Press conference

Arteta and Zinchenko preview United clash

Mikel Arteta and Alex Zinchenko at a press conference

Fresh from touching down in New York from Washington, Mikel Arteta and Alex Zinchenko faced the media in a pre-match press conference at the MetLife Stadium. 

As we prepare to face Manchester United on Saturday, the two were asked questions from local and international reporters.

But there was plenty up for discussion apart from the United game. The manager talked about transfer plans, Thomas Partey's future and next season's ambitions while Zinchenko was asked about playing for Arteta, and also spoke passionately about his home country's ongoing war with Russia. Here's a full transcript.

On Leandro Trossard:
MA: He is fine, he trained this morning and he will be available for tomorrow.

On whether the MLS All-Stars Game was a test:
MA: Every game is a test obviously. Although we had a very good result there are things we can manage much better than we did in the game. We drew our positives from it, especially as we won it. Tomorrow’s test will be something very different, against a team that’s used to playing together, and are big rivals for us in the Premier League. So it will be amazing, at that stadium, with a full house, incredible atmosphere and it will be a really big test to see where were we are.

On when he realised the title race was over last season:
MA: When mathematically it was impossible. Until that point we always had belief that we had the chance to do it. Obviously there were moments when it was in our hands, then we lost it. But there were still games to go and until the point where it was not possible mathematically you should never give up because it’s football.

On whether Thomas Partey is still in his plans:
MA: Thomas Partey is a super important player for us and for me and we want him to be in the team, that’s for sure.

On Nicolas Pepe’s future:
MA: At the moment he is recovering from an injury which is why he’s not here. He had a spell on loan and obviously we wanted to get much more than we got from that loan spell. We have to see when we come back, understand what the plans are and make the right decision for him.  

On whether there will be more transfers:
MA: I don’t know. Obviously there will be movements still. There will be ins and outs. It’s still very early, the market seems to be a little bit quieter in the last week or so. If we can improve the team we will try to do so, but we don’t get any weaker, so we have to be really cautious of that as well.

On whether Kylian Mbappe is a realistic target:
MA: You know that I never talk of players that don’t play for our club, sorry.

On William Saliba:
MA: Let me ask my assistant. What do you think of Willy?

OZ: Unbelievable!

MA: He’s doing really well. Obviously he’s a huge player for us. We know what he brings to the team. He looks good fitness wise, I think he’s in a good moment. He’s happy, obviously he extended his contract and all seems to be OK.

On not being happy finishing second:
OZ: I said a lot of times in the past that even watching Arsenal from where I was before, I had that feeling and could smell that Arsenal’s time is coming. So of course we have a young team, but with a lot f experience already, Unfortunately at the end of last season we didn’t achieve what we wanted, but there were a lot of good lessons for us during the season and for sure it will help us with the next one. I’m fully confident, so let’s see what’s going to happen.  

On if Thomas Partey and Declan Rice can play together: 
MA: Yeah, they can play together and that was in my plans. If you want to improve the squad and have more quality, we need players that can play together, but we need players in the same position that have to fight for their places. It’s something that we haven’t had over the last few years and we wanted to improve that, and that’s why we brought Declan as well.

On how the boss wants to work on different systems for the team:
MA: Yeah, our Plan A1, A2 and A3, that’s how you want to look at it. So yeah, we are looking at options, training different options and you have to understand that sometimes you have to leave players to see. Because when you see them training, when you see how they connect with each other, they give you a lot of information, it doesn’t have to be all the time. You probably think that they give you a lot of information, and that they need to take that information as well. 

On what it’s like to play with Mikel Arteta again and the new signings that have joined the club since last summer:
OZ: Well, it’s not a secret that I’ve known Mikel for a while since City. I said to myself that if one day I was going to leave City and stay in the Premier League, it was only going to be under one manager, and that’s Mikel Arteta. The way he sees football, his decision [making], he’s a winner and he has a mentality that you cannot love [enough]. It’s a dream to be in this kind of team for every football player around the world and you can see the way we enjoy every single day, the way all of us are working so hard, probably during last season I don’t remember one day where the staff wasn’t at the training ground. This is the right way to work if you want to achieve something big, that’s how you need to behave.

