Press conference

Arteta on... the FA Cup, Southampton, Smith Rowe

Mikel Arteta was back in front of the media on Thursday ahead of our Emirates FA Cup fourth-round clash at Southampton.

Our manager discussed the match, defending the trophy, Mesut Ozil, Sokratis and more.
 
Read on for a full transcript:
 
on life being better when the team is playing well…
It is always much better. We want to continue the run, we haven't done anything, we've just won a couple of games. There are still a lot of things to improve, certainly in the league table we have to look much further, we have to be more consistent. The first half of the season is gone now, so we have another half to play and hopefully it will be much better.
 
on Aubameyang's fitness...
As far as I know, he is feeling very good.
 
on how strong the squad will be on Saturday...
As strong as it can be. We will asses the players, who is fit to play, who has recovered, we have a few issues after the game as well so in the next two days we will see the best possible line up. Southampton, we're going to be playing them twice in three days which is strange, and try to keep the FA Cup run going as well.
 
on allowing Sokratis to leave...
Yes, first of all I want to thank him because he is such a professional and great person to work with. It's a shame because this season we have a lot of central defenders, we are overloaded with foreign players and I had to make a decision. It was a tough one and to be fair he took it really, really well, he has always been really supportive and helpful, so from the bottom of my heart I wish him the best. It has been a pleasure to work with him and I wish the best for him and his family in the next chapter.
 
on the latest on Mesut Ozil and when the deal will go through...
Yeah but the quarantine situation is making that final step the longest ever because they have a lot of restrictions there. There are things that have to be done before announcing anything. I think everything seems to be going okay, but I cannot say definitely what is going to happen, so as soon as we can, don't worry, we will mention it.
 
on the decision to let him leave...
Yes, for many different reasons [it was a tough decision]... there is a history here what happened in the past few years, how things developed, how I think the team should evolve for the future, and his position at the club. A player with such an importance that is not playing, that is not in the squad, it is a really difficult situation to sustain for both parties because the player wants to play and we cannot give him the minutes. Obviously that situation has to be resolved.
 
on Ozil as a player...
He is a great footballer, a really talented footballer, a player who has done a lot for the football club but at the moment I want to take the team in a different direction. If we were to have more options, then maybe he was part of some plans - he was part of some plans at the start, and he wasn't at the end.
 
on the direction he wants to take the team...
Arsenal has to challenge for every trophy, and every game has to be won: that is the standard, and the level and the history related to us. I want to do that in a way that our DNA shows, which is using a lot of talent, young talent as well, using players from our academy and building something different. In the last few seasons we have so many different issues not to achieve what we want and in my opinion there were things that have to be changed and slowly, to build something, you have to change some pieces and we are in that process.
 
on how much the FA Cup win bought him the time he has now...
I don't know. When I was losing football matches, I wasn't thinking about that cup. In football, the pressure that this football club brings is to win today. What you did yesterday doesn't count anymore, it's about tomorrow, the next game, the next goal. I just focus on that. It was great that we won two trophies in a really nice way against big teams, beating big teams, which gave them more importance. But now I am focused on what is ahead of us. That is done, OK we enjoyed it but let's enjoy more in the future.

on whether Theo Walcott is still the player he was...
Well I think he looks really good, that's for sure. He's played a lot of minutes, he scored against us - a very typical Theo Walcott goal - when he played at the Emirates. He was a team-mate of mine, a great lad and I'm happy he's doing well because he's gone through some difficult periods with some really bad injuries as well. He deserves this.

on whether he always thought Walcott would be an out-and-out striker...
He always wanted to be. He likes to be very close to the goal all the time, threatening in behind. I think he improved his finishing a lot in the last year and his goal record improved a lot. Arsène used to do a lot of work with him when he was here and he always defined him as a player with great timing of his movement and the arrival in the box. It's true. Sometimes he played him there even when I was a player, and he did really well.

on whether it's still the plan to bring players in this month...
We are in that process right now. We've done the first part [selling players] more or less and now we are focusing on the second phase. Obviously this market and the context makes it really difficult but we are looking at options and we will see what we can do.

on links with Martin Odegaard...
Sorry, guys, but I cannot comment on players who play for different clubs.

on an attacking midfielder being one of his targets...
We are looking at various positions because the movements that we've made in this transfer window with some players leaving the club leaves us a little bit short in certain areas. If we can then we will do it, if we can't then we will just keep going with what we have.

on a new contract for ESR...
Let's go step by step. Emile has done really well, he deserves his chance, he's taken it and is grabbing it with both hands and in a really convincing way. Let him be and things will come naturally.

on playing Southampton twice in three days...
The difficult times make [staying down there] impossible because of the restrictions we have with spending time together in hotels. I know that so I think we'll be in and out very quickly.
 
