Press conference

Every word from Mikel's pre-Luton press conference

We finally return to Premier League action at Emirates Stadium when Luton Town head to north London on Wednesday night, and Mikel Arteta tackled questions about the game in his pre-match press conference.

He gave fitness updates on Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, was full of praise for the Hatters and discussed the title race among many other topics thrown his way by the journalists at the Sobha Realty Training Centre.

Here is everything he had to say:

on how Bukayo Saka is fitness-wise:
Yeah, he's fine. Obviously, we haven't trained, we’ve recovered and have a short live session today to prepare for the game, and we'll see whether he's in the best condition to start or not.

on whether there is an opportunity to give him time to recover:
We're just thinking about Luton and preparing for the game in the best possible way and earn the right to beat them.

on whether Gabriel Martinelli is fit enough to play 90 minutes:
He is because he was available to play against a really tough opponent three days ago. Again, we'll train today and see the state of every player and make the right decision tomorrow.

on having his whole squad available now the games are coming thick and fast:
Yeah, we have discussed that and pushing each other and being available to contribute in any way to help us win the game and perform consistently at the level that we need to so we're going to need everybody.

on how he keeps all his players motivated, regardless of playing time:
That’s certainly something really important. They really need to feel it, and the best way to feel it is to play minutes. When they don't have the capacity to show what can do, they have to show it in training. We have to be close to them and we have to convince them to keep doing it and earn the right to play.

on playing a different style to get a result at Manchester City:
You have to sometimes because you want to adapt, and sometimes because you have to adapt. You have to have that resilience and leave your ego and ideology aside and the way you have to win the game. The team was mentally really strong and it was really clever the way they did it.

on getting the players to not be satisfied with a point at City:
You prepare the game to win it and when you feel that you have what it takes to go there and win, you want to do it and if you don't you're not satisfied. But at the same time, you have to understand how you're growing as a team and be smart enough in the moment to accept something else.

on his memories of the win at Luton in December:
Especially how tough it was to win, and how difficult they have made it for every team. Big compliments to Rob and the coaching staff; what they have done as a club is an amazing journey. I think they deserve more credit than any other team in this league. How they have done it and what they transmit as a team and what they generate, it is going to be a really tough match tomorrow.

on his celebrations at the end:
It was really emotional and the way we celebrated tells you the difficulty of the match and how much we had to fight for the points so we know what we're facing tomorrow.

on when he first recognised the defensive chemistry of Saliba and Gabriel:
When I decided with Edu and the club to send Wilo to Marseille. I’m just joking!  You just feel it when you see the partnership and sometimes there is chemistry between two players that they complement each other. They are so happy to work with each other, to work off each other and it just flows when that happens. I think they will enjoy playing together and again, they've been really good.

on how we are approaching the Luton game differently to the City game:
We're going to be needing even more. It's after two and a half days. [Luton] are in a really good moment - when you see the games that they have played and even when they haven't won, they've been really tough. We have had some extraordinary results against the other two teams that are, at the moment, leading the table. We are not top so that means that we have missed certain points somewhere else and that's what we have to put the emphasis on now tomorrow. 

on how he’s feeling going into a crucial period of the season:
I’m really excited. We had these discussions when we played Liverpool a few months ago, it's a must-win or a not-lose because you know the title is over. That was two months ago! It's always like that when you look back in October and you feel the necessity to win and be there and it's not going to change from now until the end. Obviously, the end is coming. Nine games is still a lot and I just embrace the moment, go game by game and make sure we are fully prepared for tomorrow to perform well. 

on the narrative around Saliba’s absence  last season affecting the title charge:
So what is the narrative this season? Saliba is fit so what’s going to happen? There has to be a narrative, no? There has to be a narrative when he doesn’t play and a narrative when he does play.

on whether Saliba being fit will mean we win the title:
Let's take that one! Okay, let's move on.

on the importance of keeping players fit:
For sure. Saliba is a massive player for us and you see the impact he has on the team. We need everybody and we need everybody at their best.

on being in contention for both the Champions League and the Premier League:
This is where we want to be and now we want to take this opportunity and make it happen. We work every single day with enthusiasm and passion to make it happen and enjoy the moment as well. I see the team really flowing and they are really excited about playing these games and that's what our drive has to be to the end of the season.

on whether he is enjoying the moment:
I'm pretty excited! I'm full of energy - it's the most beautiful part of the season.

on whether he’s more excited than he was as a player:
It is different. I haven't been in this position when I was a player but I think it's different.

on if we have to win every single game to be in the mix for the title:
I don’t know but it’s going to have to be really close to that, when you see the level and consistency of the other teams and historically what is needed to win in this league, it’s not going to be very far from that.

on finding the right balance for players to have as many minutes as possible:
It’s always that balance and when you play and haven’t played, it’s our obligation and duty to be prepared to play any minute, in any moment. You see a lot of moments; with the example of Reiss [Nelson], when you look at Reiss’ moments for Arsenal, there are moments when he’s played a few minutes and made a huge impact, and it’s one of the best days of his life as an Arsenal player. Nobody remembers if he started or came off the bench, and a lot of examples are like this in both football and the history of the sport when a lot of players make their impact. Sometimes you just need a second to change the history of a football club. You just need 100 minutes to play a football match.

on if that’s easy to explain to the players:
It’s easy to see that it’s a fact and not something I’m inventing.

on how he allows himself to think long-term when there are games every three days:
You have to have a picture of what is coming certainly and manage the load of when we’re going to be able to train, how long we’re going to have to prepare for games. The historic and the congested period of each individual and how we can still perform in the best possible way, with the best relationships, and there’s a lot of factors the team needs to perform to try to make the right decision.

on if we are in phase four of his five-phase plan:
Let me go back to the computer! We’re not far, I think we’re getting close to that. But once you get to certain points, you go back to phase one again and you want to build it and you want to be better and you have to continue to evolve.

on if he can explain each of the phases:
No, no, no! Maybe one day we’ll have a coffee and I’ll tell you how it works.

on if we’re on track overall:
We certainly are because you feel a lot of things around the club and it’s not only the first-team. What the women did at the weekend made us so proud and it’s so important as well because we really are encouraging and embracing them to have the space that they fully deserve and they’re doing incredibly well. It’s the same with the academy and the same with the supporters, with the unity we have as a club of what we want to project from that sense. There are a lot of good things happening, but we want, and we need, to aim for much more than that.

on Jurrien Timber’s recovery:
He’s doing very well, he’s back training. He’s not far off, but the thing is that last step, he hasn’t played any minutes so does he need a game with the under-21s, does he need two games? We are going to have to see, especially because he’s training with us and we need to see how long that will take him. That last part is tricky and sometimes takes a while. Hopefully, as soon as possible.

on his chances for playing for the first-team this season:
I think he has a good chance. I don’t know the percentage, but I think he has a good chance and he’s going to push it as far as he possibly can.

on if too many changes could disrupt the team were we to rotate:
That’s a good question. We are always wondering about that and it’s just changing certain personnel in certain moments and those relationships [between the players]. How long they have played together, how much time they have spent together, that can affect it as well – that’s related to what they do in training every single day. We’ll look at all these things and will try to find the right team to win.

on if he prefers one or two changes, or more:
We have done it [before]. Historically we have done both; at times they have worked and other times not as well. Is that in relation to that change or would it have been the same? It’s very difficult to predict.

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