Press conference

Arteta on... the FA Cup, Man City and Mesut Ozil

It was a bumper press conference for Mikel Arteta on Friday as he looked ahead to our Emirates FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City.

Our head coach discussed the match at Wembley, Dani Ceballos, Mesut Ozil, Alex Lacazette and more.

This is what he said:

on his philosophy for developing young players... 
Well, first of all you have to assess what stage of their development they are in and I consider that there are five different ones. We are pretty lucky because the academy has done such great work in the last few season to produce their players and the personalities that we have in the squad right now, so when it comes to us, it’s about how we can support them and create the right environment for them to grow in a place where they have some protections, but at the same time they have the exposure for them to grow and the circumstances on the context that they have to deal with the pressure and competition. I love working with young players.

on the importance of having a pool of young English players…
It’s really important because this is part of our DNA. We can produce at home and we know that with the facilities and structures that we have in place, we have players of that calibre and that level. There are some things you cannot compare with anyone from the outside because their feelings and their relationships within the club and how much they care, their passion they put in for our team is different and that’s a mixture you don’t get from anyone else.

on how far our English youngsters can go…
I think they have to set the limits. We want to give them as many opportunities as possible, again with the right environment and the right structure around them, but then it depends on them. This is not about doing it for one month, three months or eight months, it’s about doing it for a long time, and you know that the demands of this football club and the level that you have to be to be there, you have to be really consistent and that’s the hardest thing to do.

on whether he can target Manchester City’s weaknesses…
That’s what we will try to do as much as possible. Like any other team, they have some weaknesses as you mentioned and as well, it’s about stopping their strengths, which they have a lot of. This is part of any game plan, it’s not about City or any other opponent that we’re facing, and tomorrow we will do exactly the same.

on how long Pep will stay at Manchester City for…
I don’t know. He’s been there for four years, which for him is quite a long time already and look at the success that he has had. He feels really happy there and he is surrounded by great people across the club. He feels that the players, the style and the identity he’s created belongs to him as well. He’s close to the fans and he’s really happy, but I don’t know. That’s a question for him.

on whether Dani Ceballos wants to stay…
Well, that’s a conversation that we’re having with the club to see what we can do in the future with him. But I’m really, really happy with his progress and how much he’s improving and giving to the club. I always say as an example, he’s a loan player but when you see how he celebrates for every goal and the way he trains every day and how much he cares, I’m really happy with him.

on plans to get fans back into stadiums for October...
That's the rumour we are hearing. Obviously things are evolving in different countries in different ways. I think we have to be patient. I think we are all desperate to have our people back in the stadium and make football what it is again. But obviously we want to be able to create a safe environment for everybody to come and join. My opinion is that it will be gradual. The sooner the better but let's do it carefully.

on it being good that Boris Johnson is talking about it...
Very good. It's good because they can see that in the near future things are going to improve. That's another sign of that which is really good, not just for football but for society in general.

on the FA Cup being the way into Europe for us...
Absolutely [it is massive for us]. For many different reasons but as well because this competition is a big part of our history, in the last 10 years even more. It's a good opportunity for us to go and win a trophy, and we are very excited. We will try to go there again tomorrow and make another step forward.

on whether Mesut Ozil is in his thoughts...
Yeah he's been training.

on whether Ozil is in the squad...
I haven't done the squad yet, but he's in training.

on whether the Liverpool victory sets us up nicely for City...
Unfortunately yes [City are going to have a lot of the ball]. We had a really good reaction after the goal [we conceded against Liverpool]. It's not easy because they are such a dominant team, so I'm really pleased with the result that we got. They're going to be very different games and it's going to happen tomorrow as well, you cannot expect to be dominant for 90 minutes. I don't want to be defending deep for 90 minutes either. There are going to be a lot of little games within that game that we have to play. We'll have our moments as well and you know how crucial it is in big games and in this competition to make the right decisions. I expect not a similar game but the level of difficulty will again be really, really high.

on whether selling players to buy new ones is an inevitability...
I don't know. We are facing a lot of uncertainties at the moment. COVID-19 has hit all the clubs and it's obviously a big worry, a big uncertainty we have with some of the players. We don't know where we're going to finish and how much impact financially that's going to have. We're going to have to sit down at the end of the season and see what we are able to do, but we are working together with the club. In the last few months we've put different plans together to see how we can minimise these uncertainties that we have.

on if he picks his team solely on football reasons and how Matteo and Mesut feel about not being selected...
Pure football reasons. My decision is always that. My only ambition is to put out the best squad, the best players that give us the best balance - in and out of the field - and the best possible chance to win the game.

