Press conference

Arteta on... Villa, Grealish, international break

Mikel Arteta spoke to a small group of media on Friday as he looked ahead to our Premier League game against Aston Villa.

Our manager discussed a range of subjects, including the our form, Emi Martinez, Joe Willock and more.
Read on for a full transcript:
on the team news…
No, the players are not in yet, we will assess them today but we didn’t have any major problems so I am expecting the ones who are fit at the moment to continue to be available at the weekend.
on the competition for places driving performance…
Absolutely, I think medium and long-term it is something we will benefit from. First of all because the choices are open, the players have to raise their level - what they did last season doesn’t count, it is what they are doing now, how they are performing, how they are contributing to the team. I am really pleased that the players who haven't had many minutes are still fit and willing to perform like they did last night.
on going into the international break with a win...
Yes, it would be great. Obviously before the international break if you are able to win, the mood in the camp and everybody is much better. You will reflect as well on your position in the table because there are other important games coming up. We know the game we are facing against [Villa], we have lost the last two times against them so it will be difficult, they are a team that has grown so much in recent months and they made some clever business in the market and they are stronger than last year.
on Villa's form...
It is a really competitive side, they have played some very different matches with different approaches to certain matches, having some big results against big teams and after two defeats they need a win as well and they will show that right from the start I think.
on Jack Grealish...
He is a top player, great talent, he is player who can make a difference at any moment in the game. He has this personality against any opponent, at any ground, to take the ball in any area of the pitch and he can make the difference, so we have to look after him.
on where Aston Villa have improved from last season...
I think they have a better understanding with the players. They've worked with the manager for longer. I think they recruited really well. They got Emi, they got a striker, they got Ross and Douglas Luiz who is a player who is starting to show us he is capable. He is a player that I know really well from my time and City and I think the time is benefiting them together. You can see what they are trying to do and they look really strong.

on Emi Martinez...
He had a career of 10 years here. It wasn't just the last six or eight months. You have to look at everything he did through his time at the club. Obviously, it wasn't in my plans to sell him, but we gave him the chance because he deserved it. He performed really really well but we have to balance the books. We have to make the right choices in the market and obviously, I couldn't guarantee him to be the number one. He's a very ambitious person, he has been working really hard and he can see now that the opportunity is there. He's got the opportunity to play with Argentina and when a player asks you to do that I think you have to be open enough and tell him what you think about him. If he makes the decision to leave, you should try to support him because he deserves it for the way he has served the club over the years.

on if he thinks we should be scoring more goals...
Yes I do. To get that balance right is not easy considering the fixtures we have played this season. In the beginning playing Liverpool three times, playing Manchester City, playing Leicester - it's not easy. It's something that we've been working on in the last two weeks. You can see last night that we were much more fluent in attack, we scored the goals, we created more opportunities. It's a part that the team still has to evolve more because we still haven't played many games against many low blocks as well so it's something that we have to improve on. To become a top top team you have to score 90 or 100 goals to be competing with the top guns and it's a challenge for us and an area that we have to improve and do better.
on whether Joe Willock needs to remain patient...
I think it's key in the development phase, to be patient. But as well, we have to be reading the situation as well and he is playing in Europe regularly. It's not like before where it's just 'Okay, they can play in the Carabao Cup' and we give them 10 minutes here. It's not the case, he is playing in important matches. Does he want to start in the Premier League? Of course. But it is part of his development. Look at Joe twelve months ago and look at Joe now, the player he is, how he is maturing and how much he has improved. He is on the right path and if he continues like that and continues to be consistent, he will have his chances.

on whether he thinks having five substitutes would help developing players...
Yes and that's a possibility that we tried to plan for in the squad. We all thought that those same rules would continue and then you could have a 20-man squad including players on the bench. It makes total sense with the amount of fixtures we are playing. At the end of the day, we could not get that through and it's three substitutes and 18 players in the squad and that limits it when you have 26 or 27 outfield players. Every week, you have to leave seven or eight players out of that squad, which is really tough because they are not in the dynamic of your team. But then, the competition rises as well - which is positive - they have to perform better and deserve to be there. At the end of the day, it is what it is.

on whether he thinks there is growing favour for the five subs rule...
I don't know. When we spoke about it, I think it was something really positive and I think players really liked it. I think it gives options to the manager as well to make some changes and keep everybody more together. I think it has to be reviewed and with the amount of injuries that the Premier League are having already at this stage, I think it's something to consider seriously.

on how concerned he is about an international break now in light of what happened with Kieran Tierney last time...
Well, we just try to have a good communication with their national teams and try to understand the protocols that they have in place and make sure they protect our players. We understand that we have to give the players away but please, put everything in place and don't expose them because at the end of the day, we're going to pay the price for that and it's not fair.

on Gary Neville saying he looks ‘a million dollars' on the touchline...
Well, I take Gary very seriously so if he says it in a good way then thanks to him! I try to be myself on the touchline. Sometimes though when I look at myself and I am constantly looking and shouting, I don't really like it too much. But it's the emotion and passion with which I live the game.

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