Press conference

Arteta on… Partey, Newcastle, the Emirates FA Cup

Mikel Arteta won the Emirates FA Cup in his first season in charge of us - and is looking forward to kicking off our defence of the trophy on Saturday.

Our manager faced the media ahead of the game and discussed the competition, Mesut Ozil's future, Thomas Partey's fitness and more.

This is what he said:

on the contrast between three weeks ago and now...
Yes it's great to win the last three games. The spirit, the energy around the place and the vibe is always better. I feel better myself. In this Christmas period, to win three games in a row is never easy in this league and we've done it, so hopefully we can pick up a much better run.

on his memories of winning the FA Cup in August...
It was a beautiful day. It was the last game of the season, everyone took off after that and it was a really difficult end of the year with all the COVID situations that we had. Obviously it was a great day to finish the season on a high.

on whether he's amazed that Wenger won it seven times...
Absolutely. We're going to go after every competition. We are the holders, we have to defend that title. We know what it means to the football club and the history that is related to the FA Cup. It's a great competition to play in for us.

on Mesut Ozil's future...
I don't know what is going to happen. Obviously now he's free to negotiate with other clubs. We will discuss internally what the best situation for him is for the near future, obviously with the player and the agent too, and try to find the best solution for everyone.

on whether he would want to play every game if he was in Ozil's shoes...
I think every player wants to play football. This is why we picked this profession and we are so lucky to be doing what we do. For every player that's not playing, it's always hard.

on whether Ozil could still stay...
I'm saying we will decide what's happening in the next few days.

on much of a concern the postponements are due to COVID...
It is worrying because we see every day what is happening in the country and the level of infections. That is increasing. You can sense not the panic but the worry around everybody. We are suffering for all the people that are involved in different and difficult circumstances. We cannot isolate from that. What we try to do is try to maintain the infections as low as possible, follow all the protocols and the doctors are doing an incredible job to try to maintain a safe environment for us. We have to try to keep insisting, not just to our players but also to all the staff and everybody involved around the place, to be very conscious of how difficult the situation that we are in is and how lucky we are to still do what we do.

on whether the players and staff are anxious about COVID...
Yeah they are worried but they know that in this environment they are really well protected. Obviously this virus is touching everybody now personally. You always have a relative, a parent, a friend that has been hit with the virus in many different ways. We are now very educated about it and have a history related to it. Then it becomes more worrying of course.

on the fourth and fifth-round draw being made at the same time...
It seems like every year we're changing some rules in every competition, every cup. Something needs to be different, I don't know why it is. I think we are doing something good in the country in that every cup is becoming more and more important. For example you saw in the Carabao Cup that the teams involved in the semi-finals and final compared to the last 18 years has improved. Everybody wants to win a trophy, everybody knows how difficult it is to win a trophy, so you have to stick to every competition. That is raising the levels, certainly, but we can do things a little bit simpler sometimes.

on young players taking Ozil's place...
We need every player that is involved in our squad. The fact that the youngsters are involved in the squad means that they have the level to compete with any player in that squad. The young players have moments through the season. It's really difficult for them to be constantly at the level for 10 months, but sometimes players develop, players have moments and you have to take those moments. If that means that they're pushing somebody else, I think it's really healthy competition for the team. The team always gets better when something like that happens so I think it's really positive news.

on whether it would be good for everyone if a deal for Mesut was done…
If something was sorted this month, it’s because it is good for both parties, it is good for Mesut and his future, and it’s good for the club. If that’s the case, we will move forward, or if its not the case, the player will stay here.

on whether Ozil is training…
He has been training with us, but he had some days because we decided to give him some days for something personal, but he has been training with us all the time.

on whether he is aware Ozil is talking to other clubs…
We are aware of all the conversations we have had internally with Mesut and his agent, and this communication keeps going and of course he is free to talk to any club and he is entitled to do this.

on links with Omar Rekik…
We will announce it when we possibly can, he is a young talent that we have been following for a while that has a really bright future, but we will give more details when we can.

on whether he expects something very soon on him…
Yes.

on whether it could be today…
I don’t know! Very soon.

on Thomas Partey’s chances of playing against Newcastle…
Well, we have an extra two training sessions [before the game] and we will assess after that whether he is completely fully ready to participate against Newcastle, or if we’re going to leave it another few days for the Palace game. He is training really good, he is comfortable, he is not aware of the injury right now and he has done more than what he already did before he played after the injury against Spurs, so he is in a good place, a good mood and you can see the player he is when he is training.

