Press conference

Arteta on... Leeds, Tierney, Pepe, Balogun

Mikel Arteta was back in front of the media on Friday to look ahead to our weekend clash with Leeds United.

Our manager discussed the latest team news, plus Nicolas Pepe, Folarin Balogun, Kieran Tierney and more.
 
Read on for a full transcript:
 
on whether there is an update on the team news…
Not really, we will know more in the next two days on the injuries we have and how they are evolving, and whether they will be available for Sunday or the next game. Be patient because it looks like a lot of players are breaking down.
 
on how long Partey will be out for…
It is a difficult one, he felt something during the game and we didn’t think it was too bad but after the scan looked a little bit worse. He won’t be available to play against Leeds and we will see how it evolves in the next two days but it is a muscular issue.
 
on how frustrating it is for him…
He was devastated, we were all devastated because we know the importance of Thomas and we haven’t had him since we signed him, we haven’t had him in three games consecutively. I think he has only played 90 minutes once since he has come back from injury, so it is a big blow for us but he is adapting to the league, he has been very unlucky as well and he is very frustrated because he is a very competitive guy who wants to feel important and be important for the team and at the moment the injuries are restricting a lot of game time for him.
 
on the competition for places between Leno and Ryan…
I think Mat played a really good game, and for a first game he played for us after so little training I think he was really good. I really like the way he reacted because conceding that goal on your debut so early, and still reacting the way he did showed a lot of character from him. That is why we brought him here because he has to be an option and he has to keep pushing Bernd.
 
on having a week on the training pitch…
We couldn’t work some days because of the snow and the conditions on the pitch, but it was unusual for us to have a week to prepare. But we reviewed a lot of things we have done in recent weeks and the reasons we have won a lot of games and the reasons we lost in the last few games in a strange way when we didn’t deserve to do it. It is completely down to us and what we have to do better.
 
on what he thinks about Leeds…
They are a really brave, dynamic and attacking side. I think they are a really exciting side, a great coach, great coaching staff who are all involved and a bunch of players who believe 100 per cent in what they do and they just go in every game with the same energy and enthusiasm to get the points. I think they deserve more points than they have in the table at the moment.
 
on Kieran Tierney…
We have to see how the knee reacts when he starts to get a bit more load. He hasn’t had much left but he is very positive at the moment, he is in good spirits and he is desperate to get back in the team and we will see in the next few days, the moment he starts to train with the team and se how he is feeling and how he reacts.
 
on how frustrating it is to not have him involved…
To be fair we are getting used to it because we are missing sop many players all the time, I don’t remember we were all to play the same starting XI two or three times, I can’t even think about it. But it is what it is. The players are making huge efforts, even the ones who are injured are willing to come back to play and this is what we demand of them and the ones on the pitch had to give their best and make it difficult for the ones who want to get back in. That is what we are trying to do.
 
on what more we can expect from Nicolas Pepe…
Again, that he can maintain that level now for months, not weeks. I think he’s done much much better. I think there has been a click with him, even in his mentality, how he’s approaching every training session, the importance of every action in the game and how he can sustain his focus and his determination during games. I really like his attitude. What’s he’s done in the last few weeks I think it’s been much better. He still has a lot of room to improve and grow and he’s willing to do that so I’m expecting him to go to the next level very soon.
 
on the online social media abuse directed towards players
Of course, we’ve spoken internally to the players and tried to give them some advice and tried to protect them as much as possible. The incident that occurred a few days ago with Mike Dean is completely unacceptable and I think we should all stand for him and support Mike and the referring community as well. They have a tremendously difficult role in the league at the moment with a lot of key decisions that effect teams and leagues one way or the other, but at the same time they try to do their best. They prepare in the best possible way and we all make mistakes and I think we have to support them.
 
on if social media abuse has got worse…
I think if we read everything that was written about us we’d probably have to stay in bed a lot of days. It’s part of it, I think it’s great that people have the ability to communicate on so many platforms and give their opinions. The only thing I’m asking is to be respectful, you know? Do it in a respectful way, you don’t have to batter anybody or try to hurt anybody. Yeah, just give your opinion with the best intentions and when it’s constructive I think everybody can take criticism. It’s part of our job to look at it and think and reflect on it but when people just have the intention of hurting, that’s when it becomes a little bit silly in my opinion. It’s just finding that balance. There are a lot of positives, but I think there are things we can do better as well.
 
on if Kieran Tierney was expected to be out for this long…
Well, we didn’t know. At the end of the day when you have pain and you are not comfortable and you are someone like Kieran who does everything 100mph you need to be in the right condition. When someone like him says it doesn’t feel right and that something is wrong you worry because you know how much he wants it as well. He’s in a much better place now, in the last few days he’s feeling better, he’s training, he’s positive, he’s willing to come back early and help the team and hopefully we can have him soon.
 
