In recent years, specialisation in coaching has become ever more granular, from set-pieces – defensive and attacking, to individual performance coaches, and much more besides.
The football world raised eyebrows when Liverpool brought in Thomas Gronnemark, a former Danish bobsleigh athlete to be their throw-in coach, but increasingly clubs and managers are looking for anything which will give them marginal gains in the competitive landscape of the Premier League and beyond.
So it should come as no surprise to learn that Mikel Arteta and Arsenal are set to appoint a new specialist to the coaching staff at the end of this season.
Arseblog News can exclusively reveal that the manager has personally selected a former Barcelona academy player, Joan-Carlos Zapato to become the club’s new ‘Head of Kicking’.
Arteta and Zapato spent some years together at La Masia, but while the former went on to have a long professional playing career, his compatriot never quite made the grade and has built a career as a coach.
He started working with regional Spanish clubs, including Recreativo Granada, Rayo Majadahonda, Vilanova i la Geltru, and Pontevedra, before spending the last eight years as a specialist consultant to sides like Levante, Racing Santander, and Deportiva la Coruna (where he worked with former Gunner Lucas Perez).
Having suffered an injury as a youngster which subsequently impacted the way he could kick the ball, he became obsessed with the biomechanics of the foot and how small changes to technique could have an effect on the power and accuracy that footballers produce.
He studied for a first class masters degree in Athletic Medicine at Princeton, specialising in Nonprehensile Transverse Navicularitis, related to the arch of the foot and how it can be honed and strengthened by athletes.
An Arsenal source told us, “Mikel is constantly on the lookout for ways he can improve his team.
“Whether that’s via transfer market, man management, team bonding days or additions to his coaching staff, he’ll explore every conceivable avenue.
“He is convinced that Joan-Carlos can benefit the players. If a striker can whack a shot at goal with an extra few miles per hour behind it, or someone creative like Martin Odegaard can improve his technique further to bend it even better than Beckham, then it will be worth it as far as he’s concerned.”
This season, set-piece coach Nicolas Jover has made a really positive contribution with the Gunners yet to concede from a corner, as well as proving dangerous when taking free kicks and corners up the other end.
Arteta – and Arsenal fans – will be hoping that Zapato can do likewise when he joins this summer on culmination of his short-term deal with Real Zueco.