Press conference

Arteta on the team news, Liverpool and Nketiah

Mikel Arteta was back in front of the media on Wednesday as he previewed our Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at Anfield.

The boss discussed the match, the latest team news, the January transfer window and more.
 
Read on for a full transcript:
 
on the reaction to the defeat at Nottingham Forest…
Obviously we were all extremely disappointed and upset after the game. We analysed what happened, we discussed it, we talked about it and hopefully learned from it. After that you have to throw it in the bin, take the lesson and move on because the game we have ahead of us tomorrow is too important.
 
on links with Dusan Vlahovic during the January window…
I am really sorry to disappoint you, but I am not going to be discussing any transfer rumours. I have never done it, and obviously we cannot do it.
 
on whether he’s hopeful he can add to his squad this month…
What I really want this month is that we have as many players as possible fit and healthy and that we do the best and maximum with those players. After we have a strategy of how we want to evolve and improve the team, and whenever that is possible we are going to try to do it. We all know that this market is extremely difficult.
 
on whether he expects to lose players this month…
Again, this part of the strategy for every individual situation is different, there are a lot of factors that go into making that decision but at the moment everyone who is here is fully involved.
 
on Nuno Tavares’ reaction to being subbed off at Forest and what he’s said to him since…
That these things happen in football. I am there to make the right decisions to get the best performance out of the team. It is not pleasant to make those decisions it leaves a bad taste but at the same time we are here to help our players and to help our players you have to do it in many different ways and hopefully that’s a way because certainly we want to support our players, we want to help them and because you have to make a decision on the day, on my side it gives me more encouragement to help them because I have been there. I have been substituted after 45 minutes and I have been upset or I have made my wrong decisions in my life, but it is part of a process and a development phase in any career and it’s part of the experiences and some experiences, unfortunately, aren’t pleasant but most of those, if you take in the right way, they are the ones that help you to progress and become a better person or player.
 
on what his reaction was when it happened to him…
Upset and [thought] the coach is wrong, and this is not fair. This is normally the reaction. With Nuno I didn’t get that reaction at all and that’s it. For me it is just a moment, so move on and focus on all the good things as well that he has done since he has been here.
 
on the latest team news…
It is extremely volatile and uncertain, I don’t know what the situation is that we will have today or if it is different to yesterday. Obviously I cannot get into any detail with that. It is what it is, in the last week or so we lost so many players for many different reasons and we are trying to adapt to that. I will use the players that we have and make the most out of it.
 
on whether they are injuries or Covid-related…
They have been different reasons, some injuries, some Covid, some absences with players that have to be away with the Africa Cup of Nations. So different reasons.
 
on the possibility of this game being postponed...
You can never guarantee anything because you know things can change dramatically in 10 seconds when the doctor comes to the door and gives you the news, and we have experienced that already twice this season. Our willingness is always to play.

on now playing the home leg second...
Things have changed because the timing of the game has become different. The first leg is in a different place. It's completely uncertain and unpredictable, but it is what it is, so I don't know how it's going to change. Nobody knows until we are on the pitch and we start to compete to reach that final.

on facing Liverpool without Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah...
I always have hope when I play and when I'm competing for any trophy. They have a couple of players out, we certainly have a lot out as well. It is what it is. We're going to have to go there to try to win the first match because it's going to put us in a better position for the second one.

on Liverpool's false-positive tests...
It's something that is not in our control. The EFL is responsible to check every single player's status and then make the decision whether the game is played or not. The decision was to postpone the match and I'm sure if that was the case, then they had the right arguments to do so.

on the reliability of testing...
We just trust that every test is going to be as reliable as possible. It is always going to be a percentage that might get the results wrong. First of all, you have to trust the people who do it, that it's done in the right way and that we have the right equipment or the best possible equipment that we have and after that, it is difficult to judge.

on the reaction of Tavares after being replaced against Nottingham Forest...
That's a really personal thing. It's not what you prepare. It's something that you don't certainly train for so I think it comes into the emotional moment and the character of that player.

