Unai Emery has taken fruit juice off the menu at Arsenal as he clamps down on the players’ diets as part of a major fitness shake-up.
New Gunners boss Emery has got tough in the canteen as well as out on the pitch to try to improve the performance of the squad he inherited from Arsene Wenger, which finished 37 points off the pace last season — closer to relegated Swansea than champions Manchester City.
It has also seen Emery introduce more intense training sessions, one-on-one sessions with players and also shake-up how gym work is done at the club’s London Colney HQ.
He has had a marquee put up at the side of the training pitches with gym equipment set up inside so players can mix in cardio work to keep sessions different and interesting.
Those sessions have been tough and demanding because Emery’s high-press tactics require tip-top levels of fitness.
Players have been impressed with the new-look training, but the manager knows it will be difficult to keep pushing them to the maximum for the whole season.
His predecessor Arsene Wenger was renowned for changing the players’ diets after arriving in English football in 1996, cutting out all booze and junk food and introducing baked chicken, fish and steamed vegetables.
But Wenger did allow the players high-carbohydrate treats, with the club even publishing their recipe for banoffee pie in the matchday programme.
However, Emery has introduced strict weighing sessions, body fat measurements and other scientific processes to monitor fitness levels and cracked down even more over nutrition with juices – which contain a lot of sugar – being replaced by plain water.
Emery, his assistant Juan Carlos Carcedo and club legend Steve Bould, a holdover from Wenger’s staff, have worked closely with players as they try to impose their methods.
They have had intense individual sessions on the training pitch with players as well as talking to them privately, as has already been the case with Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey.
Emery has made it clear to Ozil that he expects more from him and faces a dilemma over whether to recall him for Arsenal’s trip to Cardiff on Sunday.
Ozil called in sick last Friday and was left out next day for Arsenal’s win over West Ham – Emery’s first victory with the club.
Meanwhile, Germany boss Joachim Loew has launched a fresh blast at Ozil after accusing him of “exaggerating” claims of racism.
Loew also said Ozil refused to return phone calls or answer messages after the Arsenal midfielder retired from international football.
The 29-year-old quit playing for his country amid the furore over a photo with Turkey’s president Tayyip Erdogan prior to Germany’s disastrous World Cup campaign this summer.
Ozil said he had faced “racism and disrespect” because of his Turkish roots.
Loew said: “The player has not called me. In the past that was the case when players retired (from the national team). Mesut decided on a different path. I repeatedly tried reaching him via message or phone but that was not possible. I have to accept that.”
Loew admitted the row over the photo – which also included Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan – was a major distraction, as defending champions Germany ended up having their worst World Cup for 80 years as they crashed at the group stage.
“My only intention was to prepare best for the World Cup,” he said. “This issue also cost us energy because it was always there. It is, of course, no excuse for our performance. That was not the reason.
“His claims of racism are exaggerated. Nowhere within my team during my time here, there has been not even a hint of racism. I underestimated the case.”