Arsenal v Qarabag

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Interview

‘To get the chances I’m getting now is crazy!’

Emile Smith Rowe

Emile Smith Rowe had a big decision to make during the summer.

After starring on our pre-season tour of Singapore there were offers on the table for the teenager to spend the 2018/19 campaign out on loan, but he chose to stay in north London and wait patiently for his chance.
 
That patience has paid off. The 18-year-old made his first-team debut off the bench against Vorskla Poltava and a week after making his full senior bow against Brentford, scored against Qarabag on Thursday night.
 
“I feel delighted,” he said. “Obviously it is something I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid, scoring my first goal for the club. I scored in pre-season but last night it felt so different and I am just so happy.
 
“I am really enjoying it. I was enjoying it before but I am getting chances and I am so grateful that the gaffer has got faith in me. I just want to keep improving and keep getting minutes.

Emile Smith Rowe and Unai Emery

“Unai has been a real big help to me personally because he is always talking to me after training. And as a team, he is always telling us, having a lot of meetings after training and even before matches. I think it’s really good for the team.
 
“[Fighting for a place] was a chance I took and I am happy I have taken it because now he is really happy with me, he helps me a lot and to get the chances I am getting now is crazy. There’s no other place I’d rather be.
 
“When I first started training with them the team, players like Welbeck, Lacazette were so welcoming. Everyone is helping me, everyone is giving me advice and I couldn’t really mention anyone now because everyone has been so welcoming. It is like a big family.
 
“Every player has told me you’ve got so much ability, so much quality just keep focused and keep working hard. To get that off world class players – even Mesut Ozil has told me that before and Aubameyang as well – is just unbelievable.
 
“I haven’t really set any targets,” added Smith Rowe. “For me, it is just training every day, working hard and if I get my chance in the Premier League one day, that would be unbelievable. At the moment, I am just try to make my way with games in the cups. Hopefully one day I can make my Premier League debut.”

Pre-Match Report

Arsenal v Qarabag: The Brief

We could be in for a glimpse of the future on Thursday night.

In our last Europa League fixture in Kiev, 12 out of the 20-man travelling party were academy products, with three making their first-team debuts.

By the sounds of Unai Emery's pre-match comments, it should be more of the same against Qarabag - and you can certainly understand why.

With four games coming up in the space of 10 days, vital fixtures in the Premier League and the small matter of a Carabao Cup quarter-final against Tottenham, this is a clear opportunity to rotate. Having already secured top spot in Group E, it seems like a no-brainer.

With a buoyant academy producing a host of talented youngsters itching for their chance to impress, it is likely they will be granted their wish - and it should be a fascinating night to assess the depth of talent breaking through.

Read on for a comprehensive match preview, Emery's thoughts on the game, the latest team news, stats, and analysis of the opposition.

The Breakdown - Qarabag
Emery quote - Qarabag FK
Team News - Qarabag FK
Dangerman - Qarabag
AN Live - Qarabag FK

Press conference

Ainsley - My experiences of racism in football

In the wake of the situation surrounding Raheem Sterling, Ainsley Maitland-Niles was asked about his own experiences of racism in football.

Our young midfielder revealed that he had been subject to abuse earlier in his career.

This is what he told the media at London Colney on Wednesday:

on his personal experiences of racism are...
Yes, I have [experienced it]. Not at a professional level but growing up in the youth ranks. I think it's disgusting, honestly. I really do credit Raheem for coming out and standing up for himself and other players and speaking about it. But, I just think that if a lot of football clubs and some of the players too can join forces to really put our heads to it and try to kick it out, it would be the best thing possible.

on whether he can say what happened to him at youth level...
It was pretty much similar to what Raheem got to be honest. I literally went out to pick up the ball for a throw-in and there was a bit of racial abuse behind me. What can I do? I just got on with the game, as he did. It hurts. It hurts me to talk about it. It hurts to think about it. But I think that's why it's so important that we need to get rid of it from the game. It's not just footballers who need to be on board with it. It's everyone else: the press, the media and the staff as well.

on whether he reported the incident...
I did, but nothing was done about it. I guess I just had to move on from it and become stronger from that.

on how old he was at the time...
I was about 12 years of age. I was at Arsenal at the time. It was an away trip to a German side, I think.

on how much that has stayed with him or how much it affected him at the time...
At the time, I just spoke to my dad about it and he did sort of give me the heads up and showed me a few things about racism before my time, when I was playing football, just as there still is in the game now. As we've seen, from Raheem Sterling coming out to speak, so like I said before, I think we just really need to put our heads to it and get it cut out as soon as possible.

