Press conference

Arteta on Man City, transfers and more

Mikel Arteta faced the media via Zoom on Friday to preview our next match against Manchester City.

The boss was asked about who will take charge in his absence, facing Pep Guardiola, January transfers and more.

Read on for a full transcript:

on how he's feeling and if there are any new cases in the squad...

First of all, I feel much, much better today I had a couple of rough days, but obviously, I have experienced this before, so not bad at all.  The rest of the squad is in a good place, we tested the players, we don’t have any other new (cases) other than the ones before. We try to communicate with them as much as possible, and obviously relying on the rest of the team and coaches we have, I believe in them 100 per cent.

on if Manchester City are a better team than when he left...

Well, they are different teams. The fact they have been together for six years, obviously they are getting the perfect in every phase of the play, and every aspect of the game, and much, much better, the cohesion of the team and the synergy between because of the amount of time they have spent together. They get better and better and the numbers speak for themselves, what they've done in the last calendar year is remarkable.

on what the team learnt after defeat at the Etihad in August...

Well, I hope to experience a very different game. We start that game really positively, but in the first action we conceded a goal and went to do 10 men. Obviously it's difficult enough to play 11 against 11, so when it goes to 10 against 11 for such a long time in the game, it becomes a real, real challenge and we suffered. But some of those defeats help you to become a better and stick together and understand what the level is, and the mistakes that you cannot make against this type of opposition.

on if our form means we go into the game as equals...

We are preparing the game like any other game and we know the opposition that we’re going to be facing.  There is no need to talk about that because it’s so obvious and focus on what we have to do to try to win the game, compete in every moment of the game and have the belief which is the most important thing right from the beginning that we can go and win the game. 

on who will be in charge of the team...

Well, Albert will be in charge with the rest of the team and depending on which coaches we have available as we had so many issues in that department recently, but everyone will be there trying to help us as much as possible.

on whether he knows exactly who will be on the bench...

No.

on how he will communicate during the game…

We will be in touch, but as well, I want to give them the possibility, the opportunity and the freedom to make decisions on the pitch and to express themselves because it’s completely different to being on that touchline close to the players and the action than being at home. I’m going to be here to support and help in certain moments, but they have to get the momentum the game and communication with the players themselves.

on whether he’s happy handing over control…

Well, I’ve never experienced what I’m going to experience tomorrow, but it is what it is. It’s not going to be easy to feel frustrated and with a lack of options because obviously not being in training sessions and not being able to prepare things in the way that you want and with the messages that you want and have the players feeling like you’re next to them. It’s a different experience, but we have to adapt to it and we’ve tried to do it in the best possible way to get prepared for tomorrow.

on our recent approach in big games and whether we’ve played into their hands…

We have played in different ways against the two teams that you just mentioned (Liverpool and Manchester City). We’ve played with different formations and we’ve played with back threes, back fours and back fives with two strikers in different ways, and we’ve found some results against them. Recently, especially against Manchester City with the two games at the Etihad, we’ve played with 10 men which makes the game very, very difficult, but everything that we’re going to prepare is to try to win and give the team the best possible chance to compete in the game because that’s the closer you are to win it.

on whether Ainsley Maitland-Niles could move to Roma on loan…

Any news with any player or what is happening, you know that we always keep it private and he’s our player at the moment.

on whether he will be pacing around his room tomorrow…

It’s going to be very strange and I will need a big room so that I can walk and move a little bit because I won’t be able to sit on my sofa. It’s a big, big game for us and it’s a really frustrating thing not to be able to be there helping the team, but I will do my best from here with everything that I can do and we have prepared for every scenario possible. We know what we have to do and then it will be down to the players to execute that as much as possible tomorrow.

on if the club has prepared for him to work remotely…

That’s a possibility, because of the amount of positives that we have in the coaching team, we have discussed it a lot, but it’s the same with the players, we don’t know who is going to be available tomorrow because things are changing very quickly and then you don’t want to be reactive so that’s why you have to be prepared for different options.

on if this is our biggest test…

Well, it’s the biggest test in terms of the level of the opposition, 100 hundred per cent, they have shown that really consistently throughout the year, not only this year but in the last three years so that’s the level, they have raised a different bar in this league that has been known of before and that is where we have to get to and that’s the aim we have as a team and as a club.

on if this month could define our season…

Well, we’re going to be playing in three different competitions and these are knockout competitions so you are in or out and obviously winning or losing makes a whole difference to the team and the success of the season, so we know and we are prepared for that.

on if recent results justify his decision on Aubameyang…

For me it’s not about being right or wrong it’s about making the decision that you believe and deal with the consequences of what you are asking to do and I made that decision and as I said, it will go game-by-game.

on letting Auba travel to AFCON early…

We had a letter from the national team asking permission to get the player and the player wasn’t going to get involved today so, for his fitness and to keep competing, it was the right thing to do.

on Albert Stuivenberg’s qualities…

I met him a few years ago through another coach, obviously, he’s a coach that I knew before because of his reputation and who he’s been working under before and we have a really good connection, we have the same beliefs, we see the game in the same way, we share all of the values that we believe have to be installed at the club and he’s someone that is very close to me, he’s more than capable, he’s done it before so in that sense, I’m very relaxed about it.

on how he will communicate with Albert during the match…

Hopefully, things go well and I don’t have to do too much and they can do it! The situation has been discussed and obviously, we’ll have some communication.

on the impressive points total in this calendar year…

Well, I think it’s a really important thing, because that shows the consistency that we’ve had in terms of results that have obviously (been led) by performances. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t give us anything. We have to do it not in the calendar year, but in the Premier League year. That’s the challenge that we have ahead of us, and we have shown that we are capable of doing it. So that’s where we are heading. 

on Guardiola’s comments about Mikel being Arsenal’s most important player, and whether it’s mind games from Pep…

No, I think he’s just being nice! We talked yesterday because of COVID, he asked me how I was, because we have that relationship. Tomorrow he will be defending his club, and I will be defending - from home - my club. You hear from him, he’s always saying that the players are the protagonists, and the most important ones, and I agree on that one. 

on Pep’s comments about this being the best Arsenal team since he’s been working in the league…

It is always good to hear that other coaches think like that about the work that we are doing. My feeling is that they are best team that have existed in the history of the Premier League, and they have proven that consistently throughout the years. That’s the level that we have to get to, and as that table shows we are still really far from it. So that’s the margin and the aim that we all should have. 

on Aubameyang’s situation when he returns back from AFCON…

At the moment he has gone (to AFCON). He needs to focus on the national team, and we had the conversation that was the best possible way to do it. I said before, we will address (his situation) game-by-game. 

on whether he anticipates a busy January transfer window…

We are expecting some activity because of a few players, and we have a few loans that hopefully we will have to complete. But it depends, as we all know it’s a very complicated market, and it’s a short window, so we’ll see what happens.

on whether he has any New Year resolutions…

No I just want to start the year like we ended it. That tomorrow everybody is healthy, that we perform and get the points that we want. For the rest of our people, I think what we are aiming for which is health and somehow get rid of this virus for the rest of our lives. 

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