on if the league position can be explained by the amount of absentees we’ve had this season…
I don’t know. I don’t like to use any excuses. It is what it is. We have to adapt and we have other players trying to do the job but at certain moments you need some consistency, you need a team that has to play and you see all the successful teams and you need some consistency in your starting XIs and get that chemistry, that cohesion, that togetherness there and we haven’t been able to do that. It’s the context, it’s the situation, it’s COVID, it’s a strange year with no pre-season, there’s a lot of factors there but I think still we could be in a much better place just looking at what we’ve done in games ourselves and what we have given away.
 
on Marcelo Bielsa's 'murderball' in training...
Yes I've heard about it. I've seen it. Marcelo has some incredible methods. You just have to see the way the team plays and some of the things they do constantly, some habits that they have that they implement throughout the game with such a conviction. There's a lot of things that young coaches like me can learn from people like him who have been in the game for a long time and have been really successful.
 
on whether he's had any online abuse...
I'd prefer not to [speak about it] but I think we're all exposed to that in this industry. That's why I'd prefer not to read it because it would affect me personally much more the moment that somebody wants to [harm] my family. Because it happened, the club was aware of it and we tried to do something about it. That's it. We have to live with it. It's not going to stop tomorrow, we know that, but medium or long-term can we do something about it? That's what I am pushing for.
 
on whether we should have had bigger squads this season given injuries...
We could and I think we did have as well. The issue we had is the balance of that squad, the proportions in positions where you have the same numbers and you can all feel part of it, feel important, still share some minutes. Being in four competitions, maybe it made sense, but in two competitions now I don't think it makes that much sense. You never know. It's unpredictable, you lose players every week. At the moment, how we're going to look in May, we don't know. We have a long week and now you are tempted to say, 'OK, let's train so hard because this is the first long week we've had for a while' but as well players need to recover, they need to freshen up. Now they've come back and the next six to eight weeks is absolutely crazy, so there is a balance that we have to find out there as well.
 
on Leeds using attack as the best form of defence...
When you look at a lot of the game they've lost and how they've lost them, it's pretty incredible as well. Maybe they haven't deserved those defeats. They've been really punished on set-pieces as well, which is one key area there. But overall what they've produced in open-play compared to the opponent, it's difficult to see games where they have produced less than the opponent.
 
on whether he's a Bielsa disciple...
No I'm not a disciple because I don't know him that well! Pep knows him much better than I do but obviously you try to learn, to try to pick up things from other teams. I will be interested to learn how they develop their teams, their ethos, their way of playing. Marcelo's got a lot of positive things to look at.
 
on whether we will now start to prioritise the UEL...
The priority is Leeds and then we go back to Europe. Obviously it's a competition that we know can give us access to what we want. There's still a long way to go, still a very strange year as well with the locations of where we're going to be playing those games. Let's go step by step.
 
on whether threats on social media have impacted his day to day life…
But it’s part of the job. I’m not the only one who  that is suffering these types of things. When you’re winning, everything is beautiful and you are incredible and you are the best coach, but when you lose it’s completely the opposite. That’s reality. It’s not pleasant when they go personal against me, but I can take it. When family is involved, then it’s a different story.
 
on whether the priority for Mikel is protecting those around him…
Absolutely, but we are lucky enough as well that the club is very supportive. We do what we have to do when those things happen. My only purpose is just, it’s not going to happen tomorrow, but can we do something about it in the medium to long term to protect the people that are involved in the game, and maybe in other industries it happens in the same way.
 
on why Martinelli isn’t starting most games…
Well, he came back and did really well, but then he picked up another injury. It took him a while to come and now it’s about getting in his rhythm and getting his place in the team like anybody else. Don’t forget that we played him last time against Manchester United and he started ahead of other players, so it’s not like he’s not having the opportunities. We know that he’s got a huge potential and he’s done some really good things since he’s come back. He has a lot of things to develop in his game because of course at his age it’s normal.He came here from a different league and physically it’s much more demanding than the Spanish league. He got injured, he wanted to get back, he got back and then he got injured again, so his rhythm has been in and out. He hasn’t had a pre-season and he hasn’t had the type of that is needed for such a change. Then it’s probably anxiety from being so willing to do well and to feel important because he’s a big signing. All those things add up and he broke down again, so we have to be patient now and he needs to recover properly because he’s going to be key for us.
 
on whether Balogun will leave at the end of the season…
No, I’m still very positive that Flo is going to stay with us and it’s what we’re trying to do as a club, and it’s what I’m trying to do as a manager. As far as I know from last week, the player wants to be here, so I’m positive. I think he’s made some big progress in a few months.

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