Press conference

Every word of Mikel Arteta's pre-Porto presser

The team touched down in Portugal on Tuesday evening ahead of our Champions League Round of 16 first leg tie against FC Porto, and Mikel Arteta was whisked straight to the pre-match press conference at the Estadio do Dragao. 

He was asked about the match, our chances in the competition, Porto's strengths, Fabio Vieira and more...

Here's a full transcript:

on the strengths of the Porto team:
I’m really impressed with Porto, I know the manager really well and the history that they have. They have a lot of experience in the competition, they have many qualities in many phases of play, that’s why they are always competitive in the European competitions. It’s a really tough opponent that we are going to face tomorrow, but at the same time we are very excited. It’s been seven years that we haven’t been here and we are all full of energy and excitement to play the game we want to tomorrow. 

on Fabio Vieira’s development:
I’m really happy with him but sad at the same time because it’s been a tough period for him, especially with the last injury, because he had some momentum and had put some performances together before he got injured. That broke up his rhythm again like last season, but he is an enormous talent and we’re going to get the best out of him.

on the form of Diogo Costa:
I’m not here to rate their players, but he’s very good for sure. He’s consistently been at that level for a few years.  

on his thoughts of Portuguese football:
They are first of all very passionate, which is the first thing ingredient you have to know. Great coaches and great academies, among the best in Europe for sure, and it’s not a coincidence how many talents they develop and how successful they are in many leagues. It tells you the story about their culture and how they are raised. I’m a big fan of it. 

on how much belief he has that the team can go deep into the competition:
It’s great we have earned the right to be here. It’s been seven years since we’ve been at this table for this kind of match and 14 years since we’ve been able to go to the next stage. That’s the challenge, that’s what is ahead of us and we are really excited to face it, and to go for it with full belief, that’s for sure. 

on whether it’s important not to under-estimate the first leg of the round of 16:
We know how tricky it is. We’ve been two or three months out of the competition and now we are going to face a really different stage of it. All the teams are very, very tough, we have little time to prepare the games, and the ball is rolling. You have to be very ready because the teams are very prepared and very dangerous. 

on Kai Havertz’s history in this stadium:
That’s a conversation that’s been going on for a few days. It’s probably the biggest highlight of his career, an incredible moment for him, and Jorgi as well. Regarding his performances, it’s as he’s been for the past three months, he scored a fantastic goal on top of that, so probably bigger than what he’s done in past. But we’re really happy with him.  

on whether he asks for help from Fabio Vieira:
He was really pushing because he wanted to be here, that’s for sure. Having an insider, someone who has experience, and has lived the culture and the club gives you a lot of information. It’s very important in Europe to understand the context of the game, what type of opponent they are, what type of atmosphere you’re going to be facing and he can give us some really important information. 

on whether there was a mental block to go through in the past:
Yeah, and someone called Messi as well was another obstacle that we faced and Bayern Munich as well – this competition is where it is, individual quality. It’s extremely important because sometimes it comes down to details, you are through or you are out, and you have to be really prepared and you need your players at their best when the occasion arises, and tomorrow, for sure, we’re going to need that.

on whether he has spoken to the players about our record in the competition:
No, I haven’t had any conversations related to that. They know that we haven’t been in the competition for seven years, obviously, because some of them were here and they know the story, and they know that what happened in the past is irrelevant, and the challenge and ambition that we have now to go through and deserve to be through.

on what he’s learnt from being in the Champions League so far:
Learning, like every day in the job when you don’t have the experience. Try to use all the people’s experiences, make sure you feel your gut as well because that’s really important, make sure you prepare well and work hard, and make sure that you’ve done all the bits that you need to do to make the right calls and the right decisions, and then have a feeling how the team is feeling and what the team believes that is needed to be in the best place to win a match, nothing different to any other big match that we’ve played in our domestic competitions.

on whether winning the Champions League is the best thing you can win:
Well, it is certainly one of them, I don’t know if it’s the best, but it would be incredible to have that feeling to lift that cup in London on June 1. It’s there, it’s in our minds, and it’s a dream but it’s a lot of things that you have to earn the right before that, and tomorrow we’re going to have a big obstacle ahead of us. We are really looking forward to it.

on whether this is a chance for the team to prove how good they are:
Yeah, it’s true because we don’t have the experience, that’s the reality – 95 per cent of the players have not played in this competition. They have never played in the last 16 and I haven’t, but we have so much enthusiasm and energy as well, and willingness with a point to prove that we are good enough and want to be there. That’s our desire and the passion with which we’re going to play the game tomorrow. 

on whether he will warn the players about not taking things for granted:
For sure, there is not a player there that hasn’t experienced anything like it, and we know the opponent that we are facing, the history of this football club in relation to this competition, and that’s not the case at all.

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