Our pre-season tour of the US comes to an end following Wednesday’s friendly with Barcelona at the SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.
Ahead of our third and final game of the tour, Mikel Arteta and Gabriel Jesus met the media to discuss the match, analyse last year’s Premier League campaign, look ahead to the coming season and much more besides.
Here’s every word from the press conference…
On ticket demand and allocation:
MA: You know I’ve always been very open about the gratitude that we all have to show for the incredible atmosphere that we have produced at the Emirates in the last few years. That's down obviously to a lot of effort that a lot of people have made to maintain and sustain belief in difficult moments. It's something that we really appreciate and the big factor is obviously what these players have transmitted to those supporters. To start believing again and start feeling very attached to the team and to the club. So I know there are going to be some challenges. I think the club is doing everything that we possibly can to, to try to please everybody and to be as fair as possible in order to achieve what everybody wants to do. That's all I can say from my point of view and hopefully we can continue to build that, and get the atmosphere better and better at our place.
On the influence of Pep Guardiola:
MA: I always said that for me he is the best manager in the world. I learned so much when we worked together. Just comparing the situation with Ilkay [Gundogan] and what he said about his time when he joined Pep. For me it was when I was 15 and I went to Barcelona. I realised that under Johan [Cruyff] and everything that he was doing. At that time football become different to the one I knew before then. He's the one that made me think and made me feel the game in a completely different way to the one that I had before.
On playing for Pep and Gundogan’s comments that he didn’t learn football until he played for him:
GJ: Yeah, I totally agree with him. I was obviously younger than him when I joined the club. That's was one of my reasons why I accepted to join Manchester City at that time. I was young, I wanted to learn and then also the squad was young with some experienced players, so yeah, I totally agree with him.
On what Mikel said to Lisandro Martinez after the game on Saturday:
MA: I was just happy to see him over there. I know him personally. I was happy to see him back after the injury and that's it, it is about the sport. It's about the people we know and we wished each other good luck for the season and that's it. It was a really good competitive game for us.
On comparing this pre-season to last year:
GJ: It's quite the same. The energy, everyone wants to work to get fitness and then obviously to start the season well, like we did last season. The Premier League, you know, is so strong competition, so difficult. So I think about the fitness, it’s so important.
On what he is expecting against Barcelona:
MA: It will be (different to Saturday’s game) because when you play at the level that we are playing, with the type of opposition that we're going to be facing tomorrow, in that stadium and there are so many people. They have to expect that and we are expecting that. So tomorrow again, I think will be a very competitive match.
On whether it will be based more on possession than the United game:
MA: They are different teams and the DNA of Barcelona is always to have the ball and have it back as quick as possible. I know Xavi very well and I'm sure he will be trying to do that and the same like we want.
On expectations on Arsenal this season:
GJ: We created this. We did so well. Unfortunately, we didn't win the Premier League, which was our main target, but at least we get there, fighting with one of, if not the best team in the world. We fought till the end, so I think he will be the same. Now I think people believe more in us because of the work we put in on the pitch last year was top. Then obviously everyone here wants to continue and to increase the level.
On his injury:
GJ: Yeah, comparing with my injury on my foot in 2017 it’s so different. This is my first injury, and I hope, it’s the last one on the knee. So now I'm suffering a little bit more than with my foot. So it’s been hard, but I'm working hard to get fitness and then come back strong.
On whether he feels like a different animal now:
GJ: Yeah, for sure. I want help. I want to work, I want to learn from Mister [Arteta], from the players as well.
On whether Kieran Tierney is part of the plans:
MA: He is, he is in our plans, and as you said, he came on really well (on Saturday). It's not the first time, every time he's played in pre-season, he's been really good. This is why we want to create competition in the team, raise the level of each individual and that's going to be a huge benefit for the team to get to another level.
On Emile Smith Rowe winning with England Under-21s:
MA: We were all really happy because we know that it's been a tough season for him. He had a lot of difficulties to overcome. He had the opportunity to play with England, and he put a lot of effort into get to the competition in the best possible condition. We were all very happy to see him lift that trophy. You can see he produced something different, his energy, the way he's come back to us – he’s in a really good place and it's great to see him back with us.
On being in the leadership group:
GJ: I think nothing changed. I'm a type of captain who doesn’t talk a lot, but I show with my actions. I run, I fight, I want to win. I put a lot of emotions in my game. Obviously I always try to help the young players. I'm still young, but I think everyone sees me as an experienced player here. So I want to help everyone with my actions and speaking as well.
On whether he has a goal target:
GJ: Always in my life, I have only one target - at the end I want to celebrate everyone together with the title. To win titles is my main target. Obviously, I want to score more because I think this helps us get the target. But I don't mind, I want to score more, but I want to win titles and that's my main target.
On whether Arsenal have momentum:
GJ: Looking from outside, I think Arsenal did not start now, I think it started years ago and now the work is paid. Obviously more players are coming to help us, but we still have a lot of good players as well. So these players are coming to help and I think that is a very good problem for the Mister.
On whether the gap between Arsenal and Man City is a lot smaller now than a year ago:
GJ: Even before I was feeling like this, the gap was not that big. Obviously, they have been together for years and this made a difference. They have been winning for years and that made a difference also. But since day one when I arrived here, I believed we can fight, we can win. Unfortunately, we didn't win [last season] but I think we will win, for sure.
On where it went wrong last season:
GJ: Well it's difficult to know. But I believe sometimes at the end of the season, we were a little bit nervous as a team. They were not nervous because normally they win, so that made a difference. I think this year we have more experience and it will be different.
On whether the team has more experience now:
MA: Yes, I think when he talks about that nervousness or insecurity or uncertainty in certain moments, I think that's related to a lot of key moments that happened, especially in the three conservative draws that we had. That created a little bit of doubt in ourselves because then we have more urgency to win. I think it gave City a big platform to build momentum from where they were coming from. One thing really affected the other and I think that had a really important effect on the outcome of the championship.
On the vice-captain decision:
MA: We need a bit more time just to make sure that the squad is clear, the roles are clear and when we make one decision, that's the decision. If we do it too early, we're going to have to change it maybe because the market is so unpredictable and I don't want to do that.
On whether the midfield is physical enough:
MA: We're going to have to find the right balance as well, but a year ago Granit could never play that as an attacking midfielder. So let's try to get the work done. It's the first time we played with four players inside, and three of them had never played for us. So three out of four, they never played together ever. So, tranquilo! Day-by-day, keep doing the right things, give people opportunity to settle them into the right things and we will be fine. You use a word that is ‘physical’. So if I put Granit and Kai and I ask you who is more physical? What would you say? Kai is one metre 91, so it depends what you mean physical. Physical is (also) to run, running behind the forward, to tackle. It depends. So we will fit in with the qualities that we have, that's for sure. And the good thing is that we have options as well. When we have a game that is more physical, we can become very physical as well. We have the right options.
On the motivation and hunger this season:
MA: There is that and as well I think there is belief, that we have grown a lot as a team. There is that belief around them that we can take the game, we can take our options to a different level, into a very challenging and promising season that we have ahead of us.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.