Gary O’Neil is not surprised to see Mikel Arteta flourishing as a manager.
O’Neil takes his Bournemouth side to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday for what he expects to be a very tough outing for his relegation battlers as they come up against the Premier League leaders.
The former midfielder, who battled with Arteta on the pitch during their playing careers, told a press conference: “He was intelligent on the pitch. You can generally tell in the way that they play that they’re going to go on to be managers.
“You can see they have a real tactical awareness of what’s going on around them. Not always the case, but with Mikel that was definitely the case.”
Arsenal go into the weekend with a five-point lead over Manchester City as they chase a first Premier League title in 19 years.
“He’s done a fantastic job, very impressive,” said O’Neil. “Obviously a big job to get so early on.
“I don’t think they started too well, if I remember rightly, when he first went in. There were maybe a few questions being asked. So to have turned it around and had the team in the place he has them at the moment – very, very impressive.”
O’Neil praised his side’s display last weekend despite a 4-1 defeat by Manchester City, which left them in 19th place, a point from safety.
A tough run of fixtures sees them face Liverpool next but the Bournemouth boss believes his side should not be overawed.
“It’s the toughest place to go, no doubt, at the moment,” he said of Arsenal. “They’re a fantastic side, top of the league, going to their place as well. It’s the toughest test you can face at this moment.
“But we go there with ways that we feel we can cause them a problem. Obviously the intensity they show and how aggressive they are without the ball, and how good they are with the ball, they’re a very, very good side.
“Having watched them a lot this week, no surprise that they are where they are and they’re clear at the top. They’ll be difficult to catch I’m sure but, from our point of view, we go there, we try to be well organised, we stick to our plan and we use ways that we feel we can hurt them.”
Bournemouth are bolstered by the return of Lewis Cook after a month and a half out with a knee injury while Lloyd Kelly, David Brooks, Marcus Tavernier and Illia Zabarnyi are all close to being available.