It’s about the people involved, the people who work with me and how grateful I am to have them.

The level of trust, implication and passion that they show working alongside me every day, that gives me the strength and then the belief in the players that they can do it, and that they are good enough to win matches and that we believe in them.”

The Spaniard has rightfully been receiving plenty of credit for the way things have turned around in North London in recent weeks, but the work of the coaches around him is something he is in no mood to forget.

At the heart of that is Stuivenberg, his in game sounding board equipped with the infamous AirPods that have helped form the tactical basis on which Arteta’s project at the Emirates is being built

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button