Press conference

Arteta on the restart, Man City, Auba: transcript

It was a pre-match press conference like no other before it.

On Monday afternoon, Mikel Arteta faced the media via a Zoom call to discuss the return of Premier League football.

Read on for a full transcript of the press conference:

on his emotions going into the first game…
First of all I hope everyone is there, I can’t see anybody! But I hope you guys are all well, I miss you a lot. It’s been a long process, we’ve been through very different stages but now we are really excited and back to doing what we want to do. Hopefully we can do it in the right way and we can sustain it, so now it is really important that everyone does what is required.

on how he has balanced the work between fitness and tactics during the build-up to this game…
We need to know how to get to this way of working with all the limitations we have, we have tried to make the most of it. I think we have found the right balance, and the most important thing was to provide the players with a safe environment to work where they could feel where there was no risk, or a very, very limited risk, to develop their profession. I think we have managed to do that and from now on, the physical part is really good and the mental side as well has been a challenge over those three months. Now let’s see how ready we are to compete.

on the fitness of the squad…
So far everybody is okay, we will see how training goes tomorrow to pick the right team and the right squad. Again, it is going to be different with the amount fo substitutes that we can have on the bench and the amount fo substitutes that we can do, so we have to think about how we can do that.

on the influence Pep Guardiola has had on him…
Well, he was an influence for me since I was 15 years old and we met at Barcelona, both as players. And in my coaching career and my personal life, he has an enormous influence. If I have to talk about the person he is, his values, the way he has treated me and how he deals with the players and the staff around him, its phenomenal. As a coach, I have learned so much from him, we have spent some amazing moments together, some difficult ones as well, but the experience next to him has been incredible.

on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s future…
I think it is our responsibility to make him feel this is the right next step in his career. In order to do that, he needs to feel valued, he needs to feel he belongs to us and we want him, and then he really needs to believe that we can take the club forward in the way we want to do, and he is going to be a key player to do that. At the moment I am extremely happy with how he has been performing and behaving, I have a really good relationship with him where we can discuss face to face a lot of things. As far as I am aware, he is very happy at the club.

on the contract situation...
Well, I think in a different context we would have liked to do things much quicker but obviously we have been really tight with time and communication as well. These unprecedented times bring a lot of uncertainty and things are getting clearer and clearer every day, we are a step closer to get back playing football and moving forward.

on the friendlies against Charlton and Brentford...
It was a really nice practice for us to get a little bit of a feeling in what it is to compete again in a match, how it feels to play without any crowd and the protocols that we have to go through in order to be in a safe environment to compete. Physically we haven't played a game of football for three months and we wanted to give the players some minutes. We managed to do that without any injuries so it was a really positive test.

on the effect the break will have on the previously in-form Eddie Nketiah...
We treat Eddie as an important part of our squad, we had to make a very important decision not to let him go out on loan again after the spell he had at Leeds. I watched him train and I am convinced that he is the right player for us, to move us to the next level and that he can contribute in a big way to the way we want to play. He has been fantastic so far.

on if new Premier League rules will give more young players a chance...
I think it will happen, for example in our case we have five games in 15 days, that's a game every three days. We don't know how the players are going to respond physically because we have had a really short preparation time. We have to use them, we have some really talented young boys that are asking for chances. I'm sure at other clubs the situation will be the same and I think at some stage we will be forced to use some of them with the amount of games that we are going to be playing in that space of time.

on what he’s learned from the Bundesliga restarting…
I watched some aspects that I think we can take some advantage of, but I think you have to experience it. I’ve watched some games from the Bundesliga, but then when I was at the Emirates and there is no crowd and you cannot steal that energy, push or drive, the game is different. The intensity has dropped a little bit and I think the physical state of the players is not as it was three months ago, so you can sense that as well, and that urgency doesn’t exist anymore from the crowd and how passionate the crowds are here in England, but we have to adapt. We have to experience it and find ways to motivate our players in moments. Let’s see how it goes!

on being unbeaten domestically in 2020 and whether lockdown will disrupt that…
I hope it doesn’t. We’ve been working to try and maintain and improve the level that we were playing at before and improve the result as well, but there are some uncertainties that we don’t know how we’re going to respond to. All I can tell you is that we’ve been doing as much as possible to try to get into this moment with the best possible chance.

on whether qualifying for the Champions League could help convince Aubameyang to stay…
I think that will help to persuade anybody, but we are very lucky to have the club that we have right behind us. There are a lot of players who want to come and join us, but it’s not just about who do we want to attract, it’s about how happy the players are that are here and how convinced they are that they’re at the right place because it’s almost our obligation to be fighting for every trophy and playing in the Champions League with this club.

on whether they’ve had discussions with Aubameyang…
We’ve had many discussions with Pierre, his family and agent, and I’m pretty positive that we can find the right agreement for all parties.

on how difficult it will be...
It's been a challenge for all of us. It's been a challenge since I joined, because of the situation that we were in, but I think we made a lot of steps forward. We tried to change the energy that we had around the place, even our stadium with the players and with the staff as well and I was very positive in the way that we were developing things. Obviously, we had a big turning point with the coronavirus and being away from each other for three months, but we've been trying to keep going in our direction, being close in contact and communication with our players and our staff and I think we are in a really good position to move forward. We have some uncertainties that we cannot control and we do not know how the players are going to respond now, playing every three days after three months, but most of the clubs are in the same position. We will try to adapt and to make the most out of it. We don't try to find any excuses. We'll go for it and enjoy it because I think we're all missing football so much that we're all desperate to get back playing.

on whether this has been like a pre-season of sorts...
It wasn't exactly a pre-season! I didn't have the players for six weeks but we tried to use everything that we could. If you ask me 'what have you learned most?' then it has probably been using different ways of communicating and using technology is one of them. From my side, it's hard to communicate with players and talk to them and try to get into them as well without touching them, without seeing them, so that has been a challenge. But we've been trying to do everything that we could to help them to understand better what we are trying to do, to convince them that it is the right way for them to enjoy their profession and let's see if we've done a good job or not.

on Bukayo Saka's contract situation...
We are trying, as a club, to finalise the deals that are more urgent and are a priority for us. The ones you are talking about [Bukayo and Auba] - they are both really important, not just for now but for the future of the club as well and if the club has something to announce, they will do it in the right moment.

on whether this run of games will give additional opportunities to young players...
They have to keep developing and one of the biggest challenges is always consistency. They have been doing it for a certain period of time, for certain moments of certain games but to do it consistently for every three days for 94 or 96 minutes, that's a different story. In order to do that and develop the right way, they need the right players next to them, with the right mentality, with the right qualities and with the right drive. That's what we have to do, we have to give them the right foundations around them for them to be in order to feel free to develop, without the extra pressure that they don't need in these moments and they cannot carry on. We don't give them too much responsibility too early, because there is always a risk to burn them.

on sticking to the principles he has established away against top teams...
We have to take every game in the same way, to go there and win the game. We know that every stadium and every opponent is completely different. I have to focus and I have to try to convince my players to focus on what we have to do, we cannot control everything that Man City does, it's impossible. Even if we want to and I will drive the players mad in order to do that. So I just try to convince them on what we can do to try and beat them, what is the best plan possible for us to have the best possible chance to compete in that game and to win it. Let's see how much we are able to do that because here it's easy, but to go there on the pitch and show it for 96 minutes is different.

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