After seeing us beat Wolves 2-0 to go five points clear at the top of the table, Mikel Arteta faced the media for the final time before the World Cup break.
Martin Odegaard’s brace saw us overcome our opponents and maintain our momentum into the 44-day gap without Premier League football, and Arteta spoke about whether that gap will affect us come the restart, as well as numerous other topics surrounding the Molineux encounter.
Here is everything he had to say in his post-match press conference:
on whether being five points clear after 14 games is significant:
It’s great to be where we are. We are enjoying that moment, and we have a big break. We have to reflect on what we are doing, and be very much prepared for what is going to come after the World Cup. But, our aim is to play better as a team every single day; to have better tools to do what we want to do on that pitch. I can say that it has been phenomenal to work with these players and staff.
on whether he is frustrated that we are breaking now with so much momentum:
When a team is in that moment, you want to carry on playing obviously, but it is not possible. We have to use the time now in the best possible way so the players who are not participating in the World Cup, they will have some time off, which they fully deserve. And the rest [will] just fulfil a dream that every kid has had, when they had a chance to represent their national team in a World Cup. It doesn’t get better than that.
on whether Odegaard not going to the World Cup will make a big difference come the restart:
I don’t have a clue. Obviously, he has got two internationals before that so he is going to be committing with the national team. After that, we will try to prepare him in the best possible way. But we don’t know; when you are in the rhythm and when you are competing, sometimes it is much better. So the players that are here are going to need to compete and have enough fitness to be able to play in the right way against West Ham. We will try to prepare them that way.
on the decision to make Odegaard captain:
It is [a big decision], he’s a leader in his own way, with his character, he’s a fantastic person, he’s a fantastic footballer and what he’s doing at his age is not easy. We’re really happy to have him.
on Odegaard adding goals to his game this season:
That’s what you want, your attacking midfielders to win games and not only assist them but score goals. He’s changed that mentality, he’s practising a lot and he wants to get to his best, which we don’t know what his limit is like many of the other kids that we have. That’s what we want, embrace the good moments and support them when they’re not that good.
on Granit Xhaka coming off:
He’s fine, he wasn’t feeling good and for Granit to put his hand up and say: ‘I need to come off’. He wasn’t feeling good at all. We had a few boys with some tummy issues and obviously we cannot change three or four in the first half, but I’m delighted that we adapted to those circumstances and we managed to win the game.
on reflecting on our season so far:
I need a week or so to do that. Obviously, nobody expected us to be where we are right now and the amount of games that we have managed to win, but I am more focused on our way of playing and our way of living together, the atmosphere that we have in this dressing room and around Colney and what we have generated with our supporters in our stadium and the relationship between every member of the club and that’s much more powerful, and my job is to focus after on playing better every game.
on whether it's surpassed his own expectations of what's possible with this team:
Yes, but I take it day by day and not even in game by game. I understand that the better we do the daily things and we commit to doing those things better every single day, every individual is going to contribute to the team to be better and that's what I want too.
on whether there was a sickness bug around the team hotel:
Not overnight. I think it was after the pre-match meal but I didn't even know about it. And the doctor was trying to get some place sorted, because they weren't feeling good.
on whether he and the team watched the Manchester City game:
Yes. We were on the bus. We all watched it together, like we normally do with many other games.
on the team's reaction when Toney scored against Manchester City:
As you can imagine.
on whether thinking about other teams can sometimes make you lose focus:
That's the way that you live this league and that's the beauty and you start to do that on the second game of the season because the competition is so big, that you're really looking at other opponents and I think it's something that every team does. When I've been in other teams, we used to do it all the time. As a player or as a coach and it's natural.
But then you have to focus on your own thing, your own performance and winning the game. This week, I think it was very tricky because there were too many things around the World Cup and certain individuals, but the boys did what they had to do.
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