Press conference

Every word from Arteta's pre-Tottenham presser

Ahead of a huge north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, Mikel Arteta held his pre-match press conference at the Sobha Realty Training Centre.

The boss was asked about the state of the title race, his selection dilemmas, and potentially clinching qualification for the Champions League next season.

Here is everything he had to say:

on how he feels about the title chances now:
Now we are there. We have to look at ourselves and try to perform in the best possible way to win our matches and I can’t wait to see what happens. That’s what we discuss. It sounds a bit repetitive but it’s what we have to do.

on whether it is now a two-horse race:
I don’t think so. I think this league is tremendously demanding and there can be still a lot of turns. We all know how difficult it is to win games in this league.

on how pleased he has been with April:
It’s been great. Not just the results but the performances as well. We had a big one in the last London derby against Chelsea and now we have another big one. I’m sure if we’re going to do it we’re going to have to beat Spurs as well.

on how much tougher the squad is this season:
Yeah, the availability, we mentioned before is going to be something key. It’s true that apart from Jurrien, we’re going to be very close to having everybody available and that’s a huge boost. That elevates the training sessions, the competition between the players and to pick the right line-up, to change the game. It’s something really important.

on how excited he is with the development of the squad:
Obviously we are fully focused on this one because of what’s at stake and we really want to get the job done. We know as well that it’s a very young team with a really bright future and still a lot of room for improvement and we will try to keep developing it.

on our schedule compared to Spurs:
We’re going to be fully ready. We’ve had a bit of time as well to recover and prepare from the Chelsea game. I’m sure the team is going to be fully ready to go again on Sunday.

on whether Arsenal need to be perfect until the end of the season given City’s performance on Thursday:
It’s another game that they managed to win in a convincing way and something that we cannot control so this is what we have to do.

on his selection headaches:
It’s good headaches though! Yes, you feel for the players a bit as well because of how much they want it and how much everyone wants to start and contribute to the team and impact the team in the right way, so it’s always difficult and it’s part of the job. As well, they’re fully ready to come on the pitch at whatever time we need them to try to help us win the matches. Their spirit is so good.

on his north London derby preparations as a manager compared to when he was a player:
More motivation, if anything, because you know what you can give to people, which is a lot of joy and happiness if we manage to win the game. When you have the chance to do that and it’s in your hands, you really want to make the most of it to try and make it happen.

on Ange Postecoglu’s job so far:
I'm really impressed with what he’s done and also prior to that, because I knew him when he was in the Australian national team, and when he was in Japan as well, I followed him when he was at Celtic, and he’s always been super clear with a really clear direction and identity of how his teams play, and I love the way his teams play. So, I think he’s been very good.

on what he's telling our players:
Enjoy the moment, try to navigate this in a natural way. They are super competitive at the moment, everything we’re doing in the training sessions is to compete, compete and compete. And it’s a really good sign, because we know what we’re going to have to do if we want to win it, and that’s it. We have to raise the bar every day in training to try to match that so that when we play our games, we’re ready.

on the decision to sign Kai Havertz:
It’s not my decision, it’s our decision. We were super aligned with the club’s vision, and then obviously on the sporting side, we made a recommendation. A lot of people were involved and then you need the ownership to back you as well, and make things happen. We were very convinced that they were characters first, they were players with the right qualities to fit within our model, our club, and sometimes it takes a bit of time, that’s inevitable. Sometimes you’re going to make mistakes, I try to minimise them, and try to at least generate the environment, and everything that the players need to fulfil their potential.

on whether the squad will challenge for a while to come yet:
I hope so but that’s something that you’re going to have to show every season, every game and in this league, that’s extremely difficult to do. We’ve done it two years in a row, but we’re not satisfied with that. We want to win it and we’re going to do everything that we can to win it. If we do win it, we’ll try again to win it, and if we don’t, for sure, we’ll try again.

on whether it will be progress if we don’t win the title:
I'm not thinking about that. At the moment I’m just thinking about how we’re going to win it!

on the supercomputer giving Arsenal a 26.6 per cent chance of the title:
I don’t know what to say, hopefully we can trick that computer and make it a bit higher! Maybe it needs to upload the software, we need to help it to upload the software, or give it more tools. Hopefully we can change that!

on playing vertically with ball speed:
It depends at the moment on the phase of play and the behaviour of the opponent is all about that. It’s all about what the opponent is trying to do; how can you hurt them, where the spaces are and identifying those moments to punish the opponents. Every game is different and there are a lot of concepts and ideas around any way of playing. For us, these two are important, but there are many others obviously.

on he sees the games unfolding:
There are certain games that you imagine the type of game you are going to play and you try to explain to the players - this is what I think is going to happen, and why it’s going to happen, and this is how we can provoke things happening as well. Then it's about trying to make it happen, and then using it.

on whether the result at Tottenham two years ago was a low point for him:
My memory is failing me, I’m more focused on the one last year, that’s more positive!

on whether he trusts the current team more than that side:
I have always trusted my players, then from there you can perform. I can make right or wrong decisions, to have the team win or not win in the best possible way. That was a very particular match, with many situations but certainly we learned, we tried to evolve from there, we tried to get a squad that was better equipped. We all had experiences that hopefully helped us to develop and be better and on Sunday we will have to show it again.  

on drawing from the Invincibles winning the title there 20 years ago:
I understand that, but it’s not going to happen mathematically even if we do win. There are moments that are very important in our history and I’m sure a lot of players know about it. Certainly the staff and the ones who have been here long enough know about it. It’s about making our own history now.

on whether there is an advantage to playing every few days:
I don’t know. What I can tell you is the boys are going to be fully ready on Sunday to play against a great opponent. They are going to make it very difficult for us and we are going to have to be very good to beat them.

on Jurrien Timber’s availability:
We have to make that decision tomorrow after the training session. He’s very close, I don’t know if this is too early, but he’s very close now. 

on the disparity in the fixture schedules:
Yes but we knew that, it happened with other teams as well. Because of the circumstances in the schedules, a few teams had to go a few days without a game. I don’t know if it’s the best way to do it, but it is what it is and all we can do is prepare to be fully ready on Sunday.

on whether he would have preferred two weeks off:
I love the fact we played four times, and we had some great experiences in a very demanding week. We managed to have some really good results in the last two, and obviously that boosted the confidence and the belief of everybody. We are in a good place.

on whether Postecoglu will tweak his tactics against us:
I don't know what they will do, they haven't changed much and have been very consistent. I think that's probably been the biggest strength in what they've done, so we have to be prepared. In games, things can change and you have to be able to tweak things if necessary.

on having players who know about the hostile atmosphere:
I think it's an unbelieve atmosphere. It's a beautiful stadium, we’ve played there a few times already and it’s a great atmosphere to play football in. We know about the rivalry but I think you have to put that aside, you have to live the game with the intensity and passion that it demands. On top of that, we know what we are playing for so I don't think we need anything special because the game has got everything that you need as a player to go and enjoy it.

on no-one talking anymore about finishing above Spurs:
I think we have to look at ourselves and what we want to achieve, what our goals are and then evaluate that. Obviously you have put that in the context of a league and a lot of clubs and teams that are super strong and make it really difficult for you, and I think that evaluation has to be related more about what we've done, what we’ve done right and what we can still improve, and then make certain decisions in relation to that.

on us potentially qualifying for the Champions League next season this weekend:
We have to do it first and when we do it, I think is important to mention it and remember it. Then go to the next one.

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