on how it made him feel and how he was able to respond...
To me, responding to it is scoring a goal to put their team down. I only thought they were doing it because I was having a good game in that game. I guess that's one way of them sort of trying to knock me off my game and make me feel uncomfortable about myself. But to be honest, I just try and play my football and not really say much about anything.

on if he thinks Sterling going public could be a defining moment...
I hope so. I really do hope so. Raheem is a good, brave lad for doing it and I just hope that more people put their ear towards him and have some sympathy for him, because it's not the first time it's happened and we just want it to be the last.

Press conference

Will Koscielny and Ozil face Qarabag?

Having already secured top spot in our Europa League group, the pressure is off for Thursday night’s game against Qarabag.

But will it mean a first appearance in seven months for Laurent Koscielny, and a return to the team after a back injury for Mesut Ozil?

This is what Unai Emery told the media on Wednesday:

on how will approach the game in terms of squad rotation…
Good afternoon. Our first aim in this competition, we have done, which was to be first in the group. But we respect this competition and we respect Qarabag and tomorrow our objective is to win and we are going to give players chances tomorrow to take responsibility, take rhythm and take confidence. Also, because we are going to play a lot of matches, in the next 10 days we play four matches - each of them very important - so in the Europa League our first objective we did it, so tomorrow we are going to use some different players with also players coming from the under-23 team and also it is in our planning to start with Laurent Koscielny.

on Koscielny and whether he could play v Southampton…
We have some players with injuries at centre back and also with these injuries are Mavropanos and Rob Holding and a few out [suspended] with yellow cards. We are going to decide after tomorrow’s match, as its the first match with us that Laurent Koscielny will play. We are going to look also if he can play 90 minutes or less minutes in this game. We can use another player in this position, someone like Nacho Monreal, who is also with us and in his career he played in this position [before]. We are going to decide but the first is to think about the match tomorrow because we need to receive information on how he can feel tomorrow.

on Mesut Ozil…
I don’t know. Tomorrow he is in the group, there are 18 players in the squad for this match and I am going to decide if he plays tomorrow from the beginning or during the match in the 90 minutes.

Press conference

Emery and Ainsley's press conference: transcript

Unai Emery and Ainsley Maitland-Niles answered a wide range of questions on Wednesday as they faced the media ahead of our game against Qarabag.

Some of the topics under discussion were Laurent Koscielny's return, Mesut Ozil, racism in football and more.

Read on for a full transcript:

on how will approach the game in terms of squad rotation…
UE: Good afternoon. Our first aim in this competition, we have done, which was to be first in the group. But we respect this competition and we respect Qarabag and tomorrow our objective is to win and we are going to give players chances tomorrow to take responsibility, take rhythm and take confidence. Also, because we are going to play a lot of matches, in the next 10 days we play four matches - each of them very important - so in the Europa League our first objective we did it, so tomorrow we are going to use some different players with also players coming from the under-23 team and also it is in our planning to start with Laurent Koscielny.

Ainsley on the strength of the academy with 12/20 in the match day squad v Vorskla…
It means a lot about the academy system we have here, showing that there’s a lot of good young talent who can do it. Having this good manager beside us is helping us more, he speaks to the players and tell us what we can improve on and they just feel more confident that he is giving them the chance, so it is brilliant.

on Koscielny and whether he could play v Southampton…
UE: We have some players with injuries at centre back and also with these injuries are Mavropanos and Rob Holding and a few out [suspended] with yellow cards. We are going to decide after tomorrow’s match, as its the first match with us that Laurent Koscielny will play. We are going to look also if he can play 90 minutes or less minutes in this game. We can use another player in this position, someone like Nacho Monreal, who is also with us and in his career he played in this position [before]. We are going to decide but the first is to think about the match tomorrow because we need to receive information on how he can feel tomorrow.

on Mesut Ozil…
UE: I don’t know. Tomorrow he is in the group, there are 18 players in the squad for this match and I am going to decide if he plays tomorrow from the beginning or during the match in the 90 minutes.

on what he tells players about facing abuse from the stands…
UE: It is not acceptable, but I think it is a small moment in the contest. The people should show respect to every people and I think it’s something that happens in one moment, but these comments are not acceptable.

on the players’ lifestyles and whether he has spoken to them…
UE: The club said to you that the discussions are inside here between us, but for me the most important thing is to not lose the focus. Our focus first was on Huddersfield in our last match, the match tomorrow and on Sunday. I trust in my players and I trust that their behaviour is good behaviour and the most important thing is how I see them every day training with big behaviour and big commitment with focus on our work.

