Press conference

Arteta on... Molde, Pepe, Saka, goals and more

Mikel Arteta faced the media in Norway on Wednesday as he previewed our Europa League group-stage match against Molde.

Our manager discussed Nicolas Pepe, the latest on Bukayo Saka's fitness, the need to score more goals and much more.

Read on for a full transcript:

on what he expects from this game...
They will be tough. It's a different competition that we've been really excited about playing, against a team who we know are good and tough. They made it difficult for us in the first leg and tomorrow on an artificial pitch, it becomes different. We need to get used to it and today's a good day to practice.

on fans...
We are getting used to it unfortunately. We have some news now in England with the Premier League that fans are going to be allowed in the stadium, which is great news. Everybody's been waiting for them so let's see now how the clubs cope with the final detail to provide a safe environment for them and the best possible conditions so everybody's safe, and they can support us.

on what he expects from Molde...
A really organised team. They are very dominant in the league obviously and are so used to winning football matches. I expect them to have a real go tomorrow. They were aggressive when they played against us in certain phases of our play. They were organised and good on the the counter-attack and set-pieces as well. We want to be there, win the game and we know that will give us the qualification.

on whether this is the perfect time for Pepe to get straight back into the team...
Yes, absolutely. We've all had disappointing reactions in our playing careers and obviously we were frustrated because when you play against a team like Leeds for a long time with 10 men, it makes a huge difference. Even more with the way they play. He had a really good reaction, the way he apologised, the way he understood his responsibility and hopefully tomorrow we can see the player that we want to see, and have a good reaction to help his team.

on Pepe's future...
No, it's absolutely not [the end of his Arsenal career after the red card]. It's not about that and I don't like that type of statement. I will give Nico my full support all the time. He knows where he has to improve and we all know his qualities. He has some responsibility, I have a lot of responsibility, which is to get the best out of him and get the best position for him, the best areas where he can do what he can do with the ball. I cannot fault his effort at all. You see the way he strives for the team, the way he's working, it's been the best since he's been at the club. But there have been some aspects he can do better in because he has the ability. That's where I'm going to put the pressure on him to deliver what he can do. To say it's a threat for him to finish his [Arsenal] career... it's not at all like that.

on getting the best out of Pepe...
Absolutely [it's a joint-responsibility to get the best out of Pepe as a player]. The club made a huge investment on him and people expect a lot from him because he has this quality. I said many times with the strikers and attacking players, it's the most difficult thing to be consistent when you have to create, when you have to unlock the door, when you have to score goals or get assists. This is why he's here and he needs to embrace this challenge, and go for it. We have to provide the best possible and ideal scenarios for him to be able to do that.

on whether Pepe apologised to his team-mates...
Absolutely right, he did it. He did it personally and he did it publicly. That's done. Let's move on. We all make mistakes, we all make decisions when we are in the middle of the heat. It's about the reaction, what we learn from it individually and as a team, and moving on. That's it, we need to focus on the next game.

on how we're going to get out of 'bad form'...
If you see the results that have happened in the Premier League and why teams win or lose games, the margins are minimal. Teams are winning with one shot on target or with two shots on target. We want to improve that, of course we do. But as well there are many aspects that I am really happy with, enthusiastic and optimistic about. When I see the young talents we got here and the future that we can produce for them, it's things that get me really excited. We know that we are going to go through difficult periods because you don't change issues that have been going on for years in a small amount of time, it's all about the context and how we are working. It makes it harder but we know that we are Arsenal and our aim is to be the best all the time.

on whether Christian Eriksen could solve our creativity issues...
There are a lot of players out there that could improve any team. But obviously we are not going to discuss any individuals.

on international breaks causing a lot of issues...
The challenges that we are facing is that every government, every league, has different rules and different guidelines as well. I will use the word 'unpredictability' because we let a few players go to their national teams and two of them are still away. Imagine how hard this affects training. Some of them played three times for a full 90 minutes which is insane with the number of fixtures we are playing. At the moment as managers and clubs, there is very little that we can do and the governments don't support you in certain matches. I'm assuming that for Molde their issues are different ones to ours, but I think we have all suffered for these circumstances.

on George Lewis...
He's a player with huge potential. Norway are developing a lot of talent in recent years and it's the fact that you're doing a lot of things right from the academy, probably the government, with developing the programmes over the years. Now you can see some results and I'm pleased to see that because that means that these leagues are getting more and more competitive, and things are getting done better around Europe as well.

on Sander Berge...
That's probably why [there are links] because Albert knows him really well. He's a player he liked but we haven't shown any interest in the player. He's a Sheffield United player and we haven't done anything at all.

