Mikel Arteta believes Basque food is the secret behind the success of a string of managers from the region.
The Arsenal manager is one of a number of coaches born in the area of northern Spain to make a name for himself on the touchline.
He will come up against another on Saturday in the shape of Bournemouth boss Andoni Iraola, a former childhood team-mate of Arteta.
Aston Villa’s Unai Emery was also born in the Basque Country – as were Bayer Leverkusen’s Xabi Alonso and former Wolves, Spain and Real Madrid manager Julen Lopetegui.
Now Arteta has discussed why he feels such a small area is responsible for creating such success.
“The food! We have the best food in the world. The best restaurants by square metre, the most beautiful city,” he said.
“It has to be linked to that — what we eat, the way we live. The quality of life in our city is incredible. I think it is related to our roots. The education, the passion about the game. You breathe it within the city. You breathe it everywhere you go.
“We played on the beach. You go there on a Saturday or Sunday and there are 300 kids playing on the beach.
“You sense that in the city. It is not just about now, because in the past they always produced coaches and good players. Somebody is doing the right thing.
“When I said the food I was not joking. It is the way they look after the city. The education, the people.
“Finding the quality and I am really really proud that I see a lot of people — not only in sport, in other industries as well — that manage to get out and promote our city in the right way.
“I think it’s the education that we get. It’s the level of coaching that we get, they really take care of the academy.
“You have seen Real Sociedad, Athletic Bilbao, Eibar all those teams do great work to raise talent and it’s not a coincidence that a lot of players have come through there.”
While Arteta and Iraola go way back, the Arsenal boss insists there will be no room for niceties come 3pm on Saturday.
“Very easy. You are in winning mode,” he replied when asked how easy it will be to put aside their friendship at the Vitality Stadium.
“That’s the beauty of football – that 30, 40 years later, we are together in the Premier League both as managers.”
Mikel speaks about his childhood friendship with Bournemouth boss Andoni Iraola
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) September 29, 2023
“Get the best for your team and get in the battle. Before and after is a different story, especially after, but during there is nothing there.
“He was really excited to come. He was really complimentary about the club and the support he was getting with players and staff. He was happy to be part of the league.
“We know each other really well. We played together, we had fantastic times together. We played together in Antiguoko, which is a team in San Sebastian – that’s the beauty of football that 30 years later we are here together in the Premier League as managers. I’m really happy for that.”