AMN on proving himself…
I still feel like I am improving and getting back to my best. Me and the manager have had a conversation and he’s told me things that he wants me to improve on, so all I can do is go away every day and wake up and think how can I get better at this? By a certain amount of time the manager should be able to see it in me.

AMN on what he wants to improve…
It’s more of a personal thing between Unai and me honestly, but I think as long as I know it and he knows it and we both agree it, that’s all that matters.

AMN on what is different this season…
There’s a few different things. Of course the manager conducts himself in a way to the ex-manager and some of the signings that he’s brought in are different as well, so there are a lot of experienced players in the camp now that are helping out with the young side of the squad. I think it’s a great combination that we have in the side at the moment.

AMN on his personal experiences of racism are...
Yes, I have [experienced it]. Not at a professional level but growing up in the youth ranks. I think it's disgusting, honestly. I really do credit Raheem for coming out and standing up for himself and other players and speaking about it. But, I just think that if a lot of football clubs and some of the players too can join forces to really put our heads to it and try to kick it out, it would be the best thing possible.

AMN on whether he can say what happened to him at youth level...
It was pretty much similar to what Raheem got to be honest. I literally went out to pick up the ball for a throw-in and there was a bit of racial abuse behind me. What can I do? I just got on with the game, as he did. It hurts. It hurts me to talk about it. It hurts to think about it. But I think that's why it's so important that we need to get rid of it from the game. It's not just footballers who need to be on board with it. It's everyone else: the press, the media and the staff as well.

AMN on whether he reported the incident...
I did, but nothing was done about it. I guess I just had to move on from it and become stronger from that.

AMN on how old he was at the time...
I was about 12 years of age.

AMN on whether he was at Arsenal at the time...
Yes, I was at Arsenal at the time. It was an away trip to a German side, I think.

AMN on how much that has stayed with him or how much it affected him at the time...
At the time, I just spoke to my dad about it and he did sort of give me the heads up and showed me a few things about racism before my time, when I was playing football, just as there still is in the game now. As we've seen, from Raheem Sterling coming out to speak, so like I said before, I think we just really need to put our heads to it and get it cut out as soon as possible.

AMN on how it made him feel and how he was able to respond...
To me, responding to it is scoring a goal to put their team down. I only thought they were doing it because I was having a good game in that game. I guess that's one way of them sort of trying to knock me off my game and make me feel uncomfortable about myself. But to be honest, I just try and play my football and not really say much about anything.

AMN on if he thinks Sterling going public could be a defining moment...
I hope so. I really do hope so. Raheem is a good, brave lad for doing it and I just hope that more people put their ear towards him and have some sympathy for him, because it's not the first time it's happened and we just want it to be the last.

Interview

‘We’re winning but we need to keep improving’

Thursday night was a special one for Sokratis - our No 5 scored his first Arsenal goal and finished the match with a clean sheet for the first time since joining us too.

Speaking after the game, the defender outlined his joy at extending our winning run to eight matches, but explained where we still need to improve defensively.

Read on for what he said.

on working hard for the win…
It was very hard and the other team played well - they lost a lot of chances! We won, we are very happy, we need to work harder and we need to improve. We know that some things aren’t going good and we have to work harder and we are in this way.

on playing three at the back…
For me it’s good because I’ve played a lot of games there in Borussia with Thomas Tuchel. I played a lot of games and I think it’s a very good system. Our manager knows well, he tries a lot of things and this is very good for the team. I think we’re on a good road.

on scoring his first goal for the club…
It was lucky thanks to Nacho, but I’ve opened my account!

on whether he’s happier to keep a clean sheet…
Of course, this is the most important thing. I’m very happy today, also for the last games where we defended well, but still we need to improve and the other team wasted a lot of chances. We have been lucky in the moment and we know we’ve been lucky, but we have to work harder and I think it’s getting better.

Gallery

First-team squad train ahead of Qarabag match

Arsenal training session

We're back in Europa League action on Thursday when we host Qarabag in our final group-stage game.

Unai Emery held his final training session ahead of the match with his first-team squad on Wednesday. Our club photographer was also at London Colney and sent back these pictures: