London (AFP) – Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta admits players will have to find motivation without the urgency provided by fans when the Premier League restarts on Wednesday.
Arteta’s side will feature in the second game of the Premier League relaunch when they face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, just hours after the opener between Aston Villa and Sheffield United.
The remaining 92 top-flight matches will all be played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus.
Having watched Germany’s Bundesliga return without fans on television before experiencing the situation himself last week during friendlies, Arteta is aware of the challenges.
He believes it will be hard for some players to display their usual intensity because they will not have the energy of a full stadium to feed off.
“When I was at the Emirates and there was no crowd, you cannot feel that energy, push or drive,” Arteta told reporters in a video press conference on Monday.
“The game is different. The intensity drops a little bit. That urgency from the crowd doesn’t exist anymore, how passionate the crowds are in England. We have to adapt.
“We have to experience it. We have to find ways to motivate our players as well in moments.”
Like most managers, Arteta has concerns about the fitness of his players after they were forced to work out on their own before the gradual return to organised training.
– ‘Ready to compete’ –
With the rest of this season being crammed into just six weeks, Arteta has told his players to forget the unusual circumstances and embrace their return to action.
“We try to make the best of it. Don’t try to make any excuses, go for it and enjoy because I think we are all missing football so much,” he said.
“I think we have found the right balance, and the most important thing was to provide the players with a safe environment to work where they could feel there was no risk, or a very limited risk, to develop their profession.
“I think we have managed to do that and from now on, the physical part is really good and the mental side as well has been a challenge over those three months. Now let’s see how ready we are to compete.”
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder and Aston Villa boss Dean Smith said they were aware the eyes of the world would be on their match at Villa Park.
“First game back is going to be a little bit different, what we understand is the magnitude of the game, the coverage of the game,” Wilder said at his pre-match video press conference on Monday.
“From our point of view we want to put on a good show and make sure we play well.”
Sheffield United, who have 10 games to play, are seventh in the table, chasing Champions League football.
Villa are in the relegation places, but Smith said it was an honour to be playing the first game in the English top flight since March.
Victory over the Blades, their game in hand over their relegation rivals, would take them out of the drop zone with nine matches remaining.
“The eyes of the world will be on us and we are looking forward to it,” Smith said.
“The players have been itching to get back.”
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