on fans maybe returning next week...
It would depend where we are in terms of the infections but it looks like we're going to be able to host some of our fans in the stadium which is fantastic news. We have been working really hard as a club, the club has a really good project and everything is almost ready to try to accommodate everybody in a safe way. There are still some details that are not confirmed that makes next week a challenge but the club is trying its best because myself, the players and the staff are all desperate to have them back watching the games.

on the schedule...
Absolutely. We can give a few hours at least. It makes a huge difference in this schedule when you are playing twice away around Europe, it makes the recovery time incredibly difficult. So yeah, if they take that on board, then I think it's beneficial for all parties because at the end [of the day] it's an entertainment business and we have to provide the best possible outcome for that. That only happens when the players are in the best condition to perform and are physically ready to go.

on if we've become too reliant on goals from Aubameyang...
When you have a player like him, you have to rely on him. It's not something that has happened this year, it's something that has happened in previous seasons. That we have relied too much on him in recent years to score the goals, we need other people to step in and to take more responsibility. We need goals from midfield, and defenders [to score] from set-pieces to contribute. All players go through these periods, I know Auba will be back and scoring goals again very soon.

on if Jack Wilshere could return...
We haven't analysed that situation. What I can tell you about Jack is what I've said in the past, as a player, as a teammate and as a person I rate him really really highly. Unfortunately, at the moment we haven't looked at that. We are focused on the players we have and we’re trying to do the best we can with them.

on if he might be invited to train with the squad...
Again, we have no request on that. We haven't been approached, I haven't been approached. It's just a question that you are throwing at me at the moment, I can't tell you much more than that.

on if he wants Folarin Balogun to sign a new deal...
Yes, he is a player that I want. He is a player that I want to stay at the club. I love working with young players. You can see the talent is there, the ambition is there and he can fit with our stricture and progress in the future. He's part of the DNA and myself and the club are working to try to extend his contract. We're trying to change the situation that we are in at the moment with him, and trying to convince him that this is the right place for him.

on what has changed to prompt the club to try to keep him..
I have decided that I want to keep the player. The moment that I started to see more of the player and change certain things that I didn't agree with, we decided to give it a go, tried to convince the player, try to show him what we want to do with him, why he fits in with what we are trying to do at the club. The young talent and the top talent that we produce at the academy is with the final aim to put them in the first team. When I signed for this club it was one of the things that excited me the most because I love to work with them and it's part of our DNA and the history of the club. When we have them, let's keep them and we really think they are players that can take us to the next level.

on Bukayo Saka...
It's very doubtful [that he'll be back for the weekend]. We have a few players in contention. He's been in a lot of pain for the last few days so I cannot say today that he's going to be fit. We'll have to assess what happens the day before the game against Wolves. But we have other players fit and whether he's fit or not, we'll try to find the right solutions for our attacking players to prepare for the game against Wolves.

on not being able to use extra subs in the Premier League...
I hope [they change the rule] because in the second halves, at the moment you make two substitutions and you're just praying and waiting. You know that in any moment a player's going to go down with a muscle injury, with soreness, with some discomfort and you make the three substitutions so you are exposed in the last 15 or 20 minutes. I think most of the managers are feeling that way so hopefully we will change the rule to adapt. Let's hope we are able to do that soon because the moment we start to play in December as well, with the fixtures we have, it's going to be pretty dramatic.

on how that influences his decision for selection in the UEL...
At the moment we cannot really pick and go here. We have some really serious injuries in recent months with some players out for long periods. We had some injuries, we now have a suspension, we have issues with COVID as well, so we haven't really been in a position where we can say, 'OK, he plays this game, he plays this game' because we have to accommodate with the amount of injuries and circumstances that we have. Hopefully that will change in a positive way in the next few months.

on whether Pepe felt under pressure as he was in and out of the team...
We just need to try to support him and he needs to feel that myself and the club are going to protect him. We are giving him time and he needed some time last year to adapt to the Premier League, to a new city, to a new language, to a new environment. You could see at the end of the season the way that he started to play. The demands with him, with his ability, I am going to be very demanding because I know what he can do. He needs to deal with that. I think he's dealing with it the right way. The other day he had a reaction and when you are on that pitch, it's completely different to trying to understand it outside. He has reacted the right way after that and hopefully I can see a player that shows that every week. It's in his hands. He's a player I really like, that I know what he can give, and it's completely up to him.

on how beneficial it would be to secure qualification tomorrow...
For the squad management, in football when you have the chance to grab something you have to do it in that moment. You don't know what's going to happen in a week's time, two weeks' time, in any game. There are a lot of things that can happen. I always tell the players, 'When you have it, you can do it today, then do it and then forget about it, then let's move on'.

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