on if clubs will spend more freely in January now fans have returned to stadiums....
I don't know the financial power and position of other clubs. You hear a lot of rumours as you hear about us. Some of them can be possible and some others they are not even considered. I think clubs are always willing to try to improve. We know that there are a couple of clubs in England now that have the possibility to buy players in January, some of them have already done. I'm expecting more activity than last year because clubs are in a better position, but I don't know how far we've come still through this pandemic.
 
on if it’s realistic to pull off a big-money signing without European football…
I don’t know. Historically this club has always been targeting the best players in the world and the best players in the world are always interested to come here and I can say that situation hasn’t changed. Anytime I have spoken to any player, they were so willing to come, I haven’t faced any other situation and that’s one of our biggest powers, our capacity to get the attention of people to come and join our club, it’s something that is a big advantage for us.
 
on why Emile Smith Rowe lost his place in our starting XI…
The reason why that happened is because he wasn’t fit. There was nothing else. His performances, when he’s been fit, have been extraordinary, the way he’s evolving, with the importance that he has in the team, I think it’s without a doubt really, really positive, but he’s had an issue that he’s been carrying and obviously that’s been affecting his ability to train, his ability to compete, the amount of minutes that we can give him and we are trying to get that situation resolved as quickly as possible, because we need the best version of Emile for us to be successful.
 
on the changes that Smith Rowe made to his lifestyle…
Yeah, but that takes the demands in every area, in every aspect to a completely different level. The moment that you have more exposure, media-wise, expectation-wise, you play with the national team, you go with the national team and you score, you’re scoring frequently, then the demands, the load, the stress, everything is higher and you have to cope with that. People think it’s naturally easy to do and it’s not that easy to do, and then you have to start to think that I’m going to be playing 60/70 games, playing pain-free, it just doesn’t happen in elite sport and you have to start to live with that.
 
on whether he considered delaying Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ loan move…
We talked about all the possibilities. When you are finalising a deal there are certain things that you cannot miss out if you want to complete that deal. Again, I said the interest of the player was that clear after what happened in the summer that we felt it was the right thing to do and it was a matter of over a day or two that we tried to do that, but as well you have to have the player in the right mindset to compete, knowing that he’s going to leave in the next day. I don’t think that we can make a decision that is going to have an impact in the next six, 18 months, just for a day or two, I don’t think it’s very logically.
 
on Eddie Nketiah’s future…
The situation is that Eddie is our player and Eddie is going to stay here with us.
 
on whether Eddie could leave this month…
He’s our player and he’s under contract, so he will stay with us.
 
on when he will know if Xhaka is available…
Hopefully today, not tomorrow, hopefully today.

on whether he is physically fit enough to play…
That's the argument we are having at the moment. Obviously after having covid they are going through that illness in a different way. Some of them are having symptoms, some are being affected, some are struggling in their first few training sessions and some of them are completely fine. So as soon as we have the option to train Granit fully with the team, we will see where he is at. I don't know where he will be physically. I know where he is going to be mentally, he will be fully committed to play from the next minute that he has clearance.

on his approach to the game given the fixtures coming up…
Well we know the impact that these games are going to have on our season. We knew before the Forest game, and we didn't have a lot of options. We had ten players who could not start that game. That's half of the team, for different reasons. It was a big lesson, we know that we didn't perform at a level that was good enough. We have to move on because these next four games we have ahead of us are far too important.

on whether he asked to get the Forest game postponed…
No we didn't, everything occurred pretty quickly. I may repeat myself: we are willing to play football matches, we don't want to keep postponing matches. That's how we intend to approach every single game, but if something different happens, we will see.

on whether the semi-finals should be over just one leg…
Well with the look of our fixture list for the next few years – and it's something we have talked about between the managers and the Premier League as well - something has to be done. It probably wasn't possible to do it this season, because the commitments were already arranged, but it's something that in my opinion has to be discussed.

on whether the League Cup could disappear completely…
From my side we haven’t reached those conversations yet.

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