Press conference

Arteta on Saka, Lacazette, transfers and more

Mikel Arteta was a happy man on Tuesday evening - and rightly so.

Our manager had just watched his side produce a battling display to break down a resolute Brighton & Hove Albion, thanks to a well-crafted goal by Alex Lacazette.

Arteta was asked about our No 9, Bukayo Saka, transfers and more after the game. Here's what he had to say:

on securing back to back victories…
I said last week that the best medicine against any illness in football is to win football matches. We’ve done it with two in a row in a really different way because they are two very different opponents, but I think we did it today in a convincing way.

on Bukayo Saka’s injury…
He was limping. He took a strong challenge but hopefully he will be okay.

on whether he would be in favour of a two-week break from football due to COVID…
Well, I will be in favour of protecting the welfare of the players, the staff and everybody in the industry. Whatever the decision that the government takes, we will support it because whatever decision is made is to protect everybody. We will follow the advice that we’re given.

on Lacazette scoring after 21 seconds…
I think this is what all the managers dream of, to bring people off the bench and they win you the game like he’s done tonight! I think he’s been in really good form over the last few weeks and he’s been scoring goals. He’s full of confidence and today he had a sore back, so he couldn’t start the game, but he came on and won the game for us, which is massively important.

on Lacazette’s composure…
It was a great move from Bukayo first to create the action that he did, but then I think apart from the finish, it was his movement, the counter move that he made to create the space for himself. With the touch and the finish, I think it was a brilliant goal.

on Saka’s maturity on the field…
Today he had a difficult game in the first half because we weren’t using certain moments to generate advantages for him and other attacking players in the right way, so the game became really difficult back to goal against a back five in a really low block. In the second half, the moment we started to play different was an attack in a different way where they found more space and capacity to unlock the situations and their block. We created four or five big chances and he was involved in most of the them.

on whether this result will give us more confidence…
Absolutely, especially in this Christmas period as well. We know how much we needed the wins. We had a really tough week and it wasn’t that much about our performances, it was about our results, but you need the results to establish that confidence, and now with two wins, I think everyone is in a much better mood. We have managed through this period to maintain our team spirit and cohesion, and sometimes that isn’t easy to do because obviously the frustration that comes out with defeat is normally an effect on the team, so hopefully now we can go on a run of games and be even more positive.

on how Lacazette has stepped up...
We need big players and the senior players to step up in these difficult moments, and he's doing that for sure. Front players need their team-mates to support them and put them in situations like he had today, as often as possible. At the same time, they have to step up and create these opportunities themselves. I think Laca has been working really hard. Since I've been here, his work has never been an issue. His goalscoring record could improve but it's improving because he's so willing to do it for us.

on why Lacazette didn't start...
Yes [he had a sore back] but he finished the game against Chelsea with some pain. We had the opportunity to refresh that and use him as well in other moments. We knew Auba could last for 90 minutes, we knew that Gabi wasn't going to last for 90 minutes for sure, so we had a substitution there and someone with a goal threat that we believed was going to be needed.

on what he said to his team at half-time...
We had two issues in the first half. First of all, the balls that we gave away were simple balls in our own half when we were open and under no real pressure. That's where they generated one or two half-chances. The second one was the way we attacked against that block. We weren't efficient enough, we didn't have purpose and we didn't have the right intentions with the players around the ball, the movement and situations we wanted to create. We talked about it and straight away we were much better.

on transfer window plans and links with Isco...
The last few results won't change our approach to the window. We cannot talk about individual players.

on younger players taking more responsibility...
The youth is great but you need the senior people and the senior players around them to guide them, to control them and to give them support as well. We've been playing with young players since I arrived here. We have given opportunities to many of those and now they are maybe becoming more highlighted because of the results we had in previous weeks, and now the results we are having with them a little bit more involved. But as well, I would like to really respect the senior players and the work they've done for us through the year.

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