Press conference

Every word from Mikel's pre-Zurich presser

Thursday night sees us take on FC Zurich at Emirates Stadium with a spot in the last-16 of the competition up for grabs, and ahead of the game Mikel Arteta held his usual pre-match press conference at London Colney.

He discussed a number of topics, including players returning to fitness, remaining patient for opportunities and the World Cup break.

Here is everything he had to say:

on the fitness of Saka, Elneny and Zinchenko:

They are at different stages obviously. Mo had a long-term injury but he has recovered now in a really good way and has been training with the team for a week or two now. Alex is just very recent and he’s had two training sessions. Bukayo just missed one or two sessions and was fine today.
on whether Saka could be available tomorrow:

on whether Saka is getting enough protection from referees:

I’m sure that the referees have looked at all the incidents and the amount of fouls that our front players are getting and it’s their job to manage that situation in the best possible way.
on whether he will raise it with the Premier League:

Not here though. Whatever I do I have to do it with them.
On Reiss Nelson and Kieran Tierney’s patience:

I think it says a lot about them, about their understanding of each one’s role in the team. That changes every single week. You are talking about two players, in the past they played matches and somebody was on the bench. It doesn’t mean they don’t push, absolutely the contrary, they were really pushing and doing their best to play. But in the end we have to make decisions and they have been really respectful, as we expect all the players to be respectful when they are on the pitch as well.
on Gabriel Jesus needing to make any adjustments:

If he makes three assists in a game I don’t think he has to make any adjustments! I would be really happy if he were to do that every game.

on being linked to the Barcelona job:

What I can say is that I’m extremely happy and proud to be where I am. Barcelona now are on a really good path. I think they have a phenomenal coach who is an absolute legend at the club and has lived the whole place. You have to be very respectful of that. 

on Pablo Mari:

Well, first of all he’s in a really good place and we know how Pablo reacts to things. He’s been really positive about everything that happened, but there are concerns obviously when you talk about some issues that have happened in the last few months with footballers, with their wives, with their families, not only in the UK, but all across Europe. I think we need to raise our voices and we need to do something about it because it’s not what we want. We need to feel safe and everyone deserves to feel safe and we need to do something about that. 

on whether he feels a responsibility to protect his players ahead of the World Cup:

Every day I feel the responsibility to protect them, to guide them and to get the best out of them, but they are playing for Arsenal at the moment and that’s what they have to focus on. Then when they’re playing for England or their national teams, they need to focus on their national team. This is what we have to do.

on whether any of his players are starting to focus more on the World Cup:

No, and I don’t want to notice any of that. 

on whether he will field a strong team on Thursday night:

I don’t approach games thinking that after half an hour or 45 minutes we will get the result that we want, but certainly I will have a really competitive team out there. We missed the chance in Holland last week and Thursday is the last opportunity to achieve our goal. 

on whether we would be supportive of playing some friendlies during the World Cup:

Yes, we will have friendly matches for sure. We are arranging them. We need to because we’re going to have 10, 11, 12 players here and we need to have that competition.

on whether preparations during the World Cup could be crucial:

Yeah they can, but it is an element that we’re not going to be able to control what is going to happen at the World Cup with your own players, but certainly, with the players that we have here and what we do, it’ll be like another pre-season before we get into a new season.

on the decision to take Saka off against Forest when he did:

The conversation was about whether he was in or if he was out, but in between, we cannot have him playing five, six or seven minutes. If you are on the pitch, go sit on the floor and get off.

on whether Bukayo was trying to push through:

For sure, but we had to make a decision and we couldn’t delay a situation like that because every minute that a player is not 100 per cent to play, it’s costing the team and we have to make those decisions quickly.

on Bukayo wanting to play on, even with a World Cup on the horizon:

We’re using our brains and our common sense, but obviously he had a kick and wasn't comfortable. We made a decision to get him off, and now he’s feeling fine. We’ll assess each individual as it comes.

on balancing his team selection with Chelsea on Sunday:

It is a challenge but we have been trying to load the players pretty equally over the last five or six weeks, because we have been playing every three days and we have managed to do that. You have seen that we haven’t repeated too many blocks of four games for certain individuals and we will try to continue to do that to get everyone as fresh as possible and with enough rhythm heading into the game.

on whether we have a disadvantage with a day’s less preparation than Chelsea:

We know that, and playing in the Europa League we know that this can be an issue, and that’s it. It is a very early kick-off which is a little bit unusual when you play on Thursday nights, but it is what we have.

on how he’ll watch the World Cup:

We’ll be together having another pre-season and for a long period we will be away from London, so we will be together supporting our players.

On how Elneny’s return will allow Sambi Lokonga to play further up the field:

That situation arose because we had Thomas [Partey] out and then we had Mo out, and we had to adapt the position of Sambi because he was our most natural player to do so. Now with Mo coming back, we have another position open.

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