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7 Amazing Classroom Management Strategies You Can Learn From Mikel Arteta

Mikel Arteta holding the FA Cup
Mikel Arteta - Arsenal Manager

Mikel Arteta, the charismatic manager of Arsenal Football Club is a big deal.

In December 2019, the 38-year-old Spaniard stepped into a club in crisis: Arsenal hadn't had a win in 7 games & his predecessor Unai Emery, couldn't get anything positive out of the players.

To make matters worse, the club's star player, striker Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, was inching towards the door, with offers of bigger paydays and elite football. Many high profile managers avoided the club thinking it was impossible to turn it around. Not Mikel.

When he was hired, question marks were raised on Arteta's inexperience. This was his first managerial job after being the No2 at Manchester City and Arsenal were in the bottom half of the Premier League for the first time in 25 years. He was a huge risk.

8 months later, Arteta has managed to win the FA Cup, The Community Shield, convince Aubameyang to stay and beat the best teams in England; Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea in the space of 2 weeks - with the worst Arsenal squad in memory.

At this time of writing, Arteta is been praised by critics, his peers and the ever-rowdy and impatient Arsenal fans and is seen as one of the best football coaching talents in the world.

(If you want to know how rowdy Arsenal fans can be checkout AFTV on youtube 😎)

I think Mikel Arteta would make a fantastic classroom teacher & there are lots of lessons you can learn from the former Arsenal captain. I promise you, you don't even have to LIKE football to get some gems out of this post.

In this week's blog, you will learn:

1) Why setting a vision for your students is absolutely essential for your students' success.

2) Why being open, honest and vulnerable with your learners will make you more influential,

and most importantly...

3) Why having a set of 'non-negotiables' is vital to setting boundaries and raising the standards of your pupils.

Ready? Come on you Gunners!

1) Have A Clear Vision & Commit To It

A lightbulb in a blackboard with a thought bubble chalk outline.
You have to have a big idea...

"The first thing was that I got everyone together, the staff and the players, and I told them what I thought about them and why this wasn't working," he told Arsenal Digital. "If we were going to continue like this, it was never going to work.1 - Mikel Arteta

In late December, Arteta was walking into a divided club: Even before the legendary coach Arsene Wenger's bitter departure in 2018, there was bad energy around the team which leaked into their on-the-pitch performances.

Arteta's predecessor, Unai Emery started well but soon the old tensions returned. Emery for whom English was not his natural tongue, struggled to communicate with the fans and players and was removed after a year and a half in charge after 7 games without a win.

Arteta hit the ground running: At his first press conference, he spelt out in simple terms, what his vision for the club was and how Arsenal needed to get back to its core values, integrity, purpose & unity.

Arteta on his first day at the Colney, Arsenal's training ground, visited every department, repeating that same mantra and spelling out how everyone from the cooks to the players had a hand in bringing glory back to Red and White of North London.

Arteta's positivity and vision immediately signalled a change in Arsenal with the players and the fans responding positively to the ethos that he wanted to install. This was the beginning of the turnaround.

Teachers, you absolutely must cast a vision for those that you lead in your classroom. Create a picture where they can go if the class pulls together & is committed to doing the best that they can. Vision is irresistible.

If you work with students that have Social Emotional and Mental Health needs (SEMH) this can be even more vital. In my experience, these students tend to face unique challenges that can leave them feeling demotivated & disengaged with education.

When you have a new class of students, clearly state what the plan for the academic year is and walk them through the steps to achieve their goals. Answer any concerns that they have and detail how you intend to overcome any challenges.

This action alone will set you apart from other teachers that came before & light a fire in them to follow you.

2) Have A Clear Structure

A man planning on a whiteboard
A plan is only as good as the system it's based on
At the start of the day, the tech-savvy Arteta receives training data and fitness information on his phone before he even gets to work. On a typical day pre-coronavirus, his staff would arrive at the training ground at around 7.30am for breakfast. They’d then meet in Arteta’s office to go over the morning’s session, having made a plan the previous day.2

Arteta created training routines that were designed to build on each other like links in a chain. Players would be set homework looking at their strengths and weaknesses in the previous matches and would be expected to submit a report on how they can improve.

