Press conference

Every word from Mikel's post-Forest presser

Mikel Arteta during the game against Nottingham Forest

We got our 2023/24 campaign off to the perfect start by beating Nottingham Forest 2-1, and within minutes of the final whistle Mikel Arteta was sharing his thoughts on the result to the press.

He was asked out Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli's brilliance, team selection, Jurrien Timber's injury and much more.

Here is everything he had to say:

on the nervy finish to the game after our first-half dominance:
Welcome to the Premier League! I think that’s the highlight, we were super dominant, we deserved to win the game, there’s no question that we deserved to win the game. But when you are 2-0 up and you have some chances to kill the game we didn’t and then we gave a very sloppy one away after being there and having the corner and having a chance on the corner. Straight away from two passes you concede a goal, when that happens in the league it’s game on, every team has the resources, the quality to create issues, and it was more about the feeling of what happened, because the reality is we didn’t concede anything. Running the clock down, in this league, that’s a very dangerous thing to do but overall I'm very happy.

on Jurrien Timber’s injury and whether he was close to coming off at half-time:
No, the officials, the doctors, they looked at him and they were happy to continue, him as well, but straight away in the second half the first action he made a movement and it was a bit funny so we took him straight out and now we have to assess him to see what he has. 

on Bukayo Saka’s stunning goal:
From that distance against Matt Turner is not very easy to score, but it was an incredible finish

on whether it was tactical to play Partey at right-back and have Gabriel on the bench:
We expected a game that actually happened and we needed somebody else there in midfield to do what we have to do the best, and have more fluidity and occupy certain spaces in relation to how they were defending. I think it worked really well.

on the momentum shift in the second half:
It’s going to be very difficult to dominate games for 100 minutes, but it is why we allow them to get some grip of the game, because they create anything but at the end of that action the game changes and momentum changes and shifts immediately after that goal. That is not the moment to change it, you cannot change it, now you have to be so good at dealing with that situation and running the clock down and earning the points. The team have done that really well but we have to be more ruthless and more critical of ourselves to be more pushy and kill the games.

on whether his tactics are designed to identify solutions to problems from last season:
That’s my job, to create bigger problems for the opponents and the ones that they are creating us, and to play the best possible way to earn right the to win the game and have the highest probability to win the game. In order to do that we have to pick the right players every week, not to start only but as well to finish and the players that come in the final part of the game, they really help us as well to earn the right to win.

on whether Bukayo Saka has the makings to be one of the best players in the league and Europe:
What I ask him and all the players is to be the best version of themselves every single day. That’s the only thing that they can do, and then how good that version is, is very hard to tell with any player because we don’t know. We don’t know how the Bukayo of two years ago or today or two years’ time will be, and the same applies to the rest. They are so eager to do that every single day and when that happens, they will evolve. For sure, they will be better and they will compete better, and they will understand how to get better and be efficient to make decisions.

on whether Gabriel Martinelli’s performance today can be what we expect of him this season:
That’s Gabi - he needs to be alive, he needs to be energetic, he needs to take chances and go for it. Something I really liked today and that I didn’t like too much two weeks ago, was that he was going to give the ball away, and he tracked back, because this was the defining moment. When Gabi is doing that backwards and then forwards, he’s one of the best players and one of the most dangerous today. When he’s playing a different rhythm, no.

on how pleased the boss was to see Eddie get off the mark today:
Delighted for him because he’s a role model. He’s a player that was so disappointed with the absence of Gabby [Jesus], and not to play a final. What he did when he came on the field in the final, was that he changed the game, that’s number one. And the second one, the way he trained this week, he was telling me: “gaffer, if I don’t play, you are blind.”. A lot of players come and say: “ah, why am I not playing?”, and you have to try and explain. Other players tell you the reasons why they deserve to play, this is exactly what Eddie does. This is exactly what he did and then he goes onto the pitch, and he performs as well. It’s a clear example and a very good example for everybody.

on if we are looking to move the ball quicker in our play:
Especially in the second half, especially when we are 2-0 up and the rhythm needs to be maintained. We spoke that we wanted a very high rhythm game today, because we knew the pitch was going to get dry and it was really hot, and it’s going to be slower. Everything that is going to be in a low block, with the Christmas tree [formation] and slow [play], benefits the opponent. We need to stay away from those games.

on the issues supporters had getting into the stadium before the game:
From my position, I apologise to all of them for what happened. In relation to the club as well, as a speaker, we apologise. We will look at what happened, try to improve it – as well, thank you to everyone for their patience that they had, thank you as well to the referees and Forest for allowing kick-off to be delayed so that we could have the atmosphere that we deserved to play a Premier League match in.

on how impressed the boss has been with Declan Rice’s leadership:
He’s very natural. As you’ve seen today, I don’t know if it was after two minutes or 10, the way he’s moving, the way he’s coaching, the way he has integrated into that dressing room, I think he’s enjoying the position as well. He probably should have scored two goals today, so more of the same. He’s not thinking, he’s just acting and I’m really pleased with what he’s done.

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