Arteta reveals players have embraced 'homework' set during lockdown

‘We might get a few coaches after this virus’: Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta reveals players have embraced ‘homework’ set by him during Covid-19 lockdown as football grinds to a halt

  • Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is looking to get the most out of his players 
  • Arteta has set his players ‘homework’ despite the country verging on lockdown 
  • The Spaniard was one of the first big name footballers to contract coronavirus 
  • Arteta has since recovered and says the experienced strengthened his values 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta has revealed he has set his players ‘homework’ as they continue to train alone due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Gunners, like all professional clubs, have their squads working on training regimes in the home after the football season ground to a halt following the spread of the virus.

Arteta tested positive for Covid-19 two weeks ago but has now recovered and he has spoken about how he is in constant contact with his backroom staff and players to continue as normally as possible in such trying times.

Mikel Arteta wants his Arsenal players to remain as sharp as possible during isolation period

‘There are different aspects that we have to try to maintain,’ Arteta, who turned 38 on Thursday, said.

‘There is the psychological support that they need, which we are giving them, and as well I’m giving them a lot of homework to do because I’ve been reviewing everything that we’ve been doing since I joined.

‘There are things we have to maintain doing, improve and develop, and individually they are really enjoying the challenge.

‘We might get a few coaches after this virus, or at least a few players that are willing to go down that path, because I think they are really enjoying the process.

The Gunners have each been given ‘homework’ after Arteta reviewed their season so far

‘In difficult moments is where you really see the people and how they react, how they think and how they prioritise things.

‘All the phone calls I’m having with all the members of the board and all my technical staff, all the coaching staff, all the players, how aware and how encouraged they all are to try to help, to try to be on board with the situation and to try to make things easier for the club has been amazing.’

Arteta, whose wife – as well as his children’s nanny – also contracted coronavirus, was self-isolating before the government called for people to remain at home and has had a while to adapt to the situation.

While setting tasks for his squad has been an important part of his job, he also revealed how he has enjoyed being able to spend more time with his young family as a result.

He added: ‘I have three kids with a lot of energy! They are 10, seven and four so you can imagine! I am a very positive person and I try to take the moment to say ‘OK, what can we take from this? What’s the lesson here and what’s the opportunity for us?’

Uncertainty still shrouds football, with no clear indication as to when the season will resume

‘For 17 years, I haven’t had the opportunity to wake up with my kids and spend a lot of time, dedicate my time and listen to them. You know, do their homework with them and the same with my missus.

‘So this is a great opportunity. There are no excuses. We are in the household together and we are really enjoying those moments as well.

‘I think we are all realising how much we need each other. We are in a world here where everything is social media, everything is a WhatsApp text.

‘But how important is touching each other, feeling each other and hugging each other? I miss that a lot with a lot of people that I love.

‘I cannot do it now and I am sure that will transform a little bit of how people behave with their close ones.’





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AFL clubs hope to have membership options within a fortnight

AFL clubs hope to be able to give their members a range of options to consider in the next fortnight as they scramble to make suitable arrangements for supporters in an interrupted season.

Club CEOs including Carlton's Cain Liddle and Richmond's Brendon Gale have been working together to create a uniform position across the 18 clubs with the clubs agreeing early in the piece that it would be not help anyone if wealthier clubs used their financial position to make offers to members that other clubs couldn't match.

The working group is understood to be considering offering members options such as credits on future memberships, converting memberships into tax deductible donations, as well as offering refunds where needed although nothing has been finalised as yet.

With the game suspended until at least May 31 (although few expect it to return that early) and a new fixture to be developed if the season does get underway, significant uncertainty remains as to what lies ahead with AFL CEO Gill McLachlan saying he is prepared for the season to extend until the end of the year to ensure the remaining 144 games plus finals are played.

Geelong CEO Brian Cook told a KRock podcast that the Cats had been overwhelmed with support from members as the industry dealt with the myriad of decisions required after the game was cancelled due to government restrictions in place to control the spread of the coronavirus.

"We’ve been working towards a common strategy for all clubs, and it will involve, eventually, several options for their members to consider," Cook said.

AFL clubs hope to have an update on memberships within a fortnight. Credit:Getty Images

Cook expected club members would have about five options to consider once clubs and the AFL had approved the approach with the veteran CEO also anticipating it would need the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's tick of approval.

"I’m expecting [in] about a week or so, we’ll be able to go out to members and say, 'Look, here is our offer'," Cook said.

The AFL said at their season launch that one in 24 Australians are members of clubs. The range of membership options provided by clubs are enormous, ranging from three-game memberships to digital memberships, season ticket holders, reserve seats, season ticket holders and corporate packages or social club memberships.

