An interview of Cahill & Arteta

Cahill and Arteta: Sticking together at The Toffees 

Guillem Balague

I recently sat down for lunch with Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta as part of an interview for The Times. It was a fantastic opportunity to listen in as the Everton pair chatted about life at the club, their relationship with David Moyes and other big personalities who have influenced them in the game. It also provided a fascinating glimpse in to the dressing room at the Merseyside club as the two teammates opened up, clearly comfortable in each other's company, trading banter and swapping stories that give us some real insight in to what the term‘Team Spirit’ really means…..


Cahill:    Mikel, as well as long siestas [laughs], what do you think we have added to this Everton side?

Arteta:     I have tried to bring some intelligence to my position. It’s great to play with passion, intensity, tackling and running, but you need to use your brain, to be tactically aware if you are going to control a game.

We’ve got a good balance here now because we’ve got Australians, Nigerians, Spanish, and South Africans: all different nationalities, different mentalities — none of them are better than the others, but we can all learn and take things from each other.

Cahill:     Tactics is something I’ve loved learning about since coming to the Premier League. Before we play Tottenham, for example, we know what their strengths are, who to stop; we know that their midfielders need to be pressed and that we have to force them to play backwards; we learn about the movement of Darren Bent, the movement of Aaron Lennon and how to show him on to his weaker foot; and then how to distribute the ball quickly enough to get at them. I really love that side of it. Sure, it can get a bit repetitive sometimes, standing around outside doing corners and throw-ins again and again.

Arteta:     I worry in case this becomes just a job and we stop having fun.

Cahill:    That will never happen to you or me. It’s a passion. In training I have a great time, playing tricks and making jokes. I feel like this is a really good hobby, it’s not a job. Then at the weekend it’s 90 minutes of football. It’s the best thing ever. And in another six years, I can go and relax.

Arteta:     Well, the enjoyment comes when you are happy with yourself. You get down when you know you haven’t put in the effort, when you haven’t run enough or whatever. But winning is, of course, wonderful, even on the beach in the summer with my mates — but if I lose, I hate it. Even playing the PlayStation or the Wii, I’m shouting, ‘What are you doing? What was that pass about?’

Cahill:    I’m the best on the Wii . . .

Arteta: . . . I am the best. I hate losing. To enjoy this game, any game . . .

Cahill: . . . you have to have competition

Arteta:     We get the chance to compete on the pitch for real twice a week, but we are competing all the time. Even today in training, we were playing seven-a-side and a goal was given, but I didn’t think the ball had crossed the line and I was going crazy at the coach, who was refereeing. But then you also have to have the talent, of course, the ability to get into the box at the right time, for instance.

Cahill:     In my case, I learnt that from a lot of the coaches that I worked under, and playing with midfielders who were very good at scoring goals.

Arteta:     I learnt to pass at Barcelona, training with the first team, with players like [Pep] Guardiola, Rivaldo, Luis Enrique and [Luis] Figo. I was amazed. They never felt threatened or worried by this young lad who might replace them; they were trying to help me all the time. They would correct me on technique, keep talking to me and giving me confidence, even praising me to the manager and press.

I remember the first time I played for the Barcelona first team, against Hertha Berlin in pre-season, I was 16. I replaced Guardiolaat half-time and after the game he sat with me and talked through everything that I had done out on the pitch. To have that from someone like him, the best in that position, you cannot have anyone better than that helping you.

Cahill:     I’ll help anyone, whether it’s on the pitch or off it; that’s my nature. When you first came to Everton, we built a good relationship and I made sure that if you needed anything, I was there. I knew what it was like for me when I arrived from Millwall: guys like Stubbsy [Alan Stubbs] and Duncan Ferguson were all nice lads. So when new, young kids come in, I help them. And if they are going to be better than me, then that’s better for the team — and it means that I have to improve.

Arteta:     We have a manager that facilitates that, don’t we? He wants to give the players everything that he can, so they have no excuses. He has been a player and he understands. If he sees that you are professional and take care of yourself, that you work hard, he will do anything for you.

Compared to four years ago, tactically he has improved, in terms of how he sees things and how he sets things up. We’ve also got better players than four years ago and that makes his job easier as well. He talks to us as well, he listens to us. I know I can talk to him and make suggestions about tactics, discuss things. Of course he’ll shout at us sometimes as well — he’s a big character — but he is also one of us and he knows that we all want to win together. And that is how we win — together. So instead of shouting we talk things through together. Shouting never made anybody better

Cahill:     The way I would characterise my relationship with the manager is that he is like a mentor. There are players around these days who don’t like their manager; not many people love their boss. But the good thing is, Moyes asks the players, ‘What do you feel went wrong?’ He questions himself — which is one of the biggest things — and then he’ll question us.

One of the biggest chats I’ve had with the manager was when we played away in the Uefa Cup against SK Brann and he told me off because Eirik Bakke smashed me off the ball. I think that the gaffer thought I’d pulled out of a tackle, which he told me at half-time. I was fuming, ’cause I’m not like that. In the second half, I went out and gave it everything: fizzed one off the post and later smashed someone down by the corner flag, got the ball and from that, we went off and scored. The gaffer was delighted — that was what he wanted to see.

Arteta:     I have heard him say he would like more Artetas and Cahills in the team. He wouldn’t say that to us. He’d probably say that because we were cheap.

Cahill:     That’s the biggest thing. You cost £2.5 million, me £1.5-2 million. For what we cost, whatever happens, we know we’ve contributed to a legacy here, to making sure this club has been successful. We’ve never been in a relegation battle since we’ve been here and we never will be, because of the characters. We hate losing.

Arteta:     And I won’t be the first with a joke when we lose. It takes me a few days to get over it. Before you start joking, you need to analyse the mistakes. Only after that do you start with the jokes to try and give people a lift. For example, after losing against Wigan, we were mentally battered — but we bounced back from that and beat Tottenham. We did it again against [Manchester] City after not deserving to lose against Villa. We are very good at bouncing back when we are down.

Cahill:     You must admit the best joke ever was when you celebrated your first goal, against Crystal Palace, and ran to celebrate in front of the Palace supporters, thinking it was the Everton fans.

Arteta:     You will miss all that when you leave.

Cahill:     I’ll definitely be going back to Australia to live — I miss the sun. Maybe spend some time in Spain with Mikel as well. I want my kids to grow up in Australia. But there is a long time to go for that.

It was hard for me to come to England; my parents had to get a loan to get me over here for a trial. I’ve made sure since then that I’ve paid them back and they’ve never had to work since the day I got my first contract. I’m opening up soccer academies for kids so that they can do what I did and have a chance. They can see that if I can do it, they can do it.

Arteta:     I will join you in Australia. No, seriously, I always said that I would love to play in Spain for a few years, but it would be very hard for me to leave England. It’s not the best weather, but there are great things here as well. I love the football, the passion, I love my team-mates — apart from you, of course!

Cahill:     You wouldn’t know what to do without me!

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