(Reuters) - The Premier League’s first ever winter break gave the Arsenal squad the opportunity to take new ideas on board and also to gel together ahead of the final stretch of the season, manager Mikel Arteta said on Friday.
Arteta has been attempting to stabilise Arsenal’s floundering season since former boss Unai Emery was sacked in December. The London side sit 10th in the standings — 10 points behind the fourth and final Champions League spot.
Although there has been an improvement in both their style of play and the cohesiveness of the side, results have been hard to come by, with Arsenal drawing their last four league games ahead of Sunday’s home match against Newcastle United.
“It (the winter break) was like a mini pre-season for us in Dubai,” Arteta told reporters. “We had time to work on a lot of our principles, how we want to set up against different formations, the relevant things we need to work on and off the ball.
“It was great to... spend some time together, get to know each other, not just with the players but the staff and backroom staff. It was a very productive trip.
“We reflected on what we did together in the last five or six weeks since I joined, the things we improved and are very positive and we have to maintain, and also the things we need to improve and develop.”
Arsenal reinforced their defence in the January transfer window, signing centre back Pablo Mari and right back Cedric Soares on loan, but Arteta said neither defender was ready for Sunday’s match with Cedric still recovering from a knee injury.
“Pablo hasn’t competed since the end of December,” Arteta said. “He had a little issue. He’s been training with us the last week or so in and out a little bit. He’s been looking good.
“I think this game will come a little bit too early for him but I expect him to start joining the squad in the next week or so.
“(Cedric) is very disappointed, obviously when you join a new club you want to make an impression straight away. He had an issue in his knee, it’s not completely healed yet.”
Arteta also said left back Kieran Tierney’s recovery from a shoulder injury was on track but they would not risk him until he was ready.
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge