Press conference

Every word from Mikel's pre-Sporting CP presser

Minutes after touching down in Portugal, Mikel Arteta was whisked away to his pre-match press conference ahead of Thursday evening's game against Sporting CP.

Inside the Estadio Jose Alvalade, the boss tackled questions from the media, including about his selection options, Gabriel Jesus' return to training, and what we might expect from our opponents.

Here is everything he had to say:

on team news:

News on the squad will be tomorrow. We have brought a few players and you will see tomorrow who is available.

on whether Nketiah and Trossard could be fit for the weekend:

Let’s see how they evolve, obviously we have had a few issues in the last few days. We’re trying to accommodate everybody and get everybody in the best possible condition for tomorrow.

on not having a separate league team and a cup team:

Because we have one team, and we have to play all the games with the best possible players to win it. At this moment we have made eight changes [in the competition] so we try to accommodate. As well, players have moments in the season where they are available or not available, and tomorrow it will be the same case, but for sure, we will try to put the most competitive team together to win the game.

on having players frustrated at not getting minutes:

Everybody wants to play, it’s true that we have wanted to rotate certain players but they have been injured and unavailable, and that may be the case again tomorrow. Sometimes it’s difficult, but players have to deserve to play the minutes and being fair in football is very difficult. You have to be really good at communicating your decisions and trying to get players to understand what they do, but at the end of the day, you have to look after what’s best for the team. We want everyone to feel important and we’re going to try to make them feel like that.

on players struggling with illness:

These things happen throughout the season - sometimes they happen four days before a match, sometimes it is one day before. We’ll deal with that today and tomorrow and everybody will be in the best possible condition to compete.

on approaching this game differently now we’re in a title race:

Our priority is the two competitions. Obviously we have to earn the right to continue in this competition to get as far as we want, and tomorrow we're going to face a really difficult opponent. The best way to prepare for any competition is to win the previous match and having the confidence and the proper emotion to approach the next game. Tomorrow if we play well and we are able to win the game, that will better prepare us for the next game.

on rumours of Real Madrid having an interest in him:

Managers or players cannot control what is written, but what I can tell you is that I’m fully focused on what I am doing here. I am extremely happy, proud and grateful to be at this football club.

on his confidence in Gabriel Martinelli stepping up to be our main striker:

We have different options with different qualities and different profiles to play in that position, obviously with the absence of Eddie especially and Leo. We’ll have to see and adapt in relation to what our opponent will do and with the relationships we have on the pitch, what is the best thing to do.

on reuniting with Hector Bellerin:

I absolutely love the person and the player. He was a really important player for our club, one who left something beyond just his career but as a person at our football club. It will be great to see him tomorrow, and I’m sure the boys and the staff will be really happy to see him again.

on resisting the temptation to rush Gabriel Jesus back:

We will try not to rush him back, we will try to make a fair assessment between what he needs and when he’s comfortable, as well as give the team a boost that they will need in the next few weeks. Everything is going well, he needs time to get himself that confident and physical state to compete with a free mind, and when he is free to do that we will throw him in.

on how Kieran Tierney has dealt with not playing:

Very good because we discussed the situation and we had a very similar position. He knows his role - under me he has played a lot, probably more than any other player including the previous players that were at the club during the past three years. He understands the situation and he needs to challenge the situation.

on players’ versatility helping them gain selection when rotating:

We have to because we have certain players where we don’t know if they will last 60, 70 or 90 minutes. We have to be really good at maintaining the quality and the balance in the team, as well as the threat to be as competitive as we can for the 95 or 96 minutes the game is going to last.

on Emile Smith Rowe:

He is fine, he trained really well and was extremely happy the team won [last weekend] and onto the next one.

on if Fabio Vieira is OK for tomorrow:

Fabio is Ok, yes.

on if he tapped into Fabio’s knowledge of Sporting:

For sure, that was the first thing that we did because it’s great to have the knowledge and the understanding of someone from the country, who knows the manager and has [international] teammates. It’s always very useful and he talked really highly.

on Sporting’s tactical flexibility:

The variety, options and the change in formations that they can do, and within that shape as well, the profile of players especially the wing-backs change their behaviours. We know that, and until we have the line-ups, we will have a few question marks as we try to understand what they will do.

on the togetherness of the squad:

Togetherness always helps but to win tomorrow we will have to be at our best and play really well, compete really well, understand the game and manage the game really well. Here it is easy, but we have to do it on that pitch tomorrow night.

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