Membership has been one of the game's biggest growth areas with club bosses describing members as the "lifeblood" of clubs before the coronavirus crisis.

Club officials have been heartened by the response of members with more people happy to leave their money with the club at this stage than wanting refunds. All clubs have had people buy memberships since the season cancelled too.

However they are also conscious there are many people, like clubs, who have suddenly been hit with significant financial troubles as jobs disappear so they are attempting to work out a suitable solution.

It's unclear at this stage what approach will be taken with AFL members.

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‘They have been tremendous’: Coach pays tribute as Warriors head home

The New Zealand Warriors are free at last. The poster boys for the NRL's attempt to keep the competition running amid the COVID-19 pandemic are on their way home on Tuesday morning after two anxious weeks away from family and friends amid the escalating health crisis.

After getting news last night that the NRL was unable to continue after two rounds, the Warriors left their Kingscliff base early to fly out of the Gold Coast airport, where coach Stephen Kearney paid tribute to a group of players that had done all they could to squeeze every last drop of rugby league out of the competition.

New Zealand Warriors players arrive at Gold Coast Airport as they prepare to fly home.Credit:Phil Lutton

Should the season be done for good in 2020, their record will read 0-2. Off the field, they were the ones bearing the brunt of the disruption after leaving New Zealand for one game and facing the prospect of being marooned for the entire season.

That it didn't come to that was a relief to Kearney and his players, who were stoic throughout and said they were just doing their jobs. They would have to bring in players not in their top 36 to even get on the field but refused to even suggest it was an excuse.

"There's a touch of sadness that the competition is off but, yeah, I know there was an element of relief when the boys got the news," Kearney said.

"It was a bit of a challenge but we wanted to get on with the job. That's what the situation demanded. You look around and watch the news, it's tough for everyone."

The pace of the pandemic's spread and the increasingly draconian measures being put in place to halt it has been rapid. The Warriors face a 14-day isolation when they return home and New Zealand, like many parts of the world, could well be moving to a complete lockdown.

That wasn't the kind of scenario players and staff wanted to be in when they were out of reach of loved ones. Kearney said a beach walk on Sunday morning, after Saturday's loss to the Raiders, presented some sobering realities.

"That's was when a lot of stuff began to hit home. We went for a walk after the match on Sunday morning and were listening to some podcasts and you quickly realise how severe and dire the situation is worldwide.

"It's going to take some time, no doubt. And that's what was going to be the challenging part over coming weeks, if we were to keep going, how all that was going to transpire. Given they wouldn't have been able to get into the country, it was a big challenge."

Some players went home once the travel bans were put in place, including Peta Hiku, whose partner was expecting a child. Kearney said an emotional Hiku had been on the phone feeling as if he had let the team down. Senior players quickly assured him he was in the right place.

"They have been tremendous. I knew that from the beginning. Guys back home, Peta Hiku, he was in tears on the phone wanting to come and help out. His partner hadn't had a baby yet but the leadership group was telling him 'it will be all right'.

"It's a real testament to them and the character they showed. I'm very proud of them."

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Sportsmail reporters have their say on Gilmour and Scotland

Having stolen the show in Chelsea’s FA Cup win over Liverpool… should 18-year-old Billy Gilmour be fast-tracked into Scotland’s squad? Sportsmail reporters have their say

  • Billy Gilmour stood out in front of Scotland boss Steve Clarke on Tuesday night
  • Clarke was at Stamford Bridge to see Gilmour in the FA Cup against Liverpool
  • Sportsmail reporters debate whether he should go straight into Scotland’s team 

Billy Gilmour’s man of the match performance for Chelsea in their FA Cup win over Liverpool has seen calls grow louder to insert him straight into the next Scotland line-up. 

Scotland manager Steve Clarke was at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night to watch the teenager boss the midfield battle against seasoned professionals such as Fabinho and Adam Lallana. 

With that in mind, Sportsmail reporters debate whether it would be the right decision to put Gilmour straight in from the start for Scotland. 

There are growing calls for 18-year-old Billy Gilmour to be fast-tracked into the Scotland team

John Fleck. Jack Harper. Scott McTominay. Scottish football is littered with the names of kids built up as the potential saviours of a failing national team.

The desperation for a superstar up to the job of leading Scotland’s national team back to a major finals is such that kids ill-equipped for the pressure are chewed up and spat out.

They explode on to the scene like a firework, fizz, dip and crash into a ditch. Rarely, if ever, is the ludicrous hype and expectation placed on their shoulders by a media and Tartan Army starved of world class footballers justified by reality.