on how positive he feels regarding Auba's future...
I've always been very positive about it. I don't have the key to the future and in football, anything is possible. But I see his reactions, I see how he is training every day. I know that he's happy. I talk to him a lot and if we are able to do it, I think we can do it and we know how important he is for the team.

on knowing Arsenal's weaknesses from his time in the coaching team at Man City...
Well, it's a different team and we are a different team as well. I know their strengths and I know the flexibility they have and the things that they are going to try. But even like that, sometimes it is very difficult to stop them. I want to focus on what we want to do. If I worry too much about them, it's not the message that I want to send to the players. It's what we are going to do and what we have to do to try to win the game, to give us the best chance to compete against them throughout the 90 minutes and put them under difficulties. That is what I will do and that is the game plan we always put against every team.

on whether he is worried by City winning all of our last seven meetings...
Yes. But if I look at the trends as well before we played Liverpool, with the calendar year or the last two calendar years that they've had, you get depressed. What I need now is energy to transmit to my players, belief and it's the FA Cup - we have a lot of experience here and we have a history related to that. Let's go for it.

on David Silva's legacy in English football and if he is under-appreciated globally...
If I could read the articles and the comments when he joined the Premier League, they were saying that player is so small, he doesn't have the physicality, he won't adapt. What David has done in this league has been incredible. Again, the level of consistency to play the way he has done with the amount of goals, assists and chances that he creates every single season, in tight spaces against very low blocks, time and time again, is incredible. I always said - and I agree with what Pep said - in shorter spaces, he's the best player that I've seen.

on Alex Lacazette...
Yes, I really like Alex, I said that even before I joined here that he is the type of striker that I really like. I think he had periods where he was very unlucky, because he was having the chances and not converting them which he is not used to. But the way he can link play, he's a massive competitor he hates to lose. He goes for every ball, you see in every challenge how he's ready to go. He works really hard and he's a very intelligent player, I am really happy with him.

on not wanting to lose him...
Why would I want to lose a player like him? I'm really happy with him.

on whether Maitland-Niles wants to leave...
I don't disclose those reports, first of all because I don't read them so I don't know about them. I speak to the players about how they are feeling and how we can help them. If they are having difficulties again I speak to them and make them easier for them. He's a player who can play in many different positions, we have discussed the things in my opinion that he can improve or adapt to his game because he has incredible quality. He has every quality that you need to be a football player to play the highest level and he just needs to do it in a little bit more of a consistent way, but he is someone who can adapt to any position as well.

on whether he has a future at Arsenal...
Yes, maybe he didn't play as much as I wanted him to play but I played him in many different positions and in very important games as well.

on whether he was sending a message to the owners after the Liverpool game...
No, that was misinterpreted. It wasn't my intention. We work so closely with everyone at the club, with the owners to put the plan that we need to take the club forward. Everybody has the same ambition, we are in all of this together. But if you ask me if I know right now what do I have and how can I do it, I'm sorry but I don't know because there are a lot of questions that we can not resolve right now with the situation we have. One is financially and the other one is because we do not know if we are in Europe, and because we have players that we don't know what's going to happen. That's the reality. It's not about sending a message, we all have the same objective which is to try to bring the club back as quickly as possible, fighting with the top teams in the country and in Europe and that's it, and I want to do that as quickly as possible.

on talking with the owners or Raul Sanllehi more...
No, I speak with them and I have a really, really good and open relationship, that's why when you mention that I am surprised because I don't need to do that. I can make a phone call and speak to them and they have been very, very supportive from the first day that I joined the club and they were very much participating in the decision to bring me back here and the same with Raul and Vinai and Edu. There are no gaps or friction or anything there.

on if he can pick up the phone whenever he likes...
Yes.

on whether assurances have changed since taking the job...
The context has changed. Nobody knew what Covid-19 was going to do. We didn't know where we could take the team. The team was in a really difficult moment. Sometimes we were looking down, don't forget, to relegation zone and saying 'Jesus, we have won one in 13'. We want to move this forward and I am very ambitious because I can only think about this football club moving in one direction and I am going to push with everything I have. My job is to do that, first of all with the players that we have. It's not just about the players, if we can improve with a staff member, with somebody who is going to give us an extra yard on something, I will push to do that. The first thing is to improve the players that we have, and I think we have done that so far, and we can go to the next level, of course we can. But in the meantime as well we need sometimes some specificity to move the club quicker into those positions.

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