Karen Carney column: Why Mikel Arteta is making Arsenal fitter and better

Former Chelsea and England midfielder Karen Carney, who retired after helping the Lionesses reach the World Cup semi-finals this summer, is writing columns for the BBC Sport website, working on Radio 5 Live and featuring on BBC TV this season.

In Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat by Chelsea last month, a big factor was the Gunners’ lack of fitness.

They conceded both goals in the last 10 minutes of the game and they looked dead on their feet.

That is purely because new manager Mikel Arteta is wanting to play in a similar way to Manchester City, where he worked alongside Pep Guardiola before. It’s about high pressing and a lot of aggressive play in the attacking third. You are constantly sprinting.

It makes you wonder how unfit Arsenal were under former boss Unai Emery? That’s a worry.

And while you can see that their fitness levels have dramatically improved since Arteta came in last month, to be able to play the way he wants, they will need time to get even fitter.

The two sides meet again at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, when I’ll be doing co-commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, and it will be interesting to see their progress.

In that last game against Chelsea, Arsenal weren’t at the level Arteta needed them to be. They are more used to the training intensity now and they might have adapted more fitness-wise.

Even in Saturday’s disappointing draw with Sheffield United, the Gunners covered more ground and put in more sprints than when the Blades beat them 1-0 back in October – so there’s signs Arteta is getting more work from his players, if not the results.

Under Unai Emery, Arsenal drew 1-1 with rivals Manchester United in September. They covered a total distance of 108.32km and recorded 95 sprints during the game. Granit Xhaka (pictured left) was the team’s hardest worker, running 10.74km. However, under Mikel Arteta, Arsenal recorded a 2-0 win against United in January and covered more distance in total as a team and more sprints….