Press conference

Arteta: ‘Was I angry at half-time? Yes’

Mikel Arteta left the players in no doubt about what was expected of them after a below-par first-half display.

The team responded and our head coach ended the game feeling pride rather than anger.

Read on for his take on game of two halves against Leeds United.

on a much improved second half...
Yes, thank God. I wasn't happy at all. The first 30 to 35 minutes, how we started the game, how we approached the game... I tried to convince them before the game of what to expect of that team. They battered every team in the Championship, every three days. The way they play makes it really difficult and uncomfortable. Everything is man-to-man around the pitch, so it becomes a transition game where everything is duels, everything is 50:50. If you're not ready for that game you get exposed and you get done. Obviously, the second half was a different story.

on whether he was angry at half-time...
Yes.

on whether he let the players know he was angry...
When I see what I don't want to see - and I'm not talking about technically and tactically - what I expect from them and the standards that we wanted to set in certain areas, I cannot be happy and I have to let them know. I am learning every day about them. How they react when they lose, what they need when they lose, what they need when they win as well. And as well, how can they react when they want to. Because before that, obviously everybody said it was a physical issue that we could not sustain a certain rhythm or intensity throughout the game. Look how they finished tonight. After 94 minutes they kept going and this is here and this is there. This is what they have to understand as a team.

on whether he was surprised by the display in the first half...
To be fair, it didn't. I think it was a big release for them when they won against Manchester United and they took a little bit of that pressure off. And then your body and your mind tries to relax a little bit for one or two days. Now, we are not in a position to relax because we are not good enough to relax. If we don't play at that level, we are not good enough.

on the suggestion that Leeds could have been two up at half-time...
That's why we had to react. We changed some things. The biggest change was how we approached the second half, the mentality, how aggressive we are, how intense we are. We started to win every duel, every 50:50, we were playing in the opponent's half and making passes forward and runs forward and being positive on the ball. It was different.

on how he gets that level from the beginning...
How? It's a good question. And every three days it's an even better question. That's the job, that's what I have to find out with these players. But I have to recognise, I played those type of games and in recent months we played against teams that go man-to-man and it's very uncomfortable. For the players, they're not used to it and it becomes a battle, it becomes a transition game. When you win the ball, you attack. When you lose the ball, it's a counter-attack. I think they had to experience that as well.

on whether one of his biggest challenges is finding consistency...
Absolutely, because they haven't done it for many, many months. So it has to be a process, but that's why I think tonight is a really good lesson for them. So they can live their profession and suffer on the pitch like they did for 30 or 35 minutes, or they can enjoy and feel proud of what they do if they play like they did in the second half. It's their choice.

on Leeds’ promotion chances…
A nightmare, they’re a nightmare of a team to play against. I said before the game, to play against them is like going to the dentist, it’s tough, they make it really hard and they are a great team. What they have achieved and to do it consistently with three days with those players. What they build there is powerful. You can see when you analyse their games that they are exactly like this. It’s top to see that, top.

on getting a reaction from his players…
Of course, if they are flat it doesn’t matter what happens in their life or what we tell them, I will be very worried but at least I know there is a way to react. They responded, and they responded because they accepted that it is not what we want. Afterwards, obviously know they are much happier and it was a good lesson for us.

on back-to-back wins…
Not relaxing but feeling a little bit more confident and building something together. I think it’s important.

 

 

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