Press conference

Arteta on Wolves, Jimenez, the top four race

It was all change at London Colney on Wednesday as we opened the doors for an in-person press conference for the first time this season after Covid restrictions were eased.

Mikel Arteta previewed the match against Wolves, and discussed Emile Smith Rowe, Raul Jimenez, the race for the top four and more.
 
Read on for a full transcript:
 
on our defensive record this season…
Yes I am very impressed because it’s not easy to do it in this league. It comes down to first of all the engagement of the players, the understanding of how important that is, the implication, and then individually and collectively how they are able to execute it. It starts with the front players, how they go about the press and how intense they are and how much they are willing to support the team in that sense. Then it’s a collective thing, understanding the distances, the compactness, how you win the duels, how you force the opponent to play in certain ways that is better for our defensive structure. It is going to be really important for the future, how we maintain the rhythm and winning football matches.
 
on the competition at right back…
It’s exactly what I want, that we have players who can play in the same role with different qualities, that give us different options and that you are sure that they can perform at the highest level, and that is the case now.
 
on what he thinks of Wolves since we last played them…
Nothing different. I think they are really consistent, the work that the manager and the coaching staff are doing is exceptional. They have been on a really good run in recent years, they have a really clear way of playing and they are a really competitive team. It’s really hard to beat them and it will be tough tomorrow.
 
on stressing the importance of the game to the players…
I think they know. They know what every game means for us, we know where we are and that race is going to right until the end. There are a lot of clubs involved, you see very different results that you don’t expect and we play at home, the importance of getting the points when we play at home is going to be crucial to get to the destination.
 
on what could make the difference in the top-four battle…
I don’t know, I think it will be a bit of a rollercoaster. There will be moments when a team opens up a bit of a gap, then it catches up. You see the fixtures we all have to play and they are extremely tricky. We will see.
 
on the latest team news…
No, at the moment it is all as it was before.
 
on the reasons for Wolves’ success…
First of all the recruitment policy and the players they’ve brought in with the qualities, the characters and the specificity to play the way they play. Obviously their defensive performance has been superb, the amount of goals they have conceded, the creativity they have and the goals they have, that combination is always going to be a positive outcome.
 
on the importance of qualifying for the Champions League
I think for the club this is where we want to play and this has to be the aim for every year be playing amongst the best teams in the world and that's what we want to do.
 
on the possibility of the club extending his contract
Nothing. Just that I am really happy here and my aim is just to build with the club a winning team. A team that people enjoy watching, that fans identify with that can transmit what we want football-wise and as an organisation.
 
on the progress made...
Things will happen naturally and have happened over the last few months and our focus has to be on delivering what we want to achieve.
 
on of the club is in the best shape it has been in since he's been in charge...
Well, I'm happy with the direction we are taking. I'm not happy with where we are and where we want to be. That's for sure because we want to be competing and really challenging the best teams in this league in consecutive seasons and we're not there yet. I think the team is evolving in the right direction. The project that we propose is happening and there are positives to take but we are not there yet.
 
on if he misses the Champions League...
I do a lot because as a football player I have experienced it and it's one of the best feelings that you can have to be surrounded by opponents that are the best in the world and challenge yourself and evaluate yourself against that type of opposition. Then obviously, as a club, you play in a competition that brings the club to a different dimension, a different impact. It's a competition that is very attached to this football club.
 
on how the players will handle the pressure...
There is going that pressure because mathematically, it is possible but our focus has to be today. Train well today, prepare well today, be mentally ready, physically ready, tactically ready tomorrow to play a really difficult match and show it on the pitch. That should be the only aim. 
 
on Bruno Lage...
He's done a really good job. I think he's set different standards at that club and the work that he's done is phenomenal in every sense. I think he's established the club in the Premier League on a different level and Bruno has come here with his own ideas and he's put the team again on another level and the way they are competing and playing it's remarkable.
 
on if we are ahead of schedule...
We are where we are and I'm happy that we are in this position and we want to make the most out of it and again that can be the aim and that should be the goal and the objective but the focus has to be today.
 
