Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta had hand in Morocco World Cup success

Arsenal train in Dubai

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Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta may have inadvertently played a role in Morocco’s remarkable World Cup success. Morocco are the first African team to reach the tournament’s semi-finals and face France on Wednesday for a shot at Sunday’s showpiece event.

And it has emerged that manager Walid Regragui was taking lessons from Gunners head coach Arteta just 12 months ago. Images on social media show Regragui taking part in a zoom session put on by the Spaniard. 

The 47-year-old can be seen on the call taking notes while Arteta breaks down Arsenal’s FA Cup semi-final triumph over Manchester City from 2020. He no doubt took plenty of key pieces of information ahead of his own major semi-final. 

Regragui has enjoyed an incredible rise of his own since that Arteta masterclass. At the time of the call, the former defender, who enjoyed a decent playing career in France and Spain, was managing Casablanca-based club Wydad AC. 

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He became Morocco boss just over 100 days ago, replacing Vahid Halilhodzic who had fallen out with a couple of key players, including Chelsea star Hakim Ziyech. Regragui’s appointment was met with derision from the Moroccan press and he was rather harshly dubbed “Mr Avocado Head”, according to Reuters. 

But those personal insults have come to a grinding halt in Qatar. Morocco have stunned Spain and Portugal on their way to the last four and are the first African nation to go so far in World Cup history. 

Regragui, who was born in France, this week hit out at critics of his style of play, with some bizarrely bemoaning Morocco’s conservative approach. “We’re going to play like we know how,” the former Ajaccio and Racing Santander man said. 

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He then hit out at football’s growing obsession with data, adding: “Possession is extraordinarily misleading – you can have 70 per-cent possession and you only shoot twice. 

“There’s expected goals too: ‘We should have won, we had four expected goals!’ We’re here to win, that’s all.”

Regragui has built Morocco’s success on incredible team cohesion, perhaps akin to what Arteta has managed with Arsenal. The likes of Ziyech, Sofiane Boufal, Sofyan Amrabat and quarter-final goalscorer Youssef En-Nesyri have all been excellent. 

Versatile midfielder Amrabat has been linked with a Premier League move. Tottenham boss Antonio Conte is known to be a keen admirer of the 27-year-old Fiorentina ace. 

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