Mikel Arteta has never met Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa – either socially or in the dug-out.
Yet, while tomorrow’s trip to Elland Road changes all that, the Arsenal manager claims he already knows loads about the Argentinian – both as a character and master tactician.
Bielsa is a guru for all the game’s great modern-day coaches, including Manchester City supremo Pep Guardiola.
Arteta, having been Guardiola’s assistant at City for three-and-a-half years, holds the South American in the same high regard.
And the Gunners chief admits he is particularly well versed in Bielsa’s unique, much-lauded attributes – thanks to a close pal, whose identity remains classified information.
Arteta has admitted that he has been studying Bielsa’s method
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Arteta said: ”I haven’t spent any time with Bielsa but I know many players who have. One of my best friends spent many, many years with him.
“So I know a lot about his methods, who he is as a person and who he is as a manager. I’ve admired him for many, many years.
“I have followed his work, his ways of playing, the way he is able to change a football club immediately – with his mentality, the messages he sends and his charisma.
“I’ve been very impressed with what he’s done in England since he joined Leeds.
The Argentine, who is revered by his management colleagues, hosts the Gunners in the Premier League
(Image: 2020 Sebastian Frej/MB Media)
“He’s transformed the belief of everyone at the club – that they could come back and be the club they were a few years ago.”
Bielsa, of course, is renowned for finding out everything possible about opponents – by fair or foul means.
Two seasons ago he was caught sending a spy to Derby’s training ground ahead of a Championship clash with the Midlands outfit.
So, there was a real sense of irony as Arteta stayed tight-lipped when asked to name…