Press conference

Arteta on Lacazette, Balogun, Barcelona and more

Mikel Arteta held an earlier-than-usual press conference on Wednesday ahead of our Premier League clash with Burnley.

Our manager discussed the Clarets, Alex Lacazette, Emile Smith Rowe, Fiolarin Balogun and more.

Read on for a full transcript:

on what he needs from the squad at a crucial point in the season…
First of all that we maintain the togetherness that we have among the group, that everyone feels important and valued. Then obviously raise the level individually because that is going to improve every position and when that happens we will have good performances, and the better we play, the better results we will have.

on keeping the energy of the group high…
Trying to keep everyone engaged, feeling important and that they are going to be key for our success in the last few months. The contribution you can have whether you play a minute, whether you are on the bench or whether you start the game for me are equally important because in the last few months, when fatigue comes in, substitutions are key and rotation is key and when you have the opportunity you cannot demand, ‘I need four or five games now to perform’, you need to immediately and you have to maximise the minutes you get on that pitch.

on facing Burnley on Saturday…
It’s a really tough match, I think it’s remarkable what the club, Sean and the coaching staff have done in recent years with the resources that they have, the style of play they have implemented and how well they execute it and how efficient they are. It is always really tough to play against them, at home it was a tricky game because we played with 10 men and we ended up losing on a set piece, which is a big part of the game, so hopefully we can have a very different result.

on whether we can still make the top four…
Well the aim is to go on and beat Burnley, we have been chasing [a top-four place] for a while but it is not in our hands, the only thing we can control is our own results and performances. We are fully determined to do that better than what we have done in the past eight months.

on the latest team news…
Emile had a scan yesterday, it doesn’t look a significant injury but he was in discomfort. For the rest, hopefully everybody should be okay.

on getting results and performances now…
We have seen that more consistently now since Boxing Day, even though we have lost some games we probably should not lose but that’s part of football. I think the way the team is playing, there are a lot of improvements but again there are so many things that can still get better. Even at Leicester, having total control of the game but we still gave them two big chances - one they scored and another where we gave the ball to Vardy almost to score. When you make it 2-0 in this league, you make it so hard for yourself and it’s true that the team had a great reaction, they played well and we deserved to win the game. But there are so many things still to get better at.

on having to leave players out and the challenge as a manager…
Yes, that is key obviously. You need a large squad when you play in a lot of competitions, when you play in Europe and you need quality players. Some of them that we already have, some that we are developing. Those players need competition but at the same time they need opportunities, but they need to deserve those opportunities and I think in recent months you have seen a lot of individuals increase their levels of performance and it is exactly what we want - and gives us the problems, as managers, that we want.

on if there is talk on reaching the top four...
Of course there is because that's the aim and that is where we want to take the club back to. We've been out of it for the last few seasons but our eyes are always there. It's true that it doesn't depend on us and when that happens we have to rely on other people and that's never good so we've got to do what we have to do first. Then, I'm sure if we do what we have to do, we'll be in a much better position to see where we are with the last four or five games.

on this summer's transfer dealings...
We will see. We are planning what's going to happen in the summer. It will depend on where we finish, how we finish. I think what we had to in December is unprecedented for a club of this stature. To do the amount of transactions that we had to make it tells you as well where we are. I think it was very much needed and you want to improve, you want to do that. It's where you have things in the house and you believe that you can improve on it. Externally acquiring players to go to the next level. Everything is planned and let's see what the market can bring and what the last few months can bring to the club.

on the possibility of not playing any European football next season...
Yes. At the moment, it's not a possibility it's our reality. We have to be judged on that and I think it's a fair judgement when people want to do it. I think the option to be in Europe is still available through two different paths and we have to maximise that as much as possible because the clubs' history is not just related to the Europa League in recent years but the Champions League and obviously anything that is not at that level is disappointing.

on the importance of playing with fans...
It's important because we want to experience this game playing with fans. It's the whole purpose of it. For me personally, having the joy and how lucky I feel to be the manager of this football club, I want to feel the fans in our stadium. I have to have that feeling of the chemistry that we can create with them and play for them and the team transmit it to the fans and the fans transmit to our team the passion that they have for this club. At the moment, that is missing. I'm missing it personally a lot and I'm sure the players are doing the same. Hopefully, everything will be back to normal next season if everything goes in the right direction. Obviously, as you mentioned, financially, it's going to be a huge plus as well.

