Press conference

Arteta on.. Xhaka, Bellerin, Guendouzi and the cup

Mikel Arteta

Mikel Arteta had a strong connection with the Emirates FA Cup as a player - and he wants to repeat that as a head coach.

Our former midfielder lifted the trophy in 2014 after a dramatic Wembley comeback against Hull City, and he stands three wins from getting his hands on the cup again.
Ahead of the sixth-round trip to Sheffield United, Mikel took part in a virtual press conference.
On the agenda: how a trophy can galvanise a team, Granit Xhaka's vocal leadership, Hector Bellerin's return journey from injury - and the inspiration he takes from Liverpool.
Here's a full transcript:
on his reaction to Liverpool winning the Premier League...
Well I think they've come so far as a club, as a team, in the last few seasons. I think they've set a very clear club culture that they have been able to transmit to the supporters and generate belief. I think they have a very clear philosophy in the way they want to play, the way they approach every single game, and then they also have really good recruitment starting from the staff, the coach and all the players that they've signed specifically for the way they want to play. Congratulations to them.
on whether Liverpool are an inspiration for what he'd like to achieve...
Well yes because they were in a very difficult position four years ago and they made a lot of right decisions, some very difficult decisions, some unpopular decisions, but the right decisions for them. And they've been very consistent with their messages, very clear messages from top to bottom. They have this mentality to go into every game with the same spirit and mentality to win the game.

on what it would do for the players to win the Emirates FA Cup...
We are very excited. It's a competition that is very linked to this football club, that has won it more times than anyone else in this country. The players are excited. Obviously having the chance to go to Wembley, even if it's empty, it's such a special occasion. So we'll try hard but we're facing a difficult opponent for sure. But the boys are excited about it.

on what it did for him and the team in 2014...
It was 10 years since we had won anything else and Arsene [as well]. We could see that it was the year we could have the opportunity to win it. We all were up for it. We had belief and we wanted to go and create something special again. I think that was the platform to build what we did again in the next few years.

on what catches his eye about Sheffield United...
The clarity of the idea of how they play and how they approach football games. Very clear plans, very clear things, very clear patterns and roles. They have a manager who has transmitted to the players how he wants to play. They did really well last year and this season as well, look where they are.

on how he manages his squad between PL and FA Cup games...
Well we've been unfortunate because we've picked up a lot of injuries in the last few weeks. We need players to recover as well. We are playing every three days and their condition with this hot climate is getting harder and harder. For sure we're going to use some of the players that we used in the last game, but we'll have to rotate some of them as well. We have to manage the squad now in the best possible way because it's Wednesday, then Saturday, then Wednesday again. The games are catching up and players are still not in the best condition to compete [so we need to manage the squad].

on whether having no fans in the stadium devalues reaching Wembley...
I think it's always exciting to have the chance to go to Wembley. You want to play the occasions. Yes, OK it's the game, but the occasion is what makes it so much more special as a day. To do that, you need people. It's all about entertainment and entertainment is what it is because you have energy, you have passion from the fans and you feel the energy in the ground. Without that, obviously it's never going to be the same.

on our connection with the FA Cup...
Absolutely. What we did in recent years is pretty remarkable and difficult to achieve because it's a lot of games and a lot of tricky situations that you have to go through. But game management is a really important thing in these times and we need to know how to play the 90 minutes, the extra-time and sometimes the penalties. It's a mind game as well, this competition.
on playing the occasion...
No I think we have had no guarantees that we can have crowds in the stadium in the next few weeks so I think the Premier League has waited for a situation where they could provide a safe environment to the players and all the staff and then slowly we start progressing. This industry cannot stop for seven months with so many people depending on it and I think they have done the right thing. It's not ideal but it is much better than what we had two months ago so we have to adapt to it and the world is changing and we cannot be any different, we have to adapt. We know that it is all about the people, it is all about the atmosphere that is created in the stadium and the energy that a good game needs. Without supporters, it is never going to be the same.

on young players...
I have a lot of faith in the young talent that we have at the football club, we need the right stability and the right foundations around [the young players] to make sure that they develop in the right way, at the right moment and with the right amount of pressure behind them. In order to do that it is a process and if you want to speed up that process you risk burning them and burning that process and we cannot do that. We have some great young players who have been playing probably more than they should have been doing but they are showing great maturity and the personalities to play in difficult moments which is great for their experience. But as well we need the other players to support them in the right way and that's why we're trying to achieve this balance to be very competitive but also excited about the future ahead of us.
on winning the FA Cup and a player and as a head coach with the same team
I will try to transmit how beautiful it is, a lot of the players haven't experienced what Wembley means and I have to try to convince them that it's worth the effort to go again after three days, after the effort they put in at Southampton. I am sure they are very willing to do that, the rewards are really really nice and let's try to go again and try.
on team news...
No, no news [beyond the club update earlier on Friday].
on reports over Guendouzi possibly leaving the club...
As I said yesterday in the press conference, whatever internal [issues] we have we will deal with them privately. I'm never going to make any of that public.
on whether he thinks Guendouzi will be an Arsenal player next season...
All the players that are here, I'm counting on them. If they want to jump on the boat they are more than welcome. That's always my mindset - I'm here to help all of them to improve individually and collectively, and that is my job.
on Hector Bellerin needing time since his injury to find his best form...
As you said he's had a lot of injuries in the past season that hasn't allowed him to be very consistent, even in training or in the games that he's played. And obviously when that happens your level of consistency in performance will always drop. But the effort that he puts in, the commitment that he shows to the club and the players is always at the top. And his performances can improve, of course they can, and he's trying hard to do that. We are here to help him.
on Granit Xhaka's vocal leadership...
Yeah, he's a natural leader. He's someone who is always 1,000 per cent committed, not just for himself but to help all his teammates all the time. I'm happy that you can hear him more now.
on whether Xhaka could wear the armband in the future...
Hopefully I have 24 captains who are willing to take leadership wherever they like. There is not only one way to be a captain, you can be a captain in many different ways. Be yourself, express yourself, play with the passion and set an example to your teammates. That is, for me, a leader.

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