Press conference

Arteta on... Willock, Pepe and Balogun

Joe Willock's headline-grabbing performance was the first topic raised at Mikel Arteta's press conference on Thursday.

The manager was also asked why he selected Bernd Leno in goal, the competition between Nicolas Pepe and Willian for a Premier League place, and opportunities for Folarin Balogun and other youngsters.
Here's a full transcript:
on Joe Willock's performance...
Yeah, I think he was really strong in his performance. I think the way he's approaching every opportunity, also how mature he is. I saw his press conference as well and I was impressed by the way he's communicating as well. He is developing the right way, he is a player that I really like, he has some very special qualities. He deserves every minute he's been playing and he's showing it with performances, with goals and with his attitude
on the absence of VAR in the Europa League...
I don't understand it, I don't think it makes any sense when we have the technology and we all believe it's the right call for everybody to do it. So I don't understand. We were complaining with the ref because we were told that [Eddie Nketiah] was clearly onside and obviously it's a situation that can change the game. I think it's something that they have to look at and, if possible, change it.
on Willock getting Premier League minutes...
Well the thing is that we have a big squad at the moment, but I said to Joe that I really trust him. This is a competition that we are not [just using] to give young players a chance, it is a competition that we are taking really seriously and we want to play players who are in the best possible shape to give us a performance that we need, and Joe is one of them.
on selecting Bernd Leno over Alex Runarsson...
Because in the main competition Bernd is going to be our No 1. Bernd has played a lot of games, he played with the national team as well and we decided it was the right game for Alex as well. He just joined us and needed some minutes and we believe that was the right call. In general in this competition Bernd is going to be there but if I have to rotate because I feel it's the right thing to manage the squad I will keep doing that.
on what Nicolas Pepe needs to do to start in the Premier League...
Consistency. Throughout the game, throughout 90 minutes, every ball, in every action and every time he's on the ball in the final third he [needs to] make a difference. And do it more and more and more. The final product has to be better, not just from him but if you want to become a top top team and score many more goals then it's something we have to put higher demands on at the moment. Today he scored a really good goal and got an assist and he can do more. I think he's on the right path.

on why Willian is ahead of Pepe in the Premier League pecking order...
I said to you that I am talking generally. It's not just Willian or Nico, I think in general consistency-wise in the final third, with the quality that we have, we have to finish more things better. We can improve a lot. That goes for every player, if Nico scores three goals then his aim has to be to score 10. Willian the same, three assists? He needs 10. If we don't have that mindset then we won't become the top team that we want to be.

on if young players won't progress if they don't get the game time...
If you look at the numbers of how much the young players have played since I joined, I don't think it's a question that we can raise to ourselves. Eddie was on loan, he wasn't playing and now he's playing. Bukayo wasn't playing the minutes that he is playing under me, the same with Joe. Reiss didn't play today because he was injured. If not he would have started the game tonight again. The good thing is that they're not just young players so we have to give them the opportunity, they have to earn that right to play and they are doing that. That's a really positive thing and how lucky we are to have this generation. We [have to] develop them in the right way and the right way sometimes is giving them the opportunities when they deserve it. If not they don't play and it's the best way for them to learn the standards that are required at this football club. If not then you are not good enough to play here. When they show it they have to start. We have a few examples of that and they start every week.

on if our dominance in the group will give more chances to Folarin Balogun...
Again, the chances will come with what they show us with their performances on the pitch and in training. The better results we have and the more clear we are in the group stages, obviously that opens the door a little bit more to give more opportunities to more players that deserve it. At the moment we still have some senior players that we cannot give them the time that they deserve because at the moment we have a lot of fit players.

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