Press conference

Arteta on the win, Xhaka, Tomi and the top four

Mikel Arteta described our win over Manchester United as a ‘phenomenal game’ after the victory lifted us six points ahead of the Red Devils.

The boss also spoke about Granit Xhaka’s performance, the run-in and the latest on Bukayo Saka.

Read on for a full transcript of his post-match conference.

on his assessment of the game…
I think it was a phenomenal game for the spectators and the fans. For us it was a bit of a rollercoaster. We wanted to start the game really quick, really fast. Dominating them, creating issues, very vertical, and we managed to do that. We dominated big periods in the first half. We scored two goals. But then that moment when they scored straight after our second goal, left us a little bit cold and insecure to how they reacted. So we had a period of five to ten minutes where we weren’t really clear on what to do and we were trembling. At the start of the second half, again we had some problems to occupy some spaces that they are really good at, and they have so much quality to exploit. Then when they missed their penalty, and we made the change in shape and scored the goal, I think that’s where we won it. 

on Granit’s relationship with the fans being restored…
I was dreaming of that because he deserves it. If every fan, or individual spent five, ten minutes with Granit - or even two minutes is enough - they will understand the person that he is, the professional that he is and how much he cares about the club. But the history was there, and now as well I think he made a risky move when he opened up completely and he expressed his feelings. But as well, he has done that because now he is prepared. He is feeling that the environment is going to protect him, he feels loved at the club and the response I think was great. So thank you to everyone, to the fans to show that dedication to him, because I know how much that means to him.

on Granit being a mainstay in the squad…
Well that we need is some balance in everything that we do. Especially with the characters, and personalities that are in that team. With the youth and academy players that we are bringing in, with the signings that we made, with the qualities that we had. So how we can interact, how that restoration can start to build what we want to be on and off the field, and Granit in my opinion was a key role, and he was going to have a key leadership role to achieve what we wanted. 

on what is going to be decisive in the final games…
I don’t know. Because today was decisive when you have total control of the match and you are 2-0 up, Ronaldo comes in out of a nothing and is with Gabi and manages to score a goal. Then Bruno Fernandes missed their goal, and then Granit scores. I think nobody in this room would say ‘I think we’re going to win with Granit scoring from outside the box’. This is the beauty of this game, and these things, I don’t control them, I am not trying to control them. But what I see is a team that is so willing, that gives absolutely everything. The energy and the connection they have in that stadium with them is phenomenal and that gives us a real chance and makes me believe that we can do it. 

on Granit’s comments on needing to be mentally strong in these situations…
Yes, but it’s very difficult to do it. Sometimes you are winning and you are aware of it, but the game is taking you there. Some players were really fatigued today as well, emotionally and physically it was a huge game to play at Stamford Bridge after three defeats. So everything has accumulated there. You have to play two days later here at 12.30pm, but they managed to do that. To come with a victory against that team is great and I think it’s what the players deserve.

on whether he was worried after the three defeats …
I worry even when I win, so imagine! So after the defeats it was over, it was one, two - the Brighton game - and then especially the second-half against Palace. The Brighton game, and especially the Southampton game. We didn’t deserve to lose. Today maybe at some stages you go chance-by-chance, you don’t deserve to win. But this is the game, and we have to be focused in what we do and what we want to do, and don’t get too down or too excited after winning. Because this is about having the balance and understanding who we are, with our strength and of course with our big weaknesses. 

on Nuno’s performance and what he’s like to coach…
We have to help him. He needs to go through these experiences to understand, OK what trigged that moment, when you go from here to there - and give him support. We know, I’ve said this many times, the bill that you have to pay with these players is that they have never experienced this. So they are going to make mistakes, and they are going to make decisions that - from here it’s very easy to say ‘why have you done that’ - but they are there on the pitch, and let’s give them support because they need it. 

on if the top-four race is between us and Tottenham… 
I don’t know. This changes so quickly, but my belief is that we’re going to give it a real go, we can win football matches, but the margins are very small and we have to be very aware of that. Winning and losing in this league and where we are today, is defined by the small margins, so everything has to be there to take the game where we want at the end of the 95 minutes.

on Takehiro Tomiyasu’s return…
I think he deserved that [reception from the fans] he’s been through a difficult period in the last few months, but if you see him work every day and how he comes and how excited he was to get back and the amount of hours he’s put in, he deserves that as well and that’s why we believed that it was the right thing to do for him.

on if the north London derby could decide top four…
It could be a crucial game. Let’s see what happens before that, where both teams are, but of course, that head-to-head game is going to be really, really important.

on if our team will relish that challenge…
This is why we are here, to play big matches that can define big moments and that’s the beauty of this game.

on Bukayo Saka’s injury…
Bukayo was struggling even first half of the match, but he really wanted to do it, he had a big knock the other night and as soon as this he was struggling, so let’s see how he is.

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