Press conference

Every word from Mikel's pre-West Ham presser

With Sunday's game against West Ham United edging ever closer, Mikel Arteta held his pre-match press conference at London Colney to chat about the upcoming clash at the London Stadium.

The boss gave an injury update on William Saliba, spoke of his admiration for former boss David Moyes, and chatted about all aspects of how the run-in could look over the coming weeks, as well as much more.

Here is everything he had to say to the gathered journalists:

on our team news:
William [Saliba] is still not available. He’s progressing well and we are hopeful we’ll have him available in the next few weeks, but we’ll have to see. Eddie is back and is fully fit now.

on if Nketiah is available for selection:

on if Saliba has been back on the grass yet:
He’s not far from starting to do that. Obviously we need to be cautious because of the injury, but he’s evolving well.

on if he was pleased at how upset the players were to concede late at Liverpool:
You should be. When you concede in the last few minutes, you have to be upset. We wanted to win the game but as well, we have to be realistic. We have to accept that we had an exceptional period in the first half where we should have killed the game, but the reality is in the second half we had some really tough moments where we had to dig in. We could have conceded a few goals as well - that was the game.

on if he told the team they need to prevent the way they felt after the game from happening again:
We tried to prevent that in many moments against them. We actually did it because they’re going to have periods of dominance and periods where they get you into that chaotic game they’re exceptional at. We didn’t manage to get out of that game well enough and that’s why we suffered.

on the impact of luck in the title race:
You need luck in the right moments. Why that luck comes is really important, how you think about it and what’s going to happen. It’s another part of this sport; sometimes it’s about inches and those inches need to go your way. 

on if we can reap the benefits from concentrating solely on the Premier League:
We want our players to be as fit as possible and available. We’ve had some issues, especially in the last few months with some important players. We just want to have everybody fit and available to help the team.

on Opta’s percentage calculator showing Manchester City are more likely to become champions:
Well if you asked them at the start of the season, it would have been like that for sure, so nothing has changed.

on if he envisioned fighting for the title at the start of the season:
Yes. You go day by day. There is so much that happens every single day, every month at a football club. You cannot really look [further ahead]. The aim when I took the job was to bring the club back to where it belongs, fighting for and being around every single trophy that is possible [to win] at the highest level. That’s what we are trying to do.

on if he is ahead of schedule:
We are happy with where we are. Now we have to finish the job and demand an extra bit from everybody.

on why Gabriel Martinell has been so important for us this season:
He’s playing more games, that’s for sure. He’s got another year of experience, he’s got a huge understanding now with his teammates. The way he approaches every single session, the way he approaches his training, his life - he just has to be the best. When that happens, and you have the consistency that he has in how he deals with every situation in every day, only good outcomes are going to be in front of him. I’m not surprised about that, and he has still a lot of things to improve on.
on the game he’s expecting against West Ham:
[It will be a] very difficult game. We know, we’ve been there a few times and we always find really tricky and difficult games. I know David really well and how he’s going to prepare for the game as well, and we are ready. It’s going to be a fight; it’s going to be another big derby for us and we’re going to be at our best to win it.
on the respect he has for David Moyes:
More than respect, I think it’s admiration. I loved playing under him, I would go through a brick wall for him when he was my manager, as everybody would in that squad. [He’s] a really good coach, exceptional at managing the group and dealing with individuals, and he’s a very special person, very trustworthy, and a man who honours his word. He always did it and he’s someone I learnt a lot from.
on if there’s anything in particular he learnt from Moyes:
Yes, some things in me that I didn’t know, and he asked me to play in positions that I’ve never played in my life. The way he challenged me, but at the same time the way he gave me support, love and care – it was the right balance and it’s what I needed, and he got the best out of me. So, he was really, really helpful.
on Aaron Ramsdale’s form this season:
You need individuals to perform at the highest level and certainly, you need your keeper to be impressive in certain moments. You see every team who has won titles, their goalkeeper is just a key contributor to that, and Aaron has been really, really good this season.
on if he or the squad will watch the Manchester City game:
We will watch it, just like other Premier League games.
on if there were any lessons he learnt in the final two months of the season while winning the title at Rangers 20 years ago:
It was the same as when I was at other clubs and we were fighting for trophies - just stick to what you do every single day, be at the best that you can be every single day and never give up because there’s always another opportunity and another moment, and especially in football you have to be ready when that opportunity comes in.

on what taking things game by game means:
Talking about it, being demanding to each other and creating an environment where nothing is more important than what is actually going to happen today. When that happens, everyone understands that you are present in the moment, and that is all you can control.

on goal difference potentially being a factor in the title race:
We think about every possibility. Obviously, we want to win matches first and earn the right to win them, and then we want to score as many goals as possible, but we have to be open to everything and any possibility.

on if he would go all-out attack at 2-0 ahead to boost the goal difference:
Every game is a different story.

on the 3-3 draw against West Ham in 2021 “giving him nightmares”:
There were certain lessons that we had to learn from that game, especially the way we started the game but also what we did afterwards [coming back from 3-0 down]. For the supporters viewing, it was probably a great game to watch but [West Ham] have that capacity to take the game into certain areas where it becomes a bit like that, and obviously we want a different game.

on what has changed since then:
Consistency - in every ball that we play, and the approach that we have in every home or away game that we play. That’s why we are where we are because we have been consistent and performing at the highest level for many months right now, and that’s something that before we didn’t do.

on Martin Odegaard’s performance that day helping to persuade he was a future captain:
That was obviously a game that took his status to a different level, because the game that he played, especially in the context of it, was in that period, and it gave him a huge boost of confidence as well for him to understand how good he is and how he could contribute to the team.

on how Oleksandr Zinchenko has been in training after the Liverpool game:
He’s been very good, no problem.

on whether he has been seeking Arsene Wenger’s counsel about how to win the league:
No, the boys who have won [the Premier League] have brought something different to the team. They have experienced those moments and they know with the context and the opposition that we’re playing against that you need to seek excellence. You have to be perfect in everything you do to really earn the chance to be there, and the other thing is to win it. Now we are there, we have to win it so we have to be exceptional in everything we do.

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