Press conference

Arteta on... the new season, Lionel Messi and more

It may be less than four weeks since Mikel Arteta held a pre-match press conference, but he was back at it again on Thursday.

Our head coach faced the media and discussed the Community Shield match against Liverpool, Lionel Messi's future, Matteo Guendouzi and more.
 
Read on for a full transcript:
 
on how hard it is mentally to start a season three weeks after the end of the last...
Well it's not hard because we really like our job and we have the privilege to work in this industry. We needed some time to just reflect on what we did and also to put our minds a bit away from football. I think we had the chance to do it, not as we normally do, but enough and the player seem in good condition mentally and physically. We are ready to go. We have no choice, we have a cup to play [for] on Saturday.

on William Saliba...
He's been training really hard. He stayed here in London to do a better preparation and you can tell that he looks ready. Obviously there are a lot of things that are new for him and he will need to adapt but certainly he has the right qualities for this football club and as well the right attitude to keep improving and showing the player he can be for our future.

on what sort of shape his squad are in...
We've had two training sessions so you can imagine that this game comes straight in the middle of our mini pre-season, but as well we haven't had much time to lose a lot of the condition. Obviously it's not an ideal moment to play in this final but the players are motivated. Obviously it's another opportunity to win a trophy and we will go for it.

on whether anyone is quarantining or has failed a test since coming back...
No, we've been through all different moments with all the restrictions and all the rules from government and Premier League testing. It's always so unexpected, what's going to happen the next day, but we are trying to adapt and get the team in the best possible way to compete on Saturday.

on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's contract situation...
I keep being positive. We have had some really good talks with him and his agent and I am pretty confident that we're going to find an agreement soon. That's my feeling again.

on Auba signing a new contract being a massive lift...
Absolutely, and for him as well! I think he should be very happy if he's able to stay at the club for a long time. I think people will be delighted with that news.
 
on whether the squad are ready to really challenge for the top four…
Well, let’s see how we look like at the end of the transfer window. It just started and everything looks pretty slow at the moment not many teams are moving aggressively so a lot of things are going to happen from now to October 6. But it doesn’t matter who we have, we will challenge for the top, 100 per cent.
 
on COVID-19 remaining just as dangerous for sport as it ever was…
Yes, and it is not just football, it is in our society. We need to be aware of that. The fact that you went on holiday made you think that everything is gone, but we have to start back being really cautious, maintaining our distances, all the security measures we have in place, and we are able to provide that. We showed to the world that we can create safe environments for our athletes, so let’s hope awe can continue to do that.
 
on Willian’s ambition to win the Champions League and Gabriel…
Well, it is the right spirit! I want players who are optimistic and willing and they want to win for our club. That is the feeling I got from the first day I met Willian: he is not satisfied with what he has done in his career, which is a lot, and he is going to bring some special qualities for our team, and the type of attitude and mentality that you just mentioned in your question. Regarding Gabriel, we cannot announce anything yet, the deal is not finalised - you all know he is a player that we have followed for a long time and hopefully we can get it done.
 
on the players still fit from last season…
Yes, what we don’t know is how they will react when they start to play every three days and when it gets to November, December, January because we put a lot of demands on them. The COVID [situation back in March] was a stop and then full gas they started, and you could see the injury rate went crazily up. We are going to try to protect them as much as possible, give them everything we can from the science and physical point of view to be in the best condition to perform.
 
on fans coming back into stadiums soon…
We all hope so, we know hoe different the games are without them so if we can do it again, providing it is safe and healthy for our people, then great, let’s do it and make it work.
 
on the deal for Gabriel and whether it’s okay…
Well, everything is okay when both parties sign, and the player agrees the terms and he goes through the medical - sometimes that, in the final stages, is not as easy as it looks. But we are pretty positive that we can do it.
 
on the competition to get Gabriel…
Again, when we get it I will be very pleased. He's a player that we've followed and we're very determined that it was the right profile for us to improve our squad. If we are able to finalise it, we will be delighted.

on Ainsley Maitland-Niles leaving for Wolves…
Yes, we are reading a lot of news about our players which is not bad that other clubs want him but with Ainsley, he's a player that I've said since I joined that I really like. The best way to show that is that I have played him in the most important games of the season and he responded really well, so that's where we are with the player.

on if he'd be allowed to go…
I am always open to listening to what the player is feeling at every stage of their career and then I can give them my opinion of how I see them, what I expect from them and if we have the right understanding, then we have to move forward together. If there is something that doesn't work then we have to assess it with the player and the club and then find the right decision for both of them.

