Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta says he has been fascinated by the rapid rise of his opposite number at Dundalk, Filippo Giovagnoli, from heading up a kids' academy in New York in the early part of the year to managing a team in the group stages of the Europa League, but says that anything is possible once a coach can convince players to believe in him and what he is trying to achieve.
“I think it’s a great story,” says the 38-year-old Spaniard of the Italian whose appointment at Oriel Park in late August came entirely out of the blue. “Linking different backgrounds and different countries into that history is a good one to hear. I read a very long interview of his because I wanted to know who he is, what he is trying to do and what he is trying to express to his players and this is how I found out about what happened.
“Straight away, he said that he could feel that the players believed in what they were doing which is everything that a coach wants. I think they have created a really good chemistry, the achievement of last season has given them a big boost and big merit to them for the work they are doing.”
As for whether the Irish side can spring what would be a huge surprise in North London on Thursday night, Arteta is respectfully diplomatic.
“You never know,” he says. “This is football and I’ve seen a lot of things in this game so I don’t take anything for granted. I always expect the opponent to be at their best and after that to convince my players on what we have to do to win that game and execute it in the best possible way. And we will wait to see what happens tomorrow.
“We’ve got some Irish staff here and I’ve been told a lot of positive things about them. What I’ve seen is a really determined coach that has found a really good creation around the team, you can see in every reaction of how they are playing, how united they are.
“They are really well organised. They fight really hard and they will be coming here with an incredible passion as the underdogs and I will expect them tomorrow to be full gas trying to beat us here.
“Any team you allow them time and space will create issues. They are really strong on set pieces as well and I am sure they will prepare them for tomorrow so we have to control the normal aspects that we do every week.”