Arteta expects his players to be proactive in keeping up their own fitness regimes and will monitor them electronically, observing if they hit their targets. The players and the staff have a clear gameplan on what their roles are and how to get better daily.

This is teaching 101 right? But you would be surprised how many of us don't do this.

Make sure you have a daily routine with your students & spell out clearly how this will help them improve. Confusion leads to inaction.

  • improve sleep,

  • develop good social skills,

  • boosts academic achievements,

  • helps to build resilience in the face of adversity.

Make these routines easy to understand, relevant and constantly look at ways of improving them. Give feedback regularly and give your students the scope to set their own targets. You must create a culture of positive accountability.

3) Have An Open Mind - Diverse Thinking

A neon sign saying 'think about things differently'
Nuff said
Arteta is someone who is interested in diverse thinking: during lockdown, he was part of online webinars with Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay, England rugby union boss Eddie Jones and even a US military general with experience in Afghanistan.3

During Lockdown, Arteta didn't rest on his laurels as he used this to seek advice from people outside the world of professional football. Arteta believed that looking at how things are done in different sectors and industries could help create innovative solutions on the pitch.

2020 has seen been one of the craziest in living memory. Many believe that the world has changed forever and will never go back to normal. The old way of doing things just won't cut it anymore.

Our kids have 21st-century skills in 18th-century classrooms. They are bored stiff. And you wonder why they kick off all the time?

Be willing to explore new ideas. Take up a hobby that is outside of your comfort zone. Watch a film that you wouldn't normally see. Talk to someone that you would normally avoid. See if you can bring any of the good stuff back into your classroom to help you engage your learners.

Serial entrepreneur & author, James Althucher once quipped "innovation is simply two ideas hooking up & having a baby." The 'idea hook-up' approach is how "The Action Teacher Hero" book was born & how you are reading this blog!

For more tips to spice up your lessons, read my blogpost '4 Teaching Strategies That Will Keep Your Students on the Edge of Their Seats'

Don't just read the pedagogy stuff - mix it up like Diddy!

4) Believe In Your Students - Even The Naughty Ones

“The challenge with Granit was to convince him that there was still a place for him here, that I had big belief in him and that things can turn around pretty quickly in this industry.4- Mikel Arteta

If there is anyone that is the personification of the charge under Mikel Arteta, it's Arsenal's midfielder & current vice-captain Granit Xhaka.

Under Unai Emery, a string of poor performances by Xhaxa lead to sections of the Arsenal fanbase abusing him regularly at matches and on social media. This came to a head in October 2019, after Xhaka got a red card told the Arsenal fans to "F--- off."

Xhaka, who was Arsenal's captain at the time, and was stripped of his role. He refused to train with the other players and many thought that it was the last time that he would play for the club again.

Arteta, despite many objections, refused to let Xhaka go, telling him that he believed in him and that if he put in the work and remained positive he could turn it around. 8 months later, Xhaka was instrumental in Arsenal's FA cup matches and helped the side win it for a record-breaking 14 time.

Like Xhaka, we can have students that don't toe the line. They can be disruptive and sometimes do horrible things.

That doesn't mean we give up on them. Often their disruption is a symptom of something else happening in another part of their lives. Sometimes these disruptors have had a horrific past & their responses are an effort to express their pain.

This is not to say that we excuse poor behaviour. What we must do is use to make a 'teachable moment' so that we can stop it happening in the future.

Luckily, I wrote a detailed blogpost that walks through the process called 'Teachers, How Do You Discipline Students Who Won't Listen?' - have a read!

5) Be Open & Honest

"At the start, when I joined, I wasn't as positive as I was a few weeks ago," said Arteta, who was appointed in December. Obviously, financially, we were in a position where it was difficult to get what we wanted to get, and I think Auba had his doubts at the time.5" - Mikel Arteta

Arteta is known for being respectful but straight to the point. When he joined Arsenal, his star striker Pierre Emerick Aubameyang was packing his bag & ready to walk out the door.

Aubameyang is one of Europe's most prolific strikers and a major supplier of Arsenal's goals. Without him, Arsenal could be fighting a relegation battle. At 31 years of age, Aubameyang knew that this could be his last major move. This was a tricky situation.

Arteta after a couple of days, spoke to Auba telling him his concerns and how Arsenal may not be able to afford the wages that he was asking for. But Arteta weaved his vision for the club to the player and asked him to believe the 'Arsenal Project.'

