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Mikel Arteta was the manager whose positive test started football’s Covid lockdown.
Now the Arsenal boss admits he is “worried” about the raft of new infections and rising cases ahead of FA Cup third round weekend.
Gunners boss Arteta lifted the FA Cup in August after one of the most difficult seasons in English football history and the holders face Newcastle at the Emirates on Saturday.
But there are clear worries and concerns for every club, manager and players up and down the country with football at the most worrying point since it locked down last March.
Football Association bosses are determined to play on with the Cup this weekend but Arteta admits that, while players are under strict protocols, the fears are growing.
Arteta said: “It is worrying because we see every day what is happening in the country and the level of infections. That is increasing. You can sense not the panic but the worry around everybody.
Mikel Arteta during a training session at London Colney
(Image: Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
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“We are suffering for all the people that are involved in different and difficult circumstances. We cannot isolate from that.
“What we try to do is try to maintain the infections as low as possible, follow all the protocols and the doctors are doing an incredible job to try to maintain a safe environment for us.
“We have to try to keep insisting, not just to our players but also to all the staff and everybody involved around the place, to be very conscious of how difficult the situation that we are in is and how lucky we are to still do what we do.
“They (players and staff) are worried but they know that in this environment they are really well protected. Obviously this virus is touching everybody now personally. You always have a relative, a parent, a friend that has been hit with the virus in many different ways.
“We are now very educated about it and have a history related to it. Then it becomes more worrying of course.”
Arteta became a focal point last year when the Premier League was locked down for months but Arsenal recovered to go on to win the FA Cup, a trophy he also won as a player under Arsene Wenger.
That has given him extra motivation to maintain this season’s cup run. “It was a beautiful day. It was the last game of the season, everyone took off after that and it was a really difficult end of the year with all the COVID situations that we had,” said Arteta.
“We're going to go after every competition. We are the holders, we have to defend that title. We know what it means to the football club and the history that is related to the FA Cup. It's a great competition to play in for us.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal have taken out a £120m loan from the Bank of England to help with cash flow during the Covid pandemic.
The club, which asked players to take a pay cut and was forced into staff cuts during lockdown, is stressing its to ease finances and is repayable by May 2021.
A club statement read: "The Covid Corporate Financing Facility is designed to provide short-term finance at commercial rates during the pandemic to companies that have strong investment ratings and which make significant contributions to the British economy.”
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