on Antonio Conte saying you can get it wrong with your wife but not with your strikers…
When you see the teams that have won championships and European competitions, and you see the teams that Antonio [Conte] has had in the past, and the amount of goals they have scored, there is a huge relation there. So he's probably right, I don't know about the comparison with the wife, but it's a good one!

on head injuries and player welfare…
I think we have made a lot of progress there, to where we were a few years back. We have to continue there. In the case of Raul [Jimenez] it was a really scary moment. Thanks to the medical team, they probably saved him at that moment from something that could have been much worse and for the recovery that he's done. It's great that after that he's come back so quickly, performing and scoring goals like he's doing. Regarding that topic, yes we can always get better, and that should be the aim.

on whether Jimenez's injury was one of the scariest moments he has known…
I have had others but that was one of them. Straight away when you see the reaction and the anxiety that suddenly is in the team doctors and everybody who was involved, trying to assess what was happening. It was frightening, and thank God it ended the right way, but it looked really, really bad.

on the club being in contact…
Yeah we were of course, and David [Luiz] was as well, he was directly involved and really affected about that. We are colleagues in the end. We share the same profession and industry and when something like happens, you are emotionally involved.

on Wolves being a rival for the top four…
They look like it, the way they are playing and the results they are getting, the consistency they are showing. For sure. You look at the last two games as well and how they played against those teams, they are going to be up there.
on Emile Smith Rowe's 10 goals and two assists this season…
The numbers should be looking something like this and that's not a coincidence. He's practising every day, he is working, he has willingness to do it because he knows he has the qualities and the capacity to do it. That's what we have to demand from players whether they are 19 or 20 or 35.

on whether the England experience helped Emile…
I think it's a combination of everything. It's in his nature, he needs to feel that confidence and that trust around the coaching staff that we are the right people to guide him and to take him to the next level. He needs his team-mates, which are big contributors to what he can do on the pitch. He needs to feel love, he needs to have the right environment around him, his family, girlfriend or whatever next to him, and when that happens, he has got a good chance.
 
on how he’s dealing with the extra attention on him for the Amazon documentary…
Well, it’s another experience. I left it once, obviously when I had a different role, but at least I knew what it was. It’s a way of telling the people who follow us how we live, how this looks like internally, and it has to be natural. Nobody has to be acting, we have to be ourselves and just tell the story as it happens. This has sometimes been a bit of rollercoaster for many situations that we all know, and coping with (Covid) restrictions. But hopefully it’s a good story to tell and (for) people to understand what happens behind the scenes. But sometimes it’s not easy because you feel observed, you feel indecent and sometimes that’s in the back of your mind. At some stage you have to let it go and become what can become.
 
on whether we’ll see a different side to him in the documentary?
I don’t know, I am who I am you know. When I’m angry, when I am happy, when I am disappointed. I don’t know, I don’t think I can hide - or I do hide - a lot about how I feel. For sure, if you follow me for 24hrs, I’m sure you will know more about me.
 
on Jack Wilshere moving to Denmark and any words for him…
Well first of all, thank you for what he’s done all the time with us. It’s been great to have him, and I think I’m speaking on behalf of everybody and the club, it’s been absolutely a pleasure to have Jack back. To enjoy watching him play next to us, to have him around, the inspiration that he is for all the young people. Hopefully we can help him - we have helped him a little bit as well - because he had some doubts with what to do, whether to start coaching or continue playing. I think this group of players have given him again that necessity to experience - on a daily basis - how magnificent it is to feel like a football player, and I think he wants to experience that again. We wish him the best of luck.
 
on whether he has matured since the days of him singing songs...
He has come a long way, Jack. I don't think he can lose that spontaneity that he has, and that character and the funny moments he produced. That is part of Jack but obviously years have gone by and he has matured.
 
on whether Jack could return one day in a coaching capacity...
One hundred per cent. I think everyone at the club would be willing to open the doors for him and try to find a role for him that would work for everybody. I think that will happen naturally in the future.

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