Press conference

Every word from Mikel's pre-Sheffield Utd presser

Next Monday we're back in league action when we head to Bramall Lane to face Sheffield United, and as usual Mikel Arteta held a press conference at the Sobha Realty Training Centre to discuss the encounter with the Blades.

He provided the journalists in attendance with plenty of quotes, including an injury update, his views on our opponents and avoiding complacency, and the fixture congestion that has occurred following the postponement of our Chelsea fixture.

Here is everything he had to say:

on Thomas Partey's fitness:
Thomas had a session before the last game and now he’s done two consecutive sessions so he should be part of the squad on Monday.

on an update on Zinchenko and Tomiyasu:
Those ones are possible but we have to wait and see, especially with the last two sessions that we have on Saturday and Sunday. If that’s the case, they might be available on Monday.

on if Gabriel Jesus is ready to start:
Well he’s fit enough, but knowing how long he will last is something different probably, but we didn’t want to take any risks after the result that we had against Newcastle. Obviously we need him fit. He’s a massive player for us and we want to make sure that now we load the players in the right way.

on the challenges Sheffield United will pose:
They're a really difficult team to beat. I’ve watched four or five games now with the City game, the way they started against Villa, and then obviously the game took a different route, but as you mentioned they are extremely well coached. I know Chris really well and I admire his teams, a lot of things that he does with them. It will be Monday night football and it’s going to be a tough night.

on the difficulty of playing a team fighting relegation:
I imagine that it’s really tough for them and their ambitions are different but it’s really important. I imagine when you are there, you want to get out of there as quickly as possible. We have a lot to play for as well and it’s a big game for us.

on the importance of increasing our goal difference:
Yes for sure it’s an important element there. First of all, you have to earn the right to win the games. We want to be ruthless and efficient in front of goal and I think lately we’ve been really good.

on saving energy after scoring three or four goals:
Yes you can do that, but it’s not been the case recently. Against Newcastle the last 15 or 20 minutes maybe we could’ve done a bit more and we have to continue to do that, especially when you bring the subs in because they can re-energise the team and maintain a really high level. It’s something that we want to continue to do.

on playing on Monday night:
We’ve done two or three different scenarios. It’s what we have right now, we’ll know all the results but it’s irrelevant. What we want to do is go to Sheffield, perform the way we are performing and win the match. The rest we cannot control.

on targeting Sheffield United conceding a lot of goals:
With every team, we look at the weaknesses and the strengths and try to take the game to the opponent but I’m saying this because I know that team really well. I analysed it many years ago as well, the things that Chris did, and I learned from his teams. I’m telling you, it’s going to be a really tough match.

on how big of a month March is for us:
First of all, depending on what happens for us on Monday and the rest of the results. That would have an impact, so the only thing you can do is the next game and focus on that, and the rest will come.

on if Timber will be in the squad on Monday:
Sorry, it wasn’t about Jurrien, it was about the other two. Jurrien is not close enough to be part of the squad on Monday.

on the speed of Timber’s recovery:
It’s been a joy and all the physios and the medical staff are really happy with his attitude, and his commitment, especially with the way things have gone. It’s not a coincidence the way he applies [himself], how determined he is, his willingness to put every effort in everything that he’s demanded to do and he’s in a really good place. Now we have to manage [him] because it’s the last stage of that difficult injury that is complicated, but I think he’s on the right way.

on what we’ve missed without him:
First of all, his leadership, his versatility, the quality that he has to play in different positions, especially in an attacking phase, the spaces that he can occupy and certain qualities that nobody else in the squad has to do that. As you could tell he was fitting in; he’s really liked around the boys, and he’s been a big miss.

on if there is potential for overconfidence after our recent wins:
I hope not and we were very clear straight after Newcastle about the difficulty that we will have on Monday to beat Sheffield [United]. So hopefully they are very, very aware from three days ago, and we have prepared all week, and we’re continuing to prepare understanding that it’s going to be the case.

on having a gap in March with the Chelsea game postponed:
It is what it is. We knew that; it was an option and now we’ll plan to use that time in the best possible way because that would mean that we’d then have a more congested period in April.

on if we would organise a friendly in that time:
Players would have different demands, the majority of them would have international matches as well, and international training sessions. So, I don’t think it’s going to be a case of needing more minutes, I believe there are three or four particular cases and I’m sure we can address that.

on not having a game for three weeks ahead of Man City:
The difference is three or four more days. We’re going to have two-and-a-half or three weeks [without a game] and I don’t think that that is going to change the world.

on whether Gabriel Jesus’ operation didn’t go to plan:
No that didn’t happen - it was the result of what happened when he got a knock in another area and that caused a different kind of injury. It wasn’t related to the first one and then he had a little niggle, it was a muscle issue and I kept him out for 10 days.

on whether he’ll have to go under the knife again:
No I think that [issue] is resolved, as much as I know. It is probably a question more specifically for the doctors, but as far as I’m concerned that has been resolved.

on Jakub Kiwior stepping up:
We made a decision to bring him in earlier because we believed we were assigned to have the role that he had, but he was going to need time and that was the case. We have made it difficult for him for two reasons: one because he hasn’t played that many minutes, and secondly because we’ve asked him to play in a position that he’s never played in before. 

It is like pulling William Saliba into full-back and saying: “tomorrow, perform and do what we have to do.” I think he has adapted really well and he is playing better and better, you can tell that he is earning confidence and physically he is better. He understands the role much better and he has been really good.

on whether Mikel has had to adapt the left-back role to accommodate Jakub:
It’s all about that. At the end of the day, you can ask players to do things that they don’t feel capable of, especially doing it in an unnatural way, so we have to tweak a few things to make sure that players play to their strengths.

on if Takehiro Tomiyasu has had an injury setback:
He had an injury; in the last game that he played with Japan he felt something and he was out. We expect him to recover a little bit shorter but he was struggling at the beginning of the recovery and we decided to extend that period to be more certain because he is a player we really need. We are short and we cannot risk him being out for months.

on if it was a recurrence of the injury he suffered in December:
I think it was something slightly different to that.

on the depth of the squad going forward:
That’s one thing because we don't know what’s going to happen and we’re going to have a lot of games. Freshness, more competition within the squad and the capacity to change games when the scenario is on our side or we are chasing games are something in this period that are going to be critical. 

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