In September 2020, Aubameyang pledged his future to Arsenal and this was seen as a major coup for Arteta. When asked why he stayed, Aubameyang said that Arteta's honesty and willingness to listen to his concerns were key factors.

Your students have brilliant BS filters. They know when you are lying to them and they hate hypocrites. Always try to be honest with them. If they are misbehaving, tell them. If they can improve in an area, tell them.

Frank, open conversations are what brilliant leaders are great at. They enhance your authority and can help you to build your rapport with your students. Your ability to empathise and listen to your learners shows that you are someone worthy to be trusted and followed.

Get to know your students. Respect their culture. Learn what their needs are & try to meet them.

6) Create a Fun Learning Atmosphere

"Although Arteta demands utter professionalism from those under his charge, he is not without a sense of humour... In recent months, the club's code of conduct has seen a playful new addition the Spaniard brought with him from Man City: 'The Wheel of Fortune.'6

This is genius. When a player breaks a minor rule such as being a few minutes late, Arteta rolls out the 'Wheel of Fortune' which has a number of different punishments such as cleaning the dressing room, paying a minor fine or polishing the captain's car.

Even though this could have easily been a negative interaction, Arteta managed to turn infractions into fun challenges that have lifted the spirits of the players.

Your classes do NOT have to be boring. Having a sense of humour and a laugh with your students is NOT the enemy of effective teaching & learning.

Mikel Arteta has what Viv Groskop would say is 'Happy High Status' - a person with authority that is secure enough in his position to be positive and spread it to others. This is the 'x-factor' that people call 'charisma' and the good news is we can improve on it.

To find out how to harness this power, read my blogpost "3 Comedy Skills That Will Help You Manage Any Classroom, Any Time."

7) Have 'Non-Negotiables'

Arteta has his 'non-negotiables,' a minimum requirement that players work hard, and his no-nonsense approach as a manager may not surprise those familiar with him at Arsenal as a player and captain - a consummate professional and stickler for standards, attitude and application levels.7

To sum up this post, I personally believe that a lot of Arteta's magic from his 'non-negotiables' - standards of excellence that he expects every single player to follow on and off the pitch.

Arteta although he is very personable, is not a soft-touch: Mesut Ozil, arguably Arsenal's most gifted playmaker, has not played a competitive match for months because it is alleged that he hasn't shown the effort and application that Arteta demands from the team.

Matteo Guendouzi, the young French rising star, fell short of Arteta's standards when in late June this year, he grabbed a Brighton player around the neck after an ill-tempered game. He allegedly refused to apologise for his actions to Arteta and the fans. Guendouzi has not played since.

Despite these players' popularity, Arteta hasn't relented. Leadership is sometimes about making the unpopular choices and you as a classroom teacher is 'the boss.'

If you have students who repeatedly cross the boundaries that you set, you must deal with them efficiently and firmly but gave your students a way to make up for their mistakes.

If you enjoyed this post, stick around for the next 3 weeks because we are going to go in-depth on how you can create your own 'non-negotiables' that will help you challenge and motivate your learners.

Don't want to miss a post? That's easy.

Sign up to the 'Action Hero Teacher Blog' below. It will take you 20 seconds - less time than Aubameyang took to smile after he won the FA cup this Summer!

Karl from

1. 2020. How Arteta changed the culture around the club. Max Jones [ONLINE] Available at:

2, 3, The Athletic. 2020. Arteta's Arsenal. David Ornstein, James McNichols and Amy Lawrence [ONLINE] Available at:

4. Daily Cannon. 2020. Mikel Arteta explains how he turned Granit Xhaka and David Luiz around. Lee Hurley [ONLINE] Available at:

5. 2020. Arteta admits he was worried Aubameyang would depart Arsenal. Ben Spratt [ONLINE] Available at:

6. GiveMeSport. 2020. Mikel Arteta has created 'Wheel of Fortune' for Arsenal players to spin after breaking rules. Oliver Browning [ONLINE] Available at:

7. Mail Online. 2020. Mikel Arteta has laid down a marker in his bid to change Arsenal's culture... Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi's dropping shows actions have consequences under the new regime. Adrian Kajumba [ONLINE] Available at:



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