Press conference

Arteta on Southampton, the top four, injuries

Mikel Arteta was back in front of the media at London Colney on Friday afternoon as he previewed our Premier League match at Southampton.

The boss discussed the latest team news, the race for the top four, Nuno Tavares, Granit Xhaka and more.

Read on for a full transcript:

on Sean Dyche leaving Burnley…
Well, I only have words of praise because what he’s done at the club over the past 10 years is phenomenal. He gave the club a really clear identity, he’s manager to keep one of the teams with the smallest budgets consistently in the league, so I’m just wishing him the best of luck and as always with colleagues it’s sad when you see those decisions. 

on Thomas Partey's injury…
Yes, the news that we got after a lot of assessments is not great. It’s not looking very positive for his availability this season, but we’ll have to wait and see because he’s trying to get back as quickly as possible, but at the moment we are not very optimistic about it. 

on losing Thomas and Kieran Tierney at the same time…
Yes, in the moment it’s not ideal and we knew that towards the end of the season one of the key elements was going to be having the team available and squad available as much as possible, and we have quite a few issues with him and Tomiyasu as well, but we need to continue to compete and work in the best possible way. 

on whether there’s more pressure to get top four because of our rivalry with Tottenham…
I think it’s related to our history and we want to be not fourth, but third, second or first, and that’s what we have to do. That’s always within every supporter and anybody who has any connection with the club, so the moment you see the team doing better and having better aspirations, your tendency is to get excited about it and I think that’s the right reaction. 

on whether he would have taken fifth at the start of the season…
At the start of the season? You cannot take anything because you don’t know how things are going to develop. You could ask me a week into the season or two weeks before, I could maybe give you a different answer, but no, no. 

on Southampton suffering a heavy defeat against Chelsea…
I think you’re going to see two teams that are hurting because we are hurting after we lost the last two games, and we want to perform and win. I’m sure that after their home defeat they had they will want to do the same. 

on who is in control to secure fourth place…
Whoever manages to win more games and play better. There’s going to be some twists still for sure and the pressure and situation is going to keep changing between now and the end of the season. We have to be focused on us and what we have to do. 

on Rangers’ victory last night…
I was delighted. The connection I have with that club is forever and I’m so happy to see what they did last night, so congratulations!

on Alexandre Lacazette not appearing in training…
Obviously there are private reasons that I cannot comment on, but I have no other team news to give other than the guys we have discussed.

on Granit Xhaka’s recent interview and how important he has become…
I wouldn’t like to go into detail about what happened. I think the importance of how things have developed is that for Granit with his personality and the way he is. To have the capacity and to feel that the environment is right for him now to open up and show vulnerability, show the feelings he had, and speak loudly about it - and openly. I think it’s a huge decision, and to do that you have to be emotionally really well, and you have to be prepared and mature to do that - and not a lot of people are able to do that. 

on his comments about the performance against Palace, and what he’s done differently this week to avoid another defeat…
I said that the performance in the first half it was unacceptable, because I saw things that I didn’t see for a long time. I saw a big reaction in the second half, but we didn’t put the game into a situation where we could still get something out of it. Against Brighton it was different, it was not an attitudinal thing, it was something else. Again it wasn’t good enough, and we didn’t perform at the level that we should do. We are trying to change things, but not too many things because there are a lot of things that are working. But there are details that are letting down the team - it’s not that we are conceding 15 or 20 shots and getting hammered in games. We are conceding one or two shots, and we are getting penalised, and we haven’t been efficient enough in a lot of things that we should do better.

on whether Lacazette is fit and available for selection…
We will see if he’s available. It’s a good possibility that that’s the case. 

on whether Bukayo Saka has become a target for defenders…
Well the best players and the talented players are always going to be, closely looked at, and they are going to close the space and they are going to be tight on them. Bukayo has to recognise that is going to be the case. Referees have to recognise that as well, early in the game, and then try to protect them. 

on whether he needs extra protection…
I think he needs the protection that all the players need at this level, nothing different, nothing special. 

on whether he backs him to rise above it…
He’s a great kid, and he has a really clear idea of what he needs to expect. The better he does the more difficult they are going to try and make it for him, that’s for sure.

on trusting Nuno Tavares...
No, the trust comes from the way I communicate with them. That I give them the right reasons, when I put a player on the pitch it's because I can see that they are in the right condition to do that. To show trust and for the player to show trust to us is that I'm going to give them the opportunity when I believe that he is ready to do that. When I see in the moment that he is doubting I don't do him any favours by putting him in there. Then you can discuss whether Granit can play there, just look at the stats when the team has played with Granit as a left-back. They don't get much better than that.

on if Nuno has a belief problem...
With Nuno? No. Not belief. He needs to go through periods like I can show you examples of any player that has been in this squad. Not always good periods, difficult periods. But those difficult periods are the best moments to learn and to overcome and to have the ability afterwards to develop into a much better player.

on if Granit playing at left-back disrupts the team...
When I'm convinced that I'm going to do something that's best for the team, then it's going to be judged on whether you win or you don't win. The problem I guarantee was not Granit playing as a full back.

on maintaining tactical clarity despite injuries...
If you have the elements to change one piece for another it is simple, when you don't you have to figure out what to do, without putting players in situations where they are not comfortable and trying to exploit the maximum qualities of the players and ask them to do things that they are capable of doing and hopefully you can have every element just to change it and not lose anything. When you don't have that you have to look for other solutions.

on if finding those solutions are easy...
It is complicated but you have to try and make the best out of that. There are moments that we have played Ben at full back instead of somebody else and you win the match and I haven't heard any comment about him playing as a full back. When you don't [win] obviously everything is there to be judged but it's better to do it before the game, not after.

on player protection...
That again is the referee's decision to judge that. I am sure that they are on top of that, they recognise the patterns on the play that is being targeted and they will try to protect him when they can.

on playing 433 despite suffering injuries...
We have different qualities and depending on the role and what the game requires or the spaces that you want to attack or defend, it can become more challenging because of the numbers that we have. It's obvious that we don't have the capacity to change too much there.

on Emile Smith Rowe’s ability to play as a false nine…
He’s not been completely fit to be training and playing every game, but it’s a possibility. It’s a position that I think he can fulfil in the future, but he needs training, and he needs experience in.

on if Gabriel Martinelli could play as a striker…
We have many options, so you will see tomorrow.

on if we’re taking measures to prevent future injuries…
Well, we try to do the best that we can. Monitor the players, give them the right training sessions and we haven’t had a lot of injuries this season. We have some important injuries now to very important players in a crucial moment of the season and we want to try and avoid that, and if possible get them back as quick as possible.

on how important Saturday’s game is for the top-four race…
Every game [is important], but obviously when you lose, the next game takes more importance and we know that.

on Cedric’s recall to the Portuguese national team…
I’m really happy for him because he has a huge ambition to play the World Cup with his national team and at his experience and his age knows that it can be one of the last opportunities that he has. He’s been working really well, always when he hasn’t played his attitude has been excellent and it’s good because he can give us options.

on Xavi’s impact at Barcelona…
Well, he’s someone that knows the club extremely well. He came in a really difficult moment and I think he’s bringing a lot of stability. He was given the right support in January to bring in some big players that were needed and so far he’s doing a great job.

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