Steve Round joined Arsenal Football Club in December 2019 as newly appointed head coach, Mikel Arteta’s assistant. Round is an experienced coach in English football and has had stints with Everton, Manchester United and England in the past. He has had fruitful collaborations with ex-England manager Steve McLaren and ex-Manchester United manager David Moyes. It looks like he is in the early stages of a significant partnership with Arteta.
Steve Round first met Arteta when he joined Everton as David Moyes’ assistant manager in 2008. As he got to know the Spaniard better, he could tell that Arteta was a cerebral footballer and a deep thinker of the game. Little did he know that just under 12 years later, he would be a part of the La Masia graduate’s coaching staff.
Round has maintained a low profile for much of his career and has maintained the same during his time with Arsenal. So far, fans have not gotten a real insight into Arteta’s deputy and so it was a pleasant surprise to stumble upon an interview that he recently did with an American golf coach named Trillium Rose. The interview covers many topics including golf and football. Arseblog has catalogued some truly insightful parts with respect to Round’s coaching philosophy and his time so far working with Arteta at Arsenal.
On joining Arsenal:
“At Arsenal, we’ve got a head coach who is the boss, Mikel Arteta, and then under him there’s two assistants. We all came in together.”
“I’d coached him previously at another club when he was a player and we kept a relationship going ever since.He got offered the job and rang me and asked if I’d come on and join his staff. I had no hesitation for two reasons.”
“One, what a magnificent club Arsenal are…it’s just a great, great football club. It’s a massive club. The other thing that attracted me, was to work with Mikel. I knew he’d need a bit of experience and some knowledge from the domestic game. I think he’s got a real chance to become one of the best coaches in the world, let alone the UK. I didn’t hesitate to join.”
On the coaching staff at Arsenal:
“There’s another coach, Albert Stuivenberg, who is very technical and tactical in his expertise. We’ve got Freddie Ljungberg who is an ex-player who is still involved as a coach and also a goalkeeper coach. That’s the inner circle.”
“From that we’ve got people from other departments, a head of sports science, Shad Forsythe, a great guy who really knows his stuff. We’ve got a doctor as the head of the medical team and then there’s the Academy and there’s so many staff there. There must be 250 staff at the training ground that look after the first team and the Academy.”
“We have a squad of around 25 first team players. There’s a mixture of some very talented young players who’ve come through the Academy and then players from around the world.”
On how coaching sessions work at Arsenal:
“There is group training almost every day and we will train skill set, skill acquisition and technical every day. They still go through skill sets every day, whether that’s in the pre-training or after training, say for example, we might bring the two centre forwards back to do extra work on scoring. We may decide we want to do penalties. Every day there’s a theme around some form of skill acquisition.”
“The middle bulk of the session is around the manager’s ideas of how we play; our methodology, this is how we play, this is what we do. Closer to the game, we start training for the opposition, so this is tweaking what we do to exploit the opposition’s weaknesses or tweak it to negate their strengths.”
On young players at Arsenal:
“We have some very good young players coming through. Some are actually doing better and are further ahead of schedule than where we thought they would be. They’ve been thrown in at the deep end but we’re really pleased with some of our young players. They’ve come through the system and have been in the system for a while, a lot of them.”
On the presence of a consistent philosophy from top to bottom at Arsenal:
“Nearly every day I will have contact and talk to and communicate with the under-18s’ and under-23s’ coaches. I might sit with them at lunch, I might go and see them, I might go and have a coffee or cup of tea with them. We’ll talk football, player development, which players are doing well and golf!”
“It’s so important that the communication lines are open, always transparent. I like to have an office door that’s always open. All of us as coaches within Mikel Arteta’s group have to be and will be very open to the rest of the coaches. It’s imperative that we’re all on the same wavelengths, singing off the same hymn sheet, have the same ideas and educating the players in the same way so that transition for a young player at 17 to step into the under-23s and then the first team is seamless.”
On the power and utility of data in player recruitment at Arsenal:
“The biggest development in football in recent years, and it’s the same in every sport, is the collection of data and metrics to predict and recruit. I think that has probably stemmed from Moneyball and the success they had there. You still have the eye on the ground, the scout, who goes and watches the players. If you have a really talented scout they are worth their weight in gold, they really are. Unlike in baseball, I don’t think in football you can go too far to data or too far to scouting, you have to have a nice blend of both.”
“You need data to support what you’re trying to look for, what’s important to you and what fits in with your team logistics and metrics. It can throw up some really interesting players, particularly young players. But then, you’ve got to see that person play, the context in which they are playing, the standard of league, how he deals with setbacks, the crowd, opposition situations, how he trains, how he interacts with people…you need an experienced scout to go and see that. When you can quantify both and bring them all together, then you’ve got a successful solution. I don’t think you can be really successful with one without the other. Data over the last 10-15 years has come on leaps and bounds, definitely.”
“We work with a company called StatDNA which is US-based. I’m not even going to start to begin to understand how they come up with these stats because it’s mind-bogglingly boring. But these guys crunch the numbers, look at the data and come up with some fascinating stuff, they really do. Then, I’ll go and watch a player live and I’ll think they were bang on with that, spot on. If I really like the player and think his mentality is outstanding and the data backs it up, then I highly recommend we sign this player. Then you’ve got other factors in terms of money and fees but I don’t have to get involved in that.”
On developing an elite culture at Arsenal:
“We’re continually working on emotional intelligence and leadership styles within the group, whether that’s the head coach, the two assistant head coaches or even the captains’ group within the team. How you formulate that is bringing togetherness, spirit. Humour is always a very good energy developer. You’re forever trying to build a resonant environment and take it away from dissonance. Discipline, self-discipline and making sure that our behaviour, positive behaviours are continually reinforced. Negative behaviours are pulled up, there are certain things we will not accept.”
“If a teammate is showing disrespect to another teammate, perhaps the ball hasn’t come to him and he’s thrown his arms up. That’s telling the world this guy has made a mistake. We don’t blame like that. We don’t do that. If the guy has made a mistake our responsibility is to help him overcome that mistake. Our responsibility, me personally, is to try and make sure the next time he doesn’t make the same mistake again.”
“You’re forever showing the players this and making them accountable and responsible for their actions. It’s making sure the environment you’re in and the culture you’re trying to build is consistent and consistent at the elite level. You’re consistently giving them the information that helps them become better players or helps them become a far better team and then you’re consistently enforcing the quality of behaviour that you want to see. There is no magical formula to generating a resonant and elite culture. It’s just every day getting all the little things right. Every day.”
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