‘Everything happened very fast’: Mikel Arteta opens up on positive test | Football

A recovering Mikel Arteta has shed light on the background to his coronavirus diagnosis, which hastened the Premier League’s decision to suspend the season’s activities.

The Arsenal manager tested positive for Covid-19 on 12 March and, the following day, the league was put on hold with an initial return date of 4 April. That has been extended to at least 30 April as the crisis continues to escalate, but Arteta is feeling better and explained how the situation came about. Alarm bells had rung when Evangelos Marinakis, the president of Arsenal’s Europa League last-32 opponents, Olympiakos, returned a positive test.

“Everything happened very fast,” Arteta told the Spanish television channel La Sexta. “On Tuesday afternoon I was feeling so-so and I went to see the doctor but he wasn’t there. I got a call from the board of directors after training while I was in my car and they told me the president of Olympiakos had tested positive and everyone who had been in contact was at risk.

“I went on to tell them that I wasn’t feeling well and that we had a situation because we had lots of players that had been in contact with them. We had a game against Manchester City the next day and obviously we couldn’t put lots of people at risk without saying anything.”

The match at the Etihad was postponed and Arteta was tested for coronavirus that day. “I had the test done last Wednesday and I was diagnosed on Friday, when we had to communicate it to the Premier League that I had tested positive,” he said. “Obviously all those who had been in contact with me had to go into quarantine, and consequently games had to be suspended.”

Arteta said he was “very well now, I feel that I have recovered” and that it took three or four days for the symptoms of Covid-19 to pass and for his energy levels to return.

Nonetheless, Arsenal have put training on hold indefinitely, stating that it would be “irresponsible” to return to action on Tuesday as originally planned. Around 100 club employees, including the entire first-team squad and coaching staff, will complete 14 days’ self-isolation on Monday night after Arteta’s positive test.

“We are clear it would be inappropriate and irresponsible to ask the players to come back at this time,” a club statement read. “Therefore our men’s first team, women and academy players are all remaining at home. Stay at home and save lives.”

The decision not to train was taken after guidance from the head of medical services, Gary O’Driscoll, who has been at the heart of Arsenal’s strategy for dealing with the virus. Wider government advice on social distancing was foremost among the considerations but there also remain concerns about getting the players together so soon after Covid-19 was detected within the camp.

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There is an awareness that players, particularly those from abroad, may take their news from differing sources so the government’s guidelines, as well as other important updates as the wider situation changes, are being communicated to the squad via WhatsApp. O’Driscoll has led that effort, although Sanllehi and the director of football operations, Huss Fahmy, are believed to have been particularly active in staying on top of the messaging.

Arteta has also been in touch with his players. Injured squad members such as Calum Chambers and Lucas Torreira are continuing their rehabilitations via streamed one-on-one sessions with the medical staff. Shad Forsythe, the head of performance, has been integral to drawing up tailored plans while the club decide upon their next move.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have confirmed that their match-day and non-match-day casual workers will continue to be paid until 30 April. The situation will be reviewed when a further decision is made on when football can resume.

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