Press conference

Every word from Mikel's pre-Leicester presser

Ahead of travelling up to Leicester to face the Foxes on Saturday afternoon, Mikel Arteta held his weekly press conference at London Colney to answer questions about the game.

The boss tackled queries about injuries, contracts, Bukayo Saka's treatment from opposing defenders and what he thinks Brendan Rodgers might have in store for us on the weekend.

Here is everything he had to say:

on the latest team news:

Not a lot of changes. The question mark is on Thomas. He hasn’t trained much but it looks like he could be available, so let’s see how he trains today.

on Partey’s return giving us a huge boost:

Yeah, he’s a really important player for us, who we missed in the last few games. Hopefully he can be available.

on Gabriel Jesus’ recovery:

He’s progressing really well. He’s doing more and more on the field and he’s not reacting [negatively], so that’s really positive. We want to have him as quickly as possible but also respect the timeframe we got from the doctor and the specialists. He’s really pushing the boundaries right now.

on rumours around Bukayo Saka signing a new contract:

No news on that.

on what Saka signing a new deal would say about our progress:

We want to keep our best players, the players that we are developing. We want to create a long-term project here and obviously we need our best players to be committed to the club.

on any progress on a new deal for Saliba:

No news.

on if referees are protecting Saka enough:

I’m sure every referee tries to protect the game and individuals in the best possible way. There is a lot of attention on Bukayo now and we need to keep that in mind as well as the team and the plans we put together, understanding what opponents are doing. But for sure, referees have the responsibility and they have to do their jobs.

on if it’s a two-horse race for the title:

I think there are more teams involved and every day is going to be a race. Today it’s how we convince those players to train better, to play better against Leicester. We’re going to have to be really good to beat them, especially with the way they’ve been playing in the last few weeks.

on Leicester’s first-half performance at Manchester United:

They should have been 2-0 or 3-0 up very early in the game. If it wasn’t for David de Gea, that would have been a very different game. The game against Tottenham recently… I’m really complimentary about them. They’re in a really good moment right now and we’re going to have to be really good.

on what the manner of the win at Aston Villa did for the mood around the training ground:

Much better, much more positive. The confidence is much better, the environment around training is much better. The fact that the team showed the capacity to rebuild in a really adverse situation, when you are 2-1 down and you’ve played less than 72 hours before and everyone is expecting you to be tired mentally in terms of quality and belief, to come back and win the game is a really big boost for us.

on if the team are showing characteristics Arteta didn’t know they possessed:

I said before the game that I had more belief in the players than before the City game and it’s for that reason, because I see how they train, how much they react, how much they care and how much they want it.

on the team's maturity on Saturday:

I was really complimentary to them, the way they reacted, but as well, there are things that in the first half we should do better, especially the way we played and the way we controlled the game that we cannot be 2-1 down. We have to learn those lessons quickly and hopefully we can have a very and more consistent performance against Leicester, because it's going to be needed to win the game.

on what it does for the team's confidence levels:

That you are able to win games in different contexts, in different situations and that you can never give up in sport, especially when there are still so many games to be played and in that game, so many minutes still to be played. So at the moment, there were just certain things, we increased the individual level, we were right in the game and we deserved to win the game.

on whether he expected Jorginho to settle in this quickly:

I did [expect him to settle quickly], because obviously he's got the experience, he's got the qualities that we need in the team and he knows the league so well that there's not a lot of things that are new or caught him by surprise. He's done really well.

on what he expects from Leicester City:

They've been really consistent the past few weeks in the games they've played. It's true that Brendan has proposed very different games in many different moments throughout the seasons and they have this capacity to adapt, play different formations and play in different approaches. We have prepared for both because it's possible and let's see what they do tomorrow.

on building young players for the future:

That's what we have to do, that's our responsibility to keep our best players, our best people and the people that have the same aims and purpose with the club to keep them together for a while, give them some stability and from there keep evolving and become a better club.

on the process of developing young players:

Well, it's part of developing a team, building a squad, and, as well, taking the club where we want. It's maximising the resources we have and we have huge resources because we have a lot of talent and we have to keep that talent and keep improving it and making it better.

on how big the Leicester game is:

We have to go there tomorrow, we have to play really well and we have to compete even better, and win that game which is going to be difficult.

on whether there is less pressure this week after a win:

Maybe for the players it is, but for the manager it’s always about trying to get prepared mentally and tactically to try to understand what can happen in the game and have all the solutions available. The focus is just about earning the right to win the game, and how we can best prepare for that. Obviously, you have to influence sometimes the psychology part of the team, and sometimes it’s the mood, sometimes it’s the physical condition of the team, sometimes it’s the tactical battle or the gameplan, so at the end it’s a challenge every week in this league. 

on Mohamed Elneny’s contract:

It’s totally deserved. It’s an absolute joy to have him at the club, and I think what the club has done is absolutely brilliant. It’s not just words saying we value the people we have, and we’re going to stick with people in difficult moments. Mo had a very difficult moment a few weeks ago when he had a pretty serious injury, and the club committed to him for what he gives to the team and what he’s done for this football club. I think it’s a really strong message for everyone at the club to keep our best people and our best players with us in challenging moments.

on Bukayo’s bravery:

If you ask him how he used to be when he was 10, 11, 12 or 13, I think it’s very different. Wingers and talented players get kicked, get fouled and have the demand to win games, and that’s the task that he has and his role in the team.

on whether he’s worried Bukayo could get injured:

Hopefully not, but we have to train for that and he has to learn when to take certain balls and what he has to do with that ball, how to use his body and when to jump. There is a lot of things that we can train for, but it’s very difficult to understand what the opponent is going to do.

on whether Bukayo has to get used to being targeted:

Obviously he attracts a lot of attention, like Gabriel Martinelli, or Gabrie Jesus when he plays, or Eddie or Martin. It’s normal that creative players want to be stopped [by the opposition], and they want to be restricted with the ball getting into them and occupying and exploring certain spaces. What we have to do is try to do the complete opposite.


on how much of a boost it would be to extend his contract:

I don’t know. Obviously we have the intention to extend the contract of our players and when it’s done, it’s great news for our club.


on any discussion about Granit Xhaka extending his contract:

Not yet.


on whether he reported anything to the officials about Saka’s treatment at Villa:

We fill in our reports after every game, and you express if you are satisfied with the performance, and if there are any issues. We have to report everything, and we do every single game, and we put any comments we want to make.


on whether they included anything about Saka’s treatment:

No, it’s a topic every single week.


on not getting Saka to think he is being targeted:

We cannot control what the opponents are going to do, or the referee’s decisions in a split second. It’s something we cannot control, so we have to control what we can: help him to become a better player, be more efficient, and that’s it.

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