Mikel Arteta has been studying Marcelo Bielsa thanks to secret friend’s insight

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 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.

“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 his secret Bielsa source.

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“I prefer not to say…but he worked as a player and then next to him," the Spaniard added.

Arteta, 38, is building his own reputation as a top manager after swapping the number two role at City for the Arsenal hot-seat last December.

Regarding his biggest touchline role-model, the ex-Everton and Arsenal midfielder said: “You get the education from the coaches you had in your playing career.

“Then you start to follow and contact managers all over the world with different ideas – to learn and see what fits in your culture and your way of watching and understanding the game.

“There’s a bit of a mix but something has to be within you – your beliefs – and then you can take some details from somebody else.”

If Arteta enjoyed a flying start to life in North London, winning the FA Cup after eight months, this season is proving far more testing.

The Gunners are slumped in mid-table and were beaten 3-0 at home by Aston Villa just before the international break.

And the goal drought of skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is becoming a serious headache. Since signing his new deal, the Gabon striker has scored once in the league – and that was a penalty.

“We need to help him more and he knows there are things he needs to improve in his game to be more decisive,” conceded Arteta.

“It will come. I haven’t known a striker in the world that for 10 years never had a period when he’s not scoring.

“It’s about how you navigate that period and how quickly you come back to what you have.”

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