Press conference

Every word from Mikel's pre-Bournemouth presser

Ahead of the game against Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon, Mikel Arteta held his usual pre-match press conference at London Colney to discuss all matters to do with the game.

The journalists in attendance asked him numerous questions, including injury updates, the potential of the team, playing players out of position and what to expect from the Cherries.

Here is everything he had to say:

on the importance of our last three results sending a message to our title rivals:

There are no messages to the opponents. There are just messages to our players to continue doing the same [but] better every single day and that’s the only discussion that we are having among the squad.

on the importance of three successive wins after the loss against Manchester City:

It’s really important. It gives you momentum, it gives you confidence and it obviously puts you in a much better position in the league table, which is the most important thing. The team is in a good place and really looking to the game tomorrow.

on Gabriel Jesus’ recovery from injury:

He’s not far now. I don’t want to give a timeline but he’s doing certain things with the team and certain things outside the team. He’s not very close but he’s not far at all. He’s feeling better every day and the doctors are confident with the way the injury is evolving. We are in a good place with him, I think.

on if Jesus’ recovery has been as expected:

I think it’s been pretty straightforward. At the beginning, we were really concerned with the possible extent of the injury because we were talking about a few options there. Thankfully it wasn’t that bad, but it was a long-term injury, it required surgery and it’s not [pleasant], especially the first few weeks. But knowing Gaby, he’s been through that before. His mentality is incredible and the team has done a really good job with him to put him in the position he’s in today.

on updates on Saka and Saliba’s contracts, and their importance:

Every player is very important. There are players with special circumstances contractually. We are trying to deal with them. But I don’t want to cause any distraction with any of those conversations at this moment. Whenever something is ready to get done and it’s good news, we will announce it.

on if he takes any notice of opponents’ results when they play before us:

We are looking at the games for sure when they are live, before that. It can become a stimulus. But I don’t think there is a need for any extra motivation. We know the difficulty of the challenge, we are really looking forward to it and we go game by game. 

on the latest on Eddie Nketiah:

We are assessing him and it’s a bit uncertain what’s going to happen with him, to be honest. Let’s see and keep the options open. He’s very positive about it, so hopefully he will be fine.

on if Jorginho has recovered from illness:

Jorgi’s fine. He had an illness and he was suffering but to be fair, he put in a great effort and shift in the first half [against Everton]. We decided to take him off but he’s fit now.

on the threat of Bournemouth:

I watched the games they played against Brighton, Wolves, Newcastle and Man City. I’m really impressed by what they are doing. They are really aggressive, they haven’t conceded many in those games and they could have had different results in two of those four games. Against Man City, [City] showed some quality when they opened up, when finishing the actions to make the score really big, but it was a really competitive match again.

on if he has a plan for the run-in:

Not that far. We never talk that far [in advance]. We always have plan for what we’ll do in the following weeks and we’ll stick to that. We’ll assess where we are in a month’s time. 

on if he has to pass on his experience about the intensity of the season during the spring:

They know, a lot of them have already experienced it, even if they were challenging for different things. We know that the closer we get to the end, the potential will be higher and the demands will be as high as they have been all season.

on the controversy over the purchase of Newcastle:

I’m not going to make any comments about another club.

on if the team has reached its full potential:

There’s much more to come. We can do things much better in many aspects of the game, and we still have players with immense growth potential individually and collectively, and as a club as well there are a lot of things we can do much better. That’s the aim - we have to be really seeking that excellence and professionalism and trying to recruit the best people and all the time have the right mindset to achieve that level.

on if Oleksandr Zinchenko is an option in central midfield:

He can and he adapts to certain positions in the field in a great way. Sometimes he occupies those spaces, so we will see. Sometimes teams pose you questions and you need Alex in certain positions - he can play wider and higher up the pitch as well, so he is comfortable there. It’s good to have that versatility with players.

on how important his energy to the team has been:

It is really important, it is part of our identity and the way we want to play the game. We demand that from ourselves every single day because without that, I think we’d become an average team.

on the difficulty stepping up from the youth to the first-team as Gary O’Neil has done:

I’ve known him for many years because we’ve been in the league together, and I’ve been really impressed with what he’s done throughout his career and the way he approaches every game, the way he sets the team and what the team is doing right now. I know him personally as well, so I think he is doing a great job. It is great to see managers of that age as well occupying those roles and doing well.

on whether Gabriel Jesus could be back before the international break:

So you want me to give you a timeframe?! We don’t know, I’m saying we’re not far away but obviously he has to do much more with the team. Let’s see how the next week, 10 days develop and we’ll have a much better picture.

on how well we’ve done without him:

Probably that wouldn’t be fair on him because he was starting every single game and what he produced for the team was phenomenal. It is true that we need to see when he’s back what level he is, how we’re going to fit him in and how we’re going to load him with minutes and in which games. Like everybody else, he’ll have to earn his place but we know what Gaby can give to the team.

on how much he’s changed since his first game against Bournemouth:

That’s probably a question for somebody else, it’s not for me to judge how I am.

on what he has learnt since then:

A lot has happened; I have learnt a lot. I have had great moments with a lot of people. They are experiences in your life that mark you forever, especially when you have a role like the one I have at the club. Looking back, I think it’s been a fascinating journey in the past three years.

 

at what stage Jesus is with his recovery:

There’s no contact [training] yet.

 

on whether he will play an under-21 game as part of his recovery:

We need to see how busy the schedule is and where we have space between the games to fit that in, as well as whether we feel he needs that and how much we will get from it. There are some good questions we need to ask in the next seven to 10 days I think.

 

on whether he will play two separate teams in the Premier League and Europa League:

It depends, obviously we haven’t had two teams available for the past five months; we didn’t have more than 16/17 outfield players so that would have been impossible. Let’s see if we have the chance to do that, and if we want to manage the rotation in that way, it’s a possibility. But in the end, players have to earn the right to play, and not because you have two games a week, so we will see what we will do.

 

on whether he encourages players to play out of position like Zinchenko did against Everton:

If he gives the ball away and they have a counter-attack and they score, I would be really upset! But like every manager, he puts a great ball in, Bukayo is inside and he scores, happy flowers! We are all happy. He has the freedom to move in certain spaces like he does and the action where he receives the ball, especially in certain games where we face a certain block. But at the same time, we require a certain discipline in positions to do what you have to do.

 

on whether he has confidence that the team can cope with more injuries:

Yes because [losing Jesus] was a huge blow for the team first of all. We knew the importance of Gaby, what he was bringing to the team and the way he transformed this period and the belief and in the end the level of performance we could reach.

But to be fair the team took a step forward, individual players took more responsibility and they were really keen to maintain that level. We have done that so far, it’s really pleasing to see players are not looking for an excuse or look aside and expect someone else to do it, but they took initiative. Developing those leadership qualities is really important.

 

on whether he has seen players like Martinelli step up in Jesus’s absence:

I think Gabi in particular was really good playing with big Gaby [Jesus] but we needed something different from the team and we had to adapt a little bit our way of playing because of the qualities Gaby has. That was really pleasing to see, so in general it went probably better than expected, and now we have to continue to do that. Hopefully we can bring him back so he can help to take us to a different level.

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