on whether what's happening at Chelsea makes him smile because Lampard is now going through exactly what he did at Arsenal...
No. When any of my colleagues are in difficulties, I don't smile. If anything, I would like to support them and I had a lot of support from a lot of managers in the league when we were going through rough times, even some advice as well and that's how it should be. We are competing with each other but we share a profession and we know the challenges of this profession. So I wish Frank the best.
 
on meaning to ask if he smiles because the media have moved on to a new victim already...
No. I understand, but no. I just focus on what we have to do, what we are doing, what I am doing and try to get better every day. Obviously everything is going to be linked at the end, to results. It's not about many other things so we need to be clear on that and we cannot take anything for granted because we know that the job is like that.
 
on Cedric and whether he's now at his best and can challenge Hector...
Yes, when he joined us he had various injuries and some difficult times, as you mentioned. It took him a little bit of time to adapt and get completely free and now earn the chances to play. The best thing with Cedric is the way he takes his profession, the way he trains, the way he prepares himself. So every time that we had to use him, he was always ready and always fit to compete. Even not playing for many parts of the season, when he had to play 120 minutes he was completely ready. The other night I think he had a really good game.
 
on whether you almost see more of a player's character when they're not playing...
When I see someone behaving like he has done and training like he has done, all the time trying to help but accepting my decision - which is tough for him - but at the end, challenging in a way where he is all the time competing in training and when he has the chance to play he does it well and all the time asking for reasons why he's not playing and what he has to do better. I just want to reward this kind of behaviour and player and Cedric has done that for sure.
 
on what he said when Cedric asked him how he can be better...
We talked about some things about the game and then I said that he has to stay fit. He came here with a knee injury, then he had a nose issue, then he had another knee injury and now he's been fit and competing. Now he's got his chance.
 
on whether he feels short at left back with a lack of natural cover for Kieran...
With the departure of Kola, we are a little bit short with left-footed full-backs at the moment. We know we can use Ainsley there, we can use Bukayo there and we can use Cedric - who has played in that position - so we have some options. A natural option to Kieran? Obviously, we don't. But we can adapt.
 
on if that means he would look to sign a left back...
That means that the option is open and we will look to see what is available.
 
on Flo Balogun's lack of appearances and if it's related to his contract situation...
No. If anything - regarding his contractual situation with the club - I just wanted to convince him that he has a future at the club, not send him the opposite message. Before he wasn't training with the first team, we changed that and he's been training with us a lot. He's improving every single day, he's showing a real hunger and decided to be with us. We're trying to get something done because we want him to stay and we have to go step-by-step. I think he's made some big steps in the last few months, where he wasn't even training and then he had a few good games for us. So the steps are there in every way and we want to try to keep him.
 
on why Folarin Balogun has not been in our matchday squads…
Because of the competition we have now and because there are other players that haven’t had many minutes and they’ve played in the FA Cup. It takes time. We have to respect that with Eddie, he’s not been playing a lot recently as well and he’s in front of him at the moment and we have to be calm and respectful.

on if he’s spoken about agreeing a deal to leave…
As far as I know, no.

on which is more important, top four or the Emirates FA Cup…
I wouldn’t like to choose, I would like both. We want to win every competition we’re involved in, obviously the next step for us is to be competing in the champions League again. Arsene Wenger mentioned that just a few years again and I agree with that because the competition was getting bigger and bigger and in the last three years that level has gone to another dimension. This is the level that we need to achieve, and we need to get closer and closer to that each year.

on if you can celebrate getting top four in the same way as winning a trophy…
No, you can’t. But you have to know your reality and when you are 35 or 40 points behind the winner of the competition, to close that gap in one year it’s very unrealistic. Me personally, I haven’t seen it done.

on if this January is the hardest window to do business in…
Yes, because we are all very cautious and conscious about what we want to do and how we want to do it, how the market is going to evolve so we need to be careful. We want to process every decision really carefully and then when we are clear about an opportunity, then we will try to do it.
 
on if this has already been a successful window…
Well, we could not carry on with 31 players in the squad. This is unmanageable. When you have to leave some of the foreign players out it makes it even more difficult. For a few weeks maybe it’s ok but to do it for months and maintain the health and ambition and the chemistry around the place it’s really complicated. One of the main objectives was to make some decisions of how we’re going to offset that.

on maintaining team spirit in a smaller group…
For me the important thing is that everybody feels involved and that they have a chance. They’re all fighting for a place but at the end they need to feel that they have the opportunity when they perform to get the chance to play. When you’re completely out that is out of the equation and then it makes it really difficult to find that motivation.

on if he ever found out who was leaking information…
I have a sort of idea, yes.

on if that was related to players that left this month…
No comment on that.

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