Press conference

Every word from Mikel's pre-Southampton presser

Sunday afternoon sees us attempt to extend our nine-match winning run, as well as our best-ever start to a top-flight campaign at Southampton, and before the game Mikel Arteta sat down with the media to preview the clash.

As well as discussing our opponents, he tackled questions on squad rotation, World Cup plans and injury updates on a trio of players.

Here is everything he had to say:

on if it’s a good time to play Southampton:

I don’t have an idea. I don’t know, I’m not in the dressing room or in their thoughts, we have experienced some really tough matches against them and I expect a difficult game again.

on the atmosphere at Emirates Stadium this season:

I think that brings joy and more willingness to continue our journey together and get better. I think when you see people happy, people attached to what we are doing and a club that is connected from top to bottom, it is exactly what we want. Now we need to give them the right reasons to continue to be supportive and as excited as they are right now.

on managing the load for our players this season:

It will depend on a lot of factors: how the players are performing, the injuries that we have, what happens in the World Cup; there are a lot of question marks that we don’t have the answers to. We are planning to have the right resources to continue the way that we are right now, but again, as you said, a World Cup like this has never happened. We have to all experience it and try our best to get the right outcome.

on our depth at left-back:

What we want is to keep them all competitive. To keep them all happy I think is impossible, because when one plays, the other one is not as happy as the one that is playing. I think the three of them [Zinchenko, Tierney and Tomiyasu] when they’ve been playing have been really good and this is what we need. In different games, we need different things from that position and we adapt each game.

on Cristiano Ronaldo’s behaviour as a substitute:

I think that depends on the club. I don’t know, I just look after my club where I have a lot to worry about!

on Bukayo Saka’s fitness:

I think he’s fine. I think he was struggling a bit at the end [against PSV], but hopefully he will be fine for Sunday.

on Gabriel Martinelli’s fitness:

Yeah, he came on yesterday. He had a tough week, he wasn’t feeling great during the week, but towards the day before the game, he was already feeling better and that’s why we decided to play him a little bit.

on Oleksandr Zinchenko’s fitness:

I think he’s close [to returning]. He’s getting better and better and he’s progressing really well. He had a setback on the injury that he had at the start of the season, which is a shame, but knowing Alex, he will be back very soon.

on if Zinchenko will play this weekend:

I can’t tell you. He’s always in contention.

on the role he’s played in Granit Xhaka’s turnaround:

I think everybody at the club has been trying to give him support, trying to help him, trying to guide him, trying to encourage him, and sometimes calm him down. He’s a player with a big character that is very passionate about everything that he does. At the same time, he’s a really honest and humble guy and I think he deserves what he’s getting.

on if Xhaka was close to leaving when Arteta joined:

I think he was, at least he had some thoughts about that possibility in his head. We just tried to convince him to give himself and the club another opportunity.

on what he said to Xhaka to convince him to stay:

I think he talked about it. I don’t like to talk about a private conversation. I think he’s made it clear in the press what happened and I'll leave it there.

on squad rotation:

We are going to rotate the squad, but I cannot change 11 players in the lineup every three days, it’s crazy and we don’t have enough numbers to change 11 players in every game. We were with 15 or 16 outfield players in the last four or five weeks, so players are going to have to play. If we want robust players, they are going to have to start doing that early in their careers.

on Steven Gerrard being sacked at Aston Villa:

I’m very sad for him. He’s a player that I admired a lot, a player and a person that I really respect and a manager that did extremely well at Rangers. He started really well at Villa, but this job is like this, unfortunately. So, from my side he has all the support because I’m sure he’s having a difficult time.

on if he thinks Gerrard will manage in the Premier League again:

I’m sure he will, yes.

on if there’s a score to settle against Southampton after last season:

Well, obviously there was an experience that was painful with the way the game turned out and the consequences of it. We know where the danger is with their team.

on our plans during the World Cup:

We are planning, we have a few options that we are trying to close down. It will depend on how many players are selected, but yeah, we have a few plans.

on if we will base ourselves close to Qatar during the tournament:

It’s a possibility.

on why we have struggled against Southampton:

Well, it’s difficult as we have a day to prepare for the game. We have watched certain games, but we haven’t finalised all of the preparation because we have a training session tomorrow and they can play in various ways. We know what we can expect from them, but we don’t have certainty over how they will start the game.

on our season so far:

Well, it’s been very positive. The winning percentage is extremely high, the way we are performing is really good and we are in the position that we want to be in.

on if being top of the table means we’re the best team in the country right now:

It means that now we are there, but it’s a long, long season and we have to deserve to be there when it comes to May.

on Martin Odegaard being recognised with a Norwegian award:

Yeah, I’m very happy. He got that award when we were in Norway to play Bodo and he was very surprised with it. He should take it as a big compliment, it’s a big award, I think he was really happy with it, so we’re all proud of him.

on if it means he’s better than Erling Haaland:

I’m really happy to have Martin!

on Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ loan with Southampton:

Obviously, he won’t be able to play against us and as you said, he hasn’t played that much, but hopefully, he can get the minutes and can pick up some momentum as well, because we need him to play the games.

on if Ainsley has a future with us:

Well, the future that he has right now is the present. The most important thing is for him to get in there, get his place and start to perform at the level that he can.

on what Ainsley needs to work on to get back to his best:

It’s something for his manager now to provide the answer because he’s not with us. He needs to focus on the present which is the most important thing for his future.

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