Ahead of our FA Cup fourth-round tie against Manchester City on Friday, Mikel Arteta held his pre-match press conference and tackled questions from the gathered journalists.
He spoke about numerous topics, including the recent arrivals of Leandro Trossard and Jakub Kiwior, the form of Eddie Nketiah and his thoughts on his friend and former boss Pep Guardiola.
Here is everything he had to say:
on how strong a team he is looking to field:
There’s no more news on the team, especially no more injuries. Obviously, we have the two more recruits we made in this window. It’s a big match, and a big test for us against in my opinion the best football team in the world. I’m looking forward to it because it will tell us a lot about where we are.
on how quickly Leandro Trossard made an impact in the Man Utd game:
That’s what I like. I see a player that is willing to make things happen and is especially composed in the final third and is something we needed to add to the team. Straight away he had a beautiful impact on the team to help us to win.
on whether Jakub Kiwior’s versatility means we don’t need any more signings this window:
He gives us more cover. We’ve been with three central defenders for the first part of the season which is very short, and we’ve been lucky with injuries. We needed to recruit in that position and we’ve done it - Jakub plays different roles and is a versatile player, and he’s going to strengthen the team. If anything else is available that can make us better, we’ll look at it.
on if his relationship with Pep Guardiola has changed now they’re vying for the title:
I always hoped that [a title challenge] was going to be the case one day, and it’s happening this season but that’s not going to change any friendship or the moments that we have, how important he is in my life or how important he is in my profession. We are both willing to win and defend our clubs in the best possible way, and that has always been the case since day one.
on if Martin Odegaard has been giving any advice on how to handle Erling Haaland:
No, I think they are two players in top form at the moment. I think [City] have, and we have as well, a lot of players that are in a great place and are very important in their squads.
on if Eddie Nketiah can maintain his current form:
That’s the challenge we all have, not only Eddie, to be not at that level but at a better level every single day. Eddie has been very consistent and I think he has surprised a few people with how he responded to the huge challenge and demands he had after Gabriel [Jesus] got injured. We are positive he can get much better, evolve and still continue to develop.
on if there has been too much attention to his touchline passion:
I don’t know. I focus on things I can do better. For sure, there are things I can do better and let the referees take the game and be in charge of that. I need to look at myself in the mirror sometimes and try to find the right balance. I love the game, I am very passionate about it and I love to win more than anything else and that’s the way I live the match. But again, if there is something you can do better, you can at least try that.
on whether there will be a psychological advantage for the winner going into the rest of the season:
I think there are going to be two very very different games, and to put similarities into them is very unreal. Maybe because of the players on the pitch, but as well the context is extremely different. Let’s see - obviously it is important to win and play well. That gives you more momentum, more confidence and prepares you better for the next match, and that’s our focus to do that on Friday.
on what’s been done to develop a winning mentality:
I think the key word would be belief - not only our belief but the staff believe, the players believe and the atmosphere that we have created with our people in the stadium. You could sense that even when we were 1-0 down [against Man Utd] that we could still go on and win it. We manage the emotion in the game in a much better way than we used to. We are playing better than before and we are earning the right to win the games, and then football, as we all know, is very unpredictable.
on whether the club is more united now than at any other time since he’s been here:
I wouldn’t like to compare how it was in the past but I would say I am extremely proud and privileged to be in this moment at the football club. I think we are all feeling the energy and empowerment between everybody that is contributing to getting the club where it belongs.
on Oleksandr Zinchenko’s impact:
He’s a player that gives us everything we want in that position, and gives us versatility. He gets a lot of attention as well and fills a lot of spaces, and that for us is really important. I would especially highlight his mentality; what he has brought is a real desire to win and make something special with this team, and the experiences that he’s had in the past are very helpful for us to do that.
on if the three games against City will define our season:
It would because on Friday if we’re able to win we’ll go through to the next round and they won’t, and if they beat us that will be the opposite. Obviously, it is a competition that is really important for us and is attached to our club and our history, and I would define that as a moment for sure.
on if he is competing with City earlier than he planned to:
I don’t know but this league brings you incredible challenges. You have the best coaches in the world, and the best coach in the world, and to be at that level you have to find other things to try and compete with them and that’s where opportunities come as well. We are on that pathway but understand that we haven’t done anything yet and there are still a lot of things to improve.
on if Mohamed Elneny will be fit:
I don’t think he will be. He had some issues with his knee that we are assessing at the moment and I’ll have to see how he evolves in the next couple of days.
on whether it could be a long-term injury:
There are some concerns, especially as Mo never complains about anything but let’s see.
on whether we have enough in midfield after Kiwior’s arrival:
We need some more cover in midfield ideally if we can, but in this market it is pretty complicated to do that. As I always say, the most important thing is that we get the performances and the time on the pitch that we need with the players that we have available today that are already really good.
on if it feels more special pitting his wits against a close friend:
I would prefer to do it against someone else to be fair, because I want the best for him. When you are challenging with someone like this, something comes in between so it’s s a strange feeling. It’s what it is, and that’s our challenge.
on how Guardiola reacted to us signing Jesus and Zinchenko:
That was done in a really nice way between the clubs, and especially between us [him and Guardiola] because you have to do that respectfully. It was all agreed by everybody, as you have read and heard many times, so it was a decision between three parties, otherwise they would not be here.
on if the situation at his former club Everton makes him sad:
It does because it is a club that I love so much that I am very grateful and attached to. I just hope that they can get where they deserve to be, and can get things moving fast and get everybody on board again and get out of this situation.
on Gabriel Jesus suggesting he could be back in four or five weeks:
With him I don’t know, he wants to be in next week! That’s obviously totally unrealistic but he’s pushing and driving everybody [in the medical team] to the limit. I cannot give you an answer; hopefully it’ll be weeks and not months but it was a serious injury and we need to respect that process as well.
on Jesus’ impact behind the scenes:
He’s been incredible with the boys, the staff and everybody around the club. His energy and how positive he is to the boys - he’s always giving them advice and is always next to them. He’s been terrific.
on having 50 points from 19 games:
What we are doing gives us enthusiasm and hope to dream, but we know the reality is there is half of the season to play for, and in the Premier League it is a hell of a story and there are a lot of chapters still to be written. We need to keep looking day by day at what we’re doing.
on being the favourite to win the title:
We cannot control that, but what I would say is that when you look at what happened over the last few seasons, that wouldn’t make a lot of sense, but OK, we accept that.
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