On if we expect Thomas Partey to stay:
MA: Yes. 

On if there’s been any conversations on where Thomas’ priority is: 
MA: No, every time I spoke to him, every time I’ve had conversations with him, he’s wanted to stay with us, so there’s nothing there at all.

On if it will be harder or easier for us to challenge this season:
MA: Harder for sure because the level is going to go up, and the teams are getting bigger, and the league is getting stronger. It’s only going to get harder, but we know that and we’re preparing for that, and we have to get better. We have to play better and do things better than last year, and that’s the way we’re working at the moment.

On whether we’ll have a hangover of being so close last year:
MA: No, I think what happened last year probably was necessary to learn in the lessons that you have to learn to get better and be more successful in what you want to achieve. It’s part of the roles and journey, and we know the complexity of the league, and the rivals that we have.

On the upcoming Game for Ukraine:
OZ: My answer might be a bit long so sorry about this. We have to say, using this opportunity of being here, I’d like to say thanks to the U.S. and to the rest of the world who are helping us a lot in this tough moment. Of course, since the invasion, this is already part of my life, every single day I’m living with this all around my country and with the people which is staying over there. My family and I are trying to help as much as we can, and obviously with the event that is coming soon on August 5 in London, I feel that my mission is to try and help as much as I can. My kids will ask me when they’re bigger ‘daddy what did you do when this war was happening?’. I just want to look in my daughter’s eyes and just say: “look, your mother and I were trying to do our best to help people, to help our country.” Obviously, me using football which is the best sport in the world to represent our country in the best way. There’s this kind of event that is coming soon with all of the ex-players and legends across the world, it’s so important not to just have the target of raising funds to rebuild parts of Ukraine but it’s also our powerful message to the rest of the world, especially for all Ukrainian people who are staying there and fighting for their independence, we want to say that we’re behind them and make sure they’re not alone. I know some people have fatigue from this war, but all of us need to fight for our freedom and independence because I couldn’t imagine this happening in the 2020s. Imagine the place where you were born and raised, and one day another country comes to your place, destroying it around, killing kids and doing a lot of scary things to achieve what? That’s the question. So, I’m talking to people who have some fatigue that tomorrow it could be your country. That’s why we have to stick together and fight until the end.

On Shakhtar playing Tottenham and the power of football:
OZ: It’s so important. For me personally, it’s a shame to ask you guys to donate and stuff like this. I’m not saying this and I’m not asking this because some people can’t do it because they have a lot of things to do and big families and stuff like this, but being in London and just walking with my daughter, I can see some cars and kids, like the other day I’ve seen one family and I didn’t know where they’re from, I couldn’t recognise the language, but I’ve seen the kid who was maybe seven years old and he was walking with no shirt and he had a temporary tattoo on his shoulder with the Ukrainian flag. I was like ‘wow, these people stand with us’, so I’m not asking everyone to donate, but even just putting a sticker on your car or something, these little things mean a lot for us. It makes me so proud. 

On how he got involved in the game for Ukraine and whether he regularly speaks to people back home:
OZ: A bit more than a month ago I was Ukraine for the first time since the invasion, and me and Andriy Shevchenko went to the school which we are going to rebuild and we spoke to the kids. I’m not going to say to you what we were talking about because it’s scary things and stuff like this. But I spoke with these kids and finished with the guys who are on the frontline and taking risks every single day. We played against MLS the other day and the show before kick-off was unbelievable. The F-16s were flying in the air just above us, four of them, and I know how important to us they have been. I want to use this opportunity to say to you guys again, we need these F-16s to return our land and return our territories. Like I said, if I have a mission and if I have this kind of opportunity to talk to you guys then I have to take it. 

On how we will make sure we lift the Premier League title next season:
MA: We will have to get better and win every single game, that’s the aim. We have to play better and make sure they enjoy every minute being here because in the end it’s about getting the best out of them and that’s crucial if you want to do that. At the end they need to believe that they can do it again (challenge), that they can be even better and they have to remind themselves of our standards and we are going to raise the level and we will see where we are going to be. This is the vision every single day. 

On facing Mason Mount and whether we tried to sign him:
MA: We are so happy with the players that we’ve signed and the players that we’ve got in our squad.

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