on how we plan to keep supporting Black Lives Matter…
There has been some communication between the clubs, the Premier League and the FA about how we're going to continue to support that cause. I am sure in the next few days you're going to have some news about how we're going to handle that.

on Lionel Messi potentially leaving Barcelona…
He has been linked everywhere, you know? He has more clubs than any other player in history after him. I've been a Barcelona fan since I was young and it's always sad to see, who in my opinion has been the best player in football history, leave that football club. Let's see what happens, if he comes to England we're all going to enjoy it.

on even if that’s at a rival club…
It doesn't matter. It's good for football. We'll have to find a way, if it's not here we might find him in the Champions League, you never know. You want the best players in your league and for me that's the best thing, to have the most competitive league in the world. The Premier League has always had that. The times with Ronaldo, I played against him and it was great because it raises the level of every individual and every team as well.

on how close Gabriel is to signing…
We are trying to finalise a deal. That's what I can tell you at the moment.

on reintegrating Matteo Guendouzi…
I have been really clear that everybody starts from zero all the time in football. What you did two weeks ago or two years ago doesn't really matter. It's what you are able to contribute to the team now. Everybody is going to have the same opportunities. They'll have to show with their performances and their attitude that they are better than their teammates or somehow contributing to what we want to achieve this season.
 
on whether he has spoken with Matteo during the off-season…
Yes.

on whether he’s happy with what’s gone on…
To tell him exactly that he’s going to be part of the team and at the moment he’s like any other player in our squad. He deserves first of all to be treated exactly the same and I will do that to my best capability.

on Dani Ceballos and if we’re making a move to bring him back…
Well, we have some talks and Dani knows really well what I think about him. He was pretty clear with me as well that his intention was to remain with us but obviously Real Madrid is involved and I don’t know yet what they want to do with the player. But he’s a player that we are interested in because we really saw, in the last few months of the season, what he is capable of bringing to us.

on Mohamed Elneny’s future…
Well, I know Mo really well. I played with him, so I know what he can be and I know his strengths and weaknesses really well. He’s a really positive character to have around and he has some really good qualities as well and like anybody else, in the moment that he is with us, he will be given all our support and the best possible environment for them to perform as high as they can.

on if he expects Mo to stay…
We don’t know. The sixth of October is still too far, as I said. It’s pretty unpredictable to know what’s going to happen.

on whether Bernd will start the season as number one…
I love to have two goalkeepers at the level of Bernd and Emi. Last season, when Bernd got injured, if somebody had some doubts about Emi’s character or qualities then he’s shown what he’s able to do and he didn’t do it for one game, he did it for 10 or 11 games in a row. I’m delighted to have both of them. But they both know that on the first day of pre-season, you start again and fight for your place and show us who is the one that deserves the chance to start.

on if he thinks it is possible to keep them both happy…
I don’t want to keep them both happy, I want the one that is not playing to be upset. But upset and then challenge the next player to make him better, or if not, earn his place to do that. It’s not easy to do that. I personally don’t see any different with goalkeepers to full backs. They know that, I’ve been really clear with them and hopefully they can make each other better and hopefully the team better.

on whether Bernd is now fully fit…
Yes, Bernd is fit. He was almost fit for the last game against Chelsea in the FA Cup final. We didn’t want to take the risk even to get him involved in the squad but he ’s been training throughout the summer and he is in perfect condition now.

on Bernd’s reaction to Emi’s form…
He’s not upset. I think he’s really happy because he really understands Emi’s position and he knows Emi’s history at this football club and how patient and how much he’s been fighting to earn his place and earn the right that now everybody likes him and Bernd is such a great character as well for us and he’s not someone that’s going to be upset about that situation.

on if Emi is upset that quarantine stops him being selected…
Well, that will be the case probably. We obviously had a plan with all the players to make sure that we have as many as possible.

on whether the fans can expect to see William Saliba and Willian against Liverpool…
I don’t know. We’ll make the decision tomorrow on who is going to play and who is going to be involved, but for sure they’re going to see our signings playing a lot of minutes this season. So it’s not a hurry to see them in one game. I know they will be excited and desperate to see them but they will see plenty of them this year.

on it not being long since the league win over Liverpool and its importance…
You’re right, I think it gave us a big platform of confidence and belief that we could challenge and play against the top teams at that level as well and beat them. And you know, always finding a way to win a game, after we did it with Man City and we did it with Chelsea but I agree that that moment probably was a moment where the team clicked a little bit and went into more of a belief mode.

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