Press conference

Arteta on... David Luiz, Aubameyang, Aston Villa

Arteta

Mikel Arteta was back on Zoom on Thursday as he faced the media ahead of our Premier League clash against Aston Villa.

Our manager discussed our performance at Wolves, David Luiz's red card, Nicolas Pepe's form, Mat Ryan, and more.

This is what he told the media:

on how tough it is to put the Wolves defeat behind us…
I don’t know how hard it is for everybody but we have to move on. We have a big game on Saturday and we need to go again. There are things to learn from the game, things we can’t control obviously and a lot of positives to take there, [so we must] move on, go for the next one and keep the momentum going.

on Bukayo Saka’s impact on his return…
I think it was the team collectively, the way we played, the goals we should have scored, the dominance we showed and wee need to keep going. With 10 and nine men, after watching the game back, the fight, the resilience of the team, the passion with which they played is incredible. My praise is there because we still had chances to score a goal, even with nine players and that is completely down to them, how much they want to fight and the spirit they have around them.

on Aston Villa’s defeat to West Ham…
I am not here to judge their performance. They have been fantastic through the season, they have beaten some top teams, they have been on a really strong run and they beat us when he played them at home so we have to make sure that we go there and win the game.

on the appeal on David Luiz’s red card…
I am very hopeful, that’s why we put the appeal in because we went through all the images and we think that the red card should be overruled. That is why we put in the appeal.

on when the outcome will be revealed…
I don’t know how long it will take but hopefully today we will have more information. That is the latest I have from the club.

on Mat Ryan’s fitness…
He has not been available to train yet, and Alex is available, so we will have the choice between the two of them for the weekend. If Mat is able to train, and they are both fit, we will have a decision to make. If Mat is not fit, obviously Alex will be in goal.

on Auba being available…
Well he is available, he played a few minutes after 10 days of not doing much and hopefully in the next two days he feels good and he is available to contribute to the team.

on the key to Pepe's form...
Even when we made decisions not to play him, he kept working hard. He has improved in a lot of areas and has been much more consistent for 90 minutes. He's a threat at the moment because he's been scoring goals, he's been assisting players, he's been a real threat. He needs to continue doing that.

on concussion substitutes...
We've got a meeting this afternoon with the Premier League to have much more information and clarity about how we can use them and the rules behind them. I think it's necessary and opens another possibility. When something dramatic happens on the pitch, at least we have the ability to replace that player.

on whether David Luiz would have been better off bringing down Willian Jose...
We know the law. For me, it's not about the decision and what happens in that instant. There was a very similar incident, even though David is behind him, against Manchester United. It was on the side of the player and that completely changes the angle, the purpose and how much it affects the player's ability to finish the action. But still it was a similar situation. I think they will look at it.

on whether there is a concern about David Luiz in these situations...
When you look at the two images, we can have a long, long debate here. Just to point the finger at David in my opinion is not fair.

on whether Pepe could be dropped in favour of Aubameyang...
At the end of the day, we have to play the players who are in the best form and everybody has to earn the right to play and participate in the games. That's what everybody's doing, pushing each other to raise the level. You can see that the level has been raised because everybody is playing at their best. There's still room for improvement so everybody has to keep pushing.

on whether the first 46 minutes against Wolves was our best football this season...
Maybe yes. I think for long periods we looked very close to what we want to be as a team. Then we have to get that into results. When you have those moments in the game, you have to go three or four-nil up and the game's over.

on whether his team is starting to resemble his long-term vision...
Yes. The first transfer window was a very rushed one because I just arrived. The other two we had a little more time. If you see the amount of transactions we've done in this window, it's incredible. Credit to the club, credit to Edu for the work that he's done because it's not easy to get the amount of things that we've done in one window. I know that most of them was to get some players out and create some space around the team, but it's still not an easy thing to do in this window or this market.

on if it would be 'gutting' for Mat Ryan to miss out...
This is football and these things happen. That's why when we allowed Matt Macey to go, we knew that we had to get somebody else because we knew these things can happen. Unfortunately when you least need them, it actually happens. So we are more protected now, having Mat as well in the squad and let's see if he's fit. But for now, Alex is fit as well.

on whether he's worried about the team's discipline after two more red cards...
Well, when I was worried about the discipline it was on two occasions with Nico and with Granit. We should avoid that and we talked about it. But there are other ones that are moments in the game where in the split of a second you have to make a decision and then a referee has to make a decision as well. There is much less to control on our side there. What is clear is that when you have five red cards in this period, you are going to lose a lot of points. If we would have some of those points, we would be in a completely different position in the table, that's for sure. There are no teams with five reds up there at the top, it doesn't happen.

on how he feels about the online abuse of players and how he reacts...
There are all types of different abuses and I think it has to be eradicated completely. I think social media has a big responsibility on that, because then you talk about the mental health of the players and the public and how exposed they are. I am all open and I'm for people to have their opinions, but not just to be insulting people, abusing people and using a screen on somebody's mobile phone to tell them whatever you want, to a person that you don't even know. That for me has to be eradicated, because it is causing a lot of damage in football and a lot of damage to public people. So I think we have to be really strong on that and I think you guys [the media] as well have a big part to play to support us and the industry here.

on whether it would be 'strange' to ask Alex to start given he's just been removed from the Europa League squad...
No. Alex knew his role before we signed him and obviously he knows his role after we signed him. We had a plan on the goalkeeper position and we could not execute the plan in the way we wanted, for different reasons, but Alex's role was very clear around the squad. That hasn't changed. Then, he needs to earn his opportunity and he needs to earn his place. He is third, second or first, depending on his performance. He needs to push for that.

on whether he’s having to manage Kieran carefully…
No, it’s a different injury in this case. Kieran is a player that really pushes himself and he has to be able to perform physically at his best because he cannot help himself. Even in training he can’t help himself. We are trying to manage him in the best possible way and find every possibility to give him the best chance to be fit as soon as possible, and we are here to support him as much as we can.

on whether he’s concerned that Kieran will be playing games for Scotland soon…
No, what I want is that he’s fit to play for us as soon as possible, then if he’s fit and he’s ready to represent his country, there we go, it’s one of his dreams and he needs to fulfil that. But what I want is for him to play for Arsenal.

on whether he wanted to sign a left back in the January transfer window…
We cannot do everything. As I mentioned before, there are so many things that we had to do in this transfer window and we had to focus on the priorities for that. We almost did everything we wanted to do and there are things to do, but when you talk about the squad evolution, it’s going to take time and a big effort. Things have to happen your way as well and that’s not the case all the time.

on whether people have been too critical of Alex Runarsson…
Yes, but this is what you face when you play for a big club. People expect when you go out there to give your best and perform at the top level, and if you don’t, you’re going to get that criticism. You know that before you joined the club that you’ll be exposed to critics all the time, and if you do really well, people will be praising you more than at any other club. If you want to play here, you have to be able to handle that pressure.

on whether Alex has experienced a culture shock…
I don’t think so. I think he knew and he expected that, and he needs to handle that. We are here to support him and he’s played some games already here. He’s played some good games and yes he had a difficult game against Manchester City, but the other night he came on and I think he did well.

on whether he has the character to cope with the pressure…
Yeah, he works really hard and he’s fitting in really well around the dressing room. He’s a really nice boy, really humble and he needs to be away from all the comments to focus on his work and improving.

on whether VAR has changed the way he coaches and advises his players…
There are some things that we need to be more careful with, for example with the handball rule around the penalty area. That’s for sure with the way you have to stop the crosses and block crosses. It has an effect and you have to train it.

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