Press conference

Arteta on Olympiacos, revenge, Sokratis and more

It's a big week for us, and we start with a big clash in Athens on Thursday against Olympiacos in the Europa League.

Mikel Arteta faced the media on Wednesday to preview the game, and you can read on for a full transcript:

on whether he wants revenge this time around...
Obviously it was a really tough one to swallow. The way it happened at the end, it was really cruel. After everything we did in the two games, to lose the way we did and with the late chance Auba had... But we moved on. We have some feelings towards that team and we want to put it right in the next round.

on whether we're more resilient than we were last time v Olympiacos...
I think we are a better team than we were last year. Looking back at the two games that we played and the way we are playing now, I think we have come a long way. They have some different players as well but a very similar structure to last year. They've been doing really well, they played in the Champions League, knocked out of the Champions League, they played against City in two really good games as well. It will be a really tough opponent.

on how much he's focusing on the north London derby with team selection...
We have a massive week with the next four games that we have in a short period. We have to manage the squad but obviously the main game is tomorrow and we have to focus on that. Tomorrow's game is going to help us for the weekend, it's going to help us for next week. We have to focus on tomorrow.

on whether UEL is our best route back to the UCL...
There is a lot to do in both competitions. We have to go very far to get into the Champions League via the Europa League, with the amount of games you have to win. It's the same in the Premier League. The points that we lost in the three away games against Wolves, Aston Villa and Burnley sums up our season a little bit. We should've got much more from those games and we would have been in a different position. But our reality is that at the end, we don't find the way to win. We have to learn how to win and be consistent in winning in every three days when you produce those performances. It's the biggest margin that we have to improve.

on whether he still encourages us to play from the back...
I will always do that as long as we, all the time, follow our principles and the rules that we have. It's the way we play, when we decide when to play, when not to play, the type of football we have to play with the right distances, the right feet. If not, we don't play. If you don't have the right structure, you don't play. It's too risky. It's what you gain from the risks that are there, and the rewards have to much bigger than the risks. When it's not, you don't have to play. If it's a no-play zone, you don't have to play.

on how he feels mentally facing Olympiacos again...
Well, obviously, we have the two games to look at and everything that happened in those two games. The disappointment that we had to digest, and it took some time to do that because it was a hard one, and we had a lot of faith and enthusiasm in the competition, and we were knocked out. And now we have another opportunity. It's the beauty of this game. It's a completely different context but the reality is the same that we have to beat them twice to go through in the competition and we have to be better than them.

on Arsenal being big favourites to win the tie...
That is what is linked to our football club but it's true that we can't underestimate who they are, where they are coming from. They are coming from playing in the Champions League. It's a team that is used to playing in all those competitions and they beat us last year. It doesn't matter the manner [of how they beat us] but they beat us last year so we have to be better than last year to beat them now.

on how much of a blow it would be to not be in Europe next season...
I don't want to think that way at all. I am always very positive. I think there is still a lot to play for and what we need is to put four or five wins in a row. If we are able to do that then things are going to look very different in two or three weeks time. If we don't, obviously, we don't have a chance because when we have had the opportunity to do that we haven't done it consistently enough so it's completely down to us. I want to think that there is still a lot to play for and we have to be with that mindset because if not it's impossible to achieve anything.

on if players should scream less...
I don't comment on what other players do. I comment on what our players do and focus on us. The same as I don't comment on other managers or other players or how they use their strength to weaken an opponent. I don't talk about it.
 
on Emile Smith Rowe’s fitness…
Yes, he’s close to returning and he’s going to have a full session today to see if he can be involved in tomorrow’s game. After training we will know exactly where we are with him.

on defeat against Olympiacos last season…
Emotionally it really drained us because it was a rollercoaster during the game and with what happened, it could have ended in a beautiful way, but it ended in a really harsh way for us. I think emotionally it took some time to get the team and some individuals lifted because it really hurt.

on our habit of making errors in key moments…
It’s very difficult because a lot is expected in the situation of a football match, but then emotionally we have to be much more calm and much more secure. We have to manage the games much better in certain situations and that comes with maturity and that comes from learning, so every time you do that hopefully you learn and it doesn’t happen again to the same player, but then something happens to a different one. The positive thing is that I think it’s in our control and it’s not something that the opponents are doing and we can’t control it. I think it’s easier to fix but we have to fix it very quickly because if not the margins are so small and you’re close to losing points all the time.

on facing Sokratis…
Papa is such a good character and a very popular player here. He was liked and loved by everybody and it was a pleasure to work with him. He’s such a pro and he knows what we try to do, but there isn’t a magic formula and I’m sure he will try to do his best. We will do the same.

on Martin Odegaard…
I’m really happy with him. I think he’s settled really, really quickly into the team and with what we demand from the players. His behaviour, his attitude and his work rate has been phenomenal. He’s had better moments than others to give us the special qualities he has, but overall I’m really happy with him.

on whether this week could define our season…
We are talking about it every week. Obviously it’s a massive week for us, we have four very important games coming up and we need to win all of them. That’s our reality and this is how we’re going to approach it.

on whether this is an opportunity to prove our critics wrong…
I think the players have to focus on performing as good as possible and try to do their best on the pitch. That criticism with where it’s coming from with which intentions is something that they must not pay attention to because they cannot control. The better we do individually and the better we do collectively, things are going to work better and that’s the responsibility they have all the time when they jump on the pitch.

on whether he thinks about our defeats or victories more…
You learn a lot from defeats and obviously what victories and trophies bring is joy, excitement and smiles to everybody that is involved in the football club, and this is why we are sitting here, just to make things better and make people happy. When you do that, the satisfaction is really big and on the opposite side, when you fail, lose and make people sad, obviously internally and emotionally it really hurts.

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