Scott McTominay has previously been viewed as a potential saviour going forward for Scotland

That’s why the performance of Billy Gilmour against a strong Liverpool side should come with a note of caution.

To watch the Ayrshire teenager take the ball in tight, confined spaces and use it productively with confidence and intelligence was joyous. It felt like a throwback to old times.

But Andrew Robertson is a Champions League winner. And even he hasn’t managed to transform Scotland’s fortunes. McTominay is a regular starter at Old Trafford – and it hasn’t made much odds.

By all means put Gilmour in to the starting line-up against Israel. But let’s be clear that he’s not the new Messiah – just a very talented boy.

Mark Wilson

All the evidence suggests Billy Gilmour could handle it against Israel. And then some. 

The smile across his face as he controlled midfield operations against Liverpool on Tuesday evening didn’t suggest a young man who has any issues in shouldering expectation.

Retaining possession under pressure can too often be a flaw within Scotland’s make-up. Gilmour’s supreme composure on the ball could be one way to bring more reassurance. He plays with a maturity well beyond his 18 years.

The teenager controlled the midfield against Liverpool but competition is tough with Scotland

The question for Steve Clarke, however, will be about the balance of a midfield that is the most well-stocked department of his squad. 

Even if John McGinn doesn’t make it, Clarke still has Callum McGregor, Scott McTominay, John Fleck, Ryan Jack, Ryan Christie and Stuart Armstrong in contention.

Gilmour does offer something a little different, though. A place in the squad should be granted to allow this prodigious talent an opportunity to convince Clarke he is ready to step in.

John McGarry

No. But that has absolutely nothing to do with his precocious ability or the fact that he is still only 18 years old.

To shoehorn the Chelsea midfielder into the side, Steve Clarke would most likely have to omit Callum McGregor or Ryan Christie.

Both of the Celtic men are vastly more experienced at European and international level and have earned their places against Israel. Unfortunately for Gilmour, Scotland’s midfield is the one area in which we are well served.

You’d have him in the squad in a heartbeat, though, hopefully remaining there when the Euros come around. Come the summer? Who knows?

Callum McGregor would have to make way for Gilmour and he has more experience to rely on

His time will assuredly come sooner rather than later and when it does Scotland managers of the future will have a truly supreme technician to build their team around.

It’s a truly thrilling prospect. But amid the understandable excitement his display against Liverpool on Tuesday generated, we should not forget of the enormity of the task that awaits against Israel and, God willing, Norway or Serbia.

As far as Billy the Kid is concerned, Clarke should resist the temptation to now throw him into the firing line. This is an occasion for the sure shots.

Brian Marjoribanks

As recently as November, Billy Gilmour looked a long way off full international recognition.

‘He’s probably not as close as people would think,’ said national team boss Steve Clarke after overlooking the Chelsea teenager for matches against Russia and San Marino.

‘Listen, Billy’s an exceptional young talent, and we have to give the young players time to grow and develop.’

His performance against Liverpool has seen calls to go into Scotland’s first team grow louder

But that stance should now change after Clarke watched in person as Gilmour’s breakout man-of-the-match performance in the FA Cup against Liverpool on Tuesday night saw the 18-year-old suggest he is the future of Scottish football.

Hailing his ‘incredible performance,’ in a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea boss Frank Lampard said it was a ‘comfortable choice’ to select Gilmour for such a big match.

Whether it’s from the start or off the bench, Clarke should now have the same mindset as Lampard and fast track this generational talent into Scotland’s huge Euro 2020 play-off against Israel.

Calum Crowe

Liverpool’s Fabinho has established himself as the best holding midfielder in the Premier League over the past 18 months. Yet, there were times when he was chasing shadows trying to get near Gilmour on Tuesday night.

There was one instance, in particular, when the Brazilian was the victim of some sublime samba soccer as Gilmour basically sent him for a pie with a brilliant backheel, turn and nutmeg – all in one move.

If Gilmour can run the show with such poise and composure against the best team in Europe right now, spare me the notion that he would somehow struggle against Israel.

Gilmour showed age is just a number as he managed to boss Liverpool’s midfield on Tuesday

Football has evolved. Age and physical stature (let’s not even get into Gordon Strachan’s genetics theory) are irrelevant. What counts more than anything is raw talent and it’s clear that Gilmour has it in bucketloads.

Over the past decade, we’ve had so many similar, stuffy holding midfielders. Gilmour offers a real point of difference with his ability to take the ball in tight spaces and pull the strings from a deep position.

Wouldn’t it be poetic if this young thruster, not even born the last time Scotland reached a major finals, came in at the 11th hour of this campaign and led us back to the promised land?