on William Saliba’s loan move to Nice and the importance of playing games…
We signed a big project that we had some issues with because he’s not played enough football over the past 18 months and at that age, and in the development phase he is at, that is crucial. I was always very conscious when he came back, when he didn’t do the step that he had to before joining us, that to start a relationship with a new manager, a new club, new team-mates where he is not having any game-time is really difficult and I think it is damaging for the future. I want to protect the player that we signed and the future we have alongside him and the best way to do that is to give him minutes to play. He has been really good, it has been a difficult few months for him to cope with that situation but I see the development that he has made, the progression that he has shown over the months and now he s ready to compete. He is going to a really strong league as well, a league he knows really well, he has experience [there] and he needs to play as many games as possible to be ready for us from next season.

on whether Saliba will come back in the summer…
He will come back for pre-season and he will be with us, and hopefully he will come back after playing a number of games and his performances raising and his development progressing in the right way. That is why we made that decision. I know that sometimes it is difficult to explain or understand after the money the club spent bringing him in, sending him on loan, but a lot of things have happened to him, he is a long-term player for us and we need to protect him as well. Giving him three or four games is not enough for him, he needs much more than that but what has happened over the past 18 months, he has gone through some personal problems as well that we have to try to help him, and stay as close as possible to him, and now he needs to play, play and play and enjoy his profession as well. In order for him to do that I think we have found the right club with him, he is very happy to go there right now and hopefully he can enjoy his football and be ready for us next season.

on whether Mesut Ozil could be involved on Saturday…
We’ll decide what we do.

on whether a decision has to be made on Ozil ASAP…
The decision has to be made when you have to reduce the list of players, when you have to play them or not play them all the time. We know that we have a really important player who is one of the key players in the past few seasons for this football club. We have to make a decision, I had to make a decision and I made it. I knew the consequences of it and now we’re going to have to make another one in January, and we will just putting the balance on what is the best thing for the club and the best thing for the team, and what the intentions of the player are, and we will try to find the right solutions for that.

on whether there should be stricter punishments for those who break their COVID bubble…
I think we have to be very aware of that and we have to be very strict. I think players, like any public person, has to be more aware than anybody else. There are a lot of people who don’t respect the rules. They’re out there, they don’t get noticed and they can get away with that. We are luckier than anybody else because we are still in and around the players and we can still do our job and continue with our professions. We have to bear in mind that everything we do has other  consequences that when other people act, it doesn’t. At the moment we cannot let anyone down. We’re taking some risks to continue playing and we’re trying to do the right things. People are sacrificing their lives to help society in this moment and what we have to do is contribute and not give any more issues to the public or to the government to make a decision we don’t want. The doc is very aware and all the time trying to push (the rules). We are getting educated now with new rules, new protocols around the players, and sometimes you can make a mistake, but there are certain things we cannot allow to happen.

on if Flo Balogun is fit for Saturday...
He is fit and available. Again, his progression and the use of the time that he's had with us has been incredible. He will keep having chances while he's with us.

on his contract situation...
You need three parties to make a deal. For sure, the club wants to make a deal, the manager wants to make a deal, the player wants to stay and I'm not sure about the agent.

on if there is room for him to come through...
Yes

on if his agent is stopping a new deal being agreed...
No, I'm not saying he's stopping. I'm saying that we need to find an agreement with him. We are negotiating with an agent, with a player that wants to stay at the club and we need to find an agreement. I'm telling you that we are doing everything we can to keep him here and hopefully from the other part they are doing the same and they defend the same interests, which is the players' interest, which is to stay at the football club and be successful with us.

on playing out from the back...
We have to adapt in certain moments, depending on where the team is in terms of confidence and the risks that we can take and the rewards that we're going to have from it. It's part of the game plan, depending on the opponent as well, how they approach this particular phase of play and in relation to that, we can decide one thing or the other.

on if recent results will mean a return to playing out from the back...
We can vary. I think Bernd has been playing with his feet in that particular set of wins. When it's a close situation, when it is more predictable and more set up, we need to have in certain moments a little bit more to do what we want to do. In open play, when we use the keeper in that phase, we haven't changed one bit. Again, it's something about the capacity to adapt and then something that is related to the gameplan on the day.

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