on if Alex Lacazette is going to leave in the summer...
He's got a contract with us. He played really well the other week. It's exactly what we demand him to do. I'm really happy with him and the discussions about his contract will happen soon and we will see what happens.

on if he will stay like Aubameyang...
Well, I'm hoping that a player under contract will continue with us. Every case is different and we're going to assess that and we'll make a decision in relation to that.

on who is better: this season's City side or Arsenal's Invincibles...
I don't think we need to compare. I think what City's doing under Pep is phenomenal, not just this season but every season they've been together. To sustain that level of perfection, to sustain that hunger and the way they play football is a joy to watch. We have to be grateful that in this country we have the joy of experiencing something like that. It's not about the way they play, it's the character that the team shows, the spirit it shows, the hunger - and not just with the ball. The best example is that these players, with the ability they have, chase the ball down when they lose it. That's remarkable and Pep has done that at every club.

on whether Man City are the PL's best-ever team...
With the maturity that they've shown and the way the team has evolved in recent years, I would say that in this moment it's the best. To say they're the best ever means they have to win everything like that team did a few years ago when they won the four domestic competitions. If you add to that the Champions League, then there is no question because nobody's done it.

on why everyone hates playing at Burnley...
I don't. I quite enjoy it because it's what the Premier League is about, going into those grounds and making it happen, being able to compete against a style that is very defined and executed to perfection. That's a big credit. There's not one or two ways to play football, there's many ways to do it. They did it within the rules and there's nothing that is outside them. They do it really well. From my side, they merit much more credit for what they do than what they sometimes do. It's admiration as a coach that he's able to get the best out of that group of players, the results that they have as a club, to create the atmosphere that they do at that stadium. It's all credit to them because they believe in what they do. I think that's really nice for the English Premier League.

on rumours linking him with Barcelona...
There is always going to speculation when there are elections in Barcelona. It's a huge team. Obviously I was raised there as a player and they're always going to be linked. I'm fully focused on the job that I have to do here, and we have a lot to do. I'm really enjoying it.

on whether he could join Barcelona one day...
Today and tomorrow, I am the manager of Arsenal Football Club, and I'm really enjoying it. I want to do much better than what we've done.

on whether he's started contract negotiations with us yet...
No.

on whether he'd like to get that sorted over the summer...
We're in the middle of the season. We have a lot to play for and at the moment it's not a priority. That's OK. I still have a contract here and I am happy here. I don't think that's something urgent.

on Nketiah’s lack of minutes…
Well, when we’re talking about management, this is one of the hazards to leave someone like Eddie out of the squad, but at the moment everybody has been fit and we have so many options upfront. But it hurts as well because of how Eddie behaves and trains every day and because he’s a player from our academy, but he will have his chance. He needs to be patient and he’s showing no signs of lacking attitude or anything like that, it’s the complete opposite. He’s a joy to work with and he deserves minutes and if he doesn’t get it, it’s just my fault.

on whether there’s a risk that a lack of minutes could damage his development…
Yeah, there is because he needs to play and we’ve been wanting to use him a little bit more on some occasions and we didn’t. To be fair, when he’s played, he’s played well, but at his age and for what he’s done the last two or three seasons, he needs more minutes. It’s something we have to talk about openly and make the right decision.

on the differences between managing a club like Arsenal and Barcelona/Real Madrid….
I don’t know, but what I can tell you is that I feel privileged to manage this football club and I’m extremely happy.

on William Saliba and Dinos Mavropanos…
We’re having meetings very often to assess what they’re doing and obviously we’re getting all the information and watching their games because I want to keep a very close eye on what they’re doing. We were talking yesterday for example with Ben Knapper, who is our loan manager, who is in charge of monitoring everything we are doing, and we are in contact with the players. Let’s see. It’s good news that they are playing and it’s good news that they have the possibility to have a lot of minutes because that’s going to give us a much better perception of where they are and how we can use them.

on whether Folarin Balogun is distancing himself from the club…
I wouldn’t say so. I think I am pretty positive about it and every time I spoke to him, he mentions the same thing, that he’s determined to stay here and he wants to stay here. He has some really positive conversations with his agent as well and Edu is in charge of that. He’s been spending a lot of time and energy to make that deal happen because it’s important for us to keep our talent in the house, and what we can guarantee is that we’re doing everything we can to keep him.

on whether Southgate’s spoken to him about Saka and Smith Rowe…
No, not directly him, but obviously we know the staff and we know how they are looking at them. We are extremely happy and proud that they can be used with England because that means we can provide some talent that has come through our academy and I think there is nothing better for us than that.

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