Graham Swann

The time has arrived for Billy Gilmour to be rewarded with a place in Steve Clarke’s Scotland team.

If we needed any more evidence, the 18-year-old’s performance for Chelsea against Liverpool on Tuesday proved this exceptional talent can cope at the highest level.

As well as his composure on the ball, awareness of when to tackle and play the right pass, and shielding the back four, trust forms a huge part of any footballer’s game.

Gilmour offers something different and deserves to be rewarded by selection for Scotland

It speaks volumes for Gilmour that Blues boss Frank Lampard – not to mention a fair few experienced heads in the Chelsea team – have belief in what the young Scot can do. At no point did he look fazed or daunted.

Clarke, of course, doesn’t lack options in midfield, Scotland’s most competitive area. But Gilmour deserves his chance. The country needs a lift ahead of the most crucial game in a generation.

Team-mates trust him. Lampard trusts him. It’s time a nation backed Gilmour to help end the pain for Scotland on the international stage.




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Does the XFL have a quarterback crisis just three weeks into existence?

Steve Young and Jim Kelly engaged in one of the greatest quarterback duels of all time 35 years ago this week.

The two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks combined for 829 passing yards in a 34-33 thriller. Kelly had a record 574 yards and five touchdowns. It was one of the greatest games of all time — and it happened in a 1985 game between the Houston Gamblers and Los Angeles Express of the United States Football League (USFL).

Fast forward to the 2019 version of the XFL, which has seen ratings dip for the second straight week. It’s no accident why those ratings are slipping: The quarterback play, even with the emergence of players such as Houston’s P.J. Walker, needs to be better for this league to survive past the incubation period.

The average XFL game through three weeks of the season features 432.3 passing yards, 3.1 touchdowns and 2.3 interceptions. Teams average 216.1 passing yards per game, which would have ranked 22nd in the NFL in 2019. That’s not enough to captivate a new audience.

Walker has been great through three weeks. He leads the XFL with 748 passing yards and 10 passing touchdowns to one interception. He might even get a look at an NFL roster. The XFL needs at least half of its quarterbacks to perform at that level. Walker needs to be the rule, not the exception.

Take out Walker’s stats, and the rest of the league averages 211.4 passing yards per game with 28 touchdowns to 28 interceptions. DC’s Cardale Jones and St. Louis’ Jordan Ta’amu are the only quarterbacks who have started in all three games and average more than 200 passing yards per game (and Jones is coming off a four-interception disaster after an encouraging start). Dallas’ Landry Jones and Los Angeles’ Josh Johnson would be in that group too, had they not missed a start.

That is the good group of XFL quarterbacks. Keep in mind, this league was selling Landry Jones as a star from the start. But if you take out Walker’s stats again, there have been eight games in which quarterbacks have thrown for multiple touchdowns. That matches the eight games in which quarterbacks have thrown multiple interceptions. Again: nowhere near good enough.

Quarterback is the toughest position in sports, made more difficult with a struggling pass protection (XFL games average more than four sacks per game) and absence of a consistent run game. A quarterback who averages 216.1 yards in the NFL would have fallen between Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky and Denver’s Joe Flacco last season. Those two aren’t exactly beloved by their fan bases at the moment.

None of this should come as a huge surprise for the viewership. Arena Football and the CFL have quirks to get around that. Does the XFL have the same thing in mind? This is the bind for XFL commissioner Oliver Luck.

If it truly is to be a developmental league, then you have to stick with quarterbacks such as Walker, Jones and Ta’amu. But in a league with eight teams, quarterback disasters such as the one in Tampa Bay (whose three quarterbacks have combined for one touchdown and six interceptions) and New York (whose quarterbacks have combined for two passing touchdowns and three interceptions) — are much more visible.

With that said, should the XFL seek out more visible quarterbacks? The list is easy to come up with: Colin Kaepernick is too expensive. What about Johnny Manziel? Tim Tebow? Could the commissioner pull Andrew Luck out of retirement? What’s Brett Favre doing? The problem with that solution is you admit that the current system is broken. It would become more of a sideshow than a true developmental league. The better option is to get through the growing pains at quarterback soon, if possible.

The USFL had the advantage of attracting star players such as Kelly and Young. The XFL is nowhere near that zip code.

In the meantime, the best hope is for these current quarterbacks to deliver. There’s an opportunity for that this week when Houston meets Dallas on Sunday. The XFL needs Walker and Jones to put on a show to rekindle some interest.

Chances are people won’t be talking about Walker-vs.-Jones matchup in 35 years.

But the XFL needs to make sure people are talking about it right now.

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