Interview

Arteta This is where I want to be

Moments after Mikel Arteta had put pen to paper on his new contract, up in the directors’ box at Emirates Stadium, the boss came back down to the dressing room to talk to Arsenal Media about his plans for the future.

He spoke about his delight at signing the contract, his journey so far, the growing unity at the club, and his long-term aims.

Read on for a full transcript of the interview.

On signing the contract…
I’m really excited, grateful and really, really happy today.

On how impressed he is with Jonas Eidevall…
Very much, I think when you get to know him as well, you get a sense of the human being there. Obviously what’s he doing with the team, the way the team is playing, what they are achieving, it’s just phenomenal what he’s doing, so I’m really happy for him as well to continue our journey together. 

On what they spoke about…
Yeah, about football, about the dressing room because obviously they play a few games now at the Emirates and the sense of the wording of it and the meaning of it so it’s really interesting all the time to talk to coaches.

On his relationship with the board and ownership…
Probably the way I would define it, it would be empathy, the same purpose and trust. Empathy because the moment I got to know Josh [Kroenke], from the first meeting I got a real sense that the energy was flowing. We were really clear and direct. He was showing the same ambition as I was. He could see the club at the same point and he wanted to take the club the way I wanted to do it. So everything that he’s said, and that Stan has said when I’ve been together with both of them, they’ve always delivered. I think that’s been a relationship that both ways has been exactly the same, so I’m extremely happy with them, with what they are doing, with their involvement, with the commitment they are showing and with the relationship that we have built together. With myself, with Edu, with Rich, with Tim Lewis, with Vinai. That is really, really important because that connection and that communication has to be there at all times because this is a moving thing and they are extremely important to it. 

On the timing of the announcement…
The club was really eager to do it as quickly as we could. Obviously they showed a lot of faith and belief in what we are doing, with the coaching staff, what the direction of the team, and they thought the best moment was to do it right now, to give a final push to the team, to give some clarity about what we have to do in the summer, in the future. It’s a way of saying ‘listen, from both ways we believe in what we are doing and we want to commit to this project together.’ And this is the place I want to be, so it was a really simple decision for me. 

On what he’s achieved so far…
My main target was to set and instil the values and respect of how everybody was going to represent this football club and how everybody was going to defend this football club. And how we are going to transmit that to our people. The second one is to have a clear identity. How we are going to play, who we want to be and how we are going to do it. I think that’s now very clearly defined and supported by everybody. That has led to the unity we now have around the club, with our fans, and then the success on the pitch will be determined. In two and a half seasons we have been able to deliver two trophies, but we have everything to go for. But those things were, for me, the fundamentals to build what we are building.

On the ambitions in the short term and longer term…
To take the club to the next level and to compete really with the top teams. In order to do that, we have to be playing in the Champions League. We have to be able to evolve the team, improve our players, improve all departments, generate even more connection with our fans, improve the atmosphere at the Emirates, be able to recruit top, top talent and the best people for this club to drive this project to that level.

On how important the fans will be on this journey?
For me they have been the tsunami of this project. For two seasons we haven’t had them, so with the way I want the team to play, with the balance we have established, and I want people to lead the club in the way I believe we should be leading it. Without them it was impossible to do it. So from the moment we have had them close to us, they have sensed and felt that energy and that way of now representing the club to a much deeper level. That’s when a sense of belonging from the fans becomes natural, and that’s why everything clicked in my opinion to go and perform to the level that we are doing now. 

On whether he sees the benefit of this in this in the players…
Absolutely, in terms of confidence, of belief, of being happy to be representing this football club. My biggest purpose, I was hearing all the time Arsenal fans talking about the club, about individuals, about the staff, about an owner. I said if we get for them to really feel a sense of belonging and pride about the club and talk good things about each other, about a player, about how the team is playing, about the owner, about the board, about the decisions that we are making, about recruitment; we have no limits. But if what we're doing is completely the opposite then the potential can be really high or it can be really low and now I hear people talking nicely about things and I've always said here, talk good things about each other because that brings a different energy and vibration around the place and can you quantify that? No. The level of trust between you and I, what is it? I don't know, I can't put a number on it but I can feel it and I can sense it and if I can sense that you trust me and I trust you our relationship will be much better.

On feeling at home at Arsenal…
I have experienced it, being in this dressing room and feeling that I don't really feel part of this or I've been in this dressing room and I've said wow I would kill for these boys and I love to spend time with them and we finish the game at 10 o'clock and I can't wait until 10.30 to have dinner with them and see them the next morning and have that feeling. And it's completely different, the way that you come in the building, the way that you come and defend yourself on the pitch is very different and that's what we are trying to build.

On his backroom staff…
They will continue with me and I am extremely proud and grateful for what they are doing for the club, all the support that they give me and they are constantly challenging me and making me a better coach and a better person, so Mikel by himself, he could not do anything. I am more clear than water about that, that you need the best people and the best professionals around you to do what you want to achieve.

On whether is he up for the challenge…
Absolutely. When you think that things cannot turn around because you are in a negative moment in one day, everything changes. And when you think you have everything in the right place, poof, it falls down. So this job is about the next minute. Can I think about something to effect this afternoon and tomorrow morning and after the game and during the game. And it's a constant thing, and this is a really moving thing. And everybody that is at the club has to be thinking like that.

On enjoying management…
I am able to enjoy the process and the journey because I enjoy doing it with the people that we have at the football club and that for me is the most important thing. When you have empathy, when you have trust, when you have a real connection with people, then it's worth it. You know, the difficult moments become great memories and successful moments become, okay, the final objective or the target that you have to achieve. And this is the way I look at it. And you have to prepare in this profession to do that because everything is not going to be linear and upwards, it doesn't happen. 

On his favourite part of the job…
The connection with the people. I love the coaching. I'm so passionate and you guys know about that but if I have to say one thing it is the personal connection with the people. Having someone there that it feels full, in both the same level as I am, for what we are doing and the way its participating, and the way you can improve his life and the way you can improve the place and the player's career, and their achievements and what they're going to do in the future. This is for me the most powerful thing. And when you add to that, when you have supporters that have an incredible amount of emotion towards the club, and you can make them happy. Then it's the excesses of your profession. 

On carrying on the momentum…
I am confident the team is going to give a real go. And here again on Sunday against our people, we're going to really go for it. We are in a really good position right now. We have fought so hard to be in this position and within it, everybody on board with this massive ball of energy on Sunday in our stadium to go again beat Leeds.

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