Press conference

Arteta on Liverpool, Smith Rowe, Elneny

It doesn't get much tougher for us than a trip to Anfield this weekend.

Ahead of the match, Mikel Arteta faced the media via Zoom to discuss the clash, our ambitions for the season, Liverpool's strengths and more.

Read on for a full transcript:

on Emile Smith Rowe’s performances for England…

First of all I was surprised because it happened just after our game, but I was extremely happy for him. I know the expectation he had, a lot of talk around it, and he really enjoyed it. I saw him yesterday and he was delighted to score a goal for his country, it is always special and he made us proud - not only him, but Bukayo and Aaron starting for the national team, I think it is a great sign for the club.

on whether Liverpool away is the ultimate test…

It is always a test, it is a fascinating stadium to play football in. You have to be at your best, and raise the level to your maximum standards, emotionally, physically, tactically, because if you don’t you will be exposed. Going to Anfield is always a test, but if you are able to do that, there are not many grounds as good as there to feel that you are a proper footballer.

on Liverpool this season…

It is difficult to judge just on this season because what they have done in recent years, I think Jurgen and his staff have managed to bring the club to the best moments in their history and to sustain it, which is the hardest thing to do. So they have transformed  the energy around the place; I think the cohesion and energy they have created in the stadium is something special, and Jurgen has done that at other clubs he has been at so it’s a talent he has. He has built from there and obviously been extremely successful.

on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's role…

Keep doing the same, because he is getting in great positions, he is having chances and things will happen. He has already scored quite a lot of goals, we always demand more and want more but he needs to continue the form that he’s in, the attitude he is showing and as well the level of implication that he not only has on the team, but around the club as well.

on the reason Auba came back early from international duty...

No it wasn't pre-planned, we have to assess him and see how he is and make a decision. We have a lot players who have been through some different games, issues, little injuries, so today we have to test everybody and see how we are to play tomorrow.

on his return not being linked to an injury...

Let's see how everybody is, we have to see them today before assessing them and making a judgement on how everybody is.

on Thomas Partey's fitness...

Same again, he could not play for the national team, he really tried to do that because they had a massive game and he really pushed for that one, but he wasn't close enough to do that. Again, it's something we have to assess today because he hasn't done enough [preparation work].

on whether Ramsdale should start more for England...

I don't know, he was given a chance and I think he took that chance, and showed his progress and the quality he showed in his performances because in the end they trusted him to put that shirt on and start for England, which is a big thing. So I am delighted for him.

on the unbeaten run helping confidence ahead of Liverpool...

They are confident they are in good form, but they know that every game is different and we have to go game by game. It is a long run, the Premier League is such a long competition and you will have different moments, but obviously we want to maintain the moment, maintain the form and to do that just perform at the highest level, which is what you have to do in the Premier League, and for sure at Anfield, to go there and win the game.

on a win taking us into the top four...

That would be the objective. The standards that we have at the club, the objective is always to win the game - it doesn't matter where you play, you always have to prepare the game to win it, and that is the way we will do it to go to Anfield to get the result.

on whether our expectations have changed this season...

The targets are always linked to the expectations of this club, which is always to be the best, it doesn't matter where you compete, [it doesn't matter] in what moment or project you are, it is always that demand. That should not change because it is attached to our culture, our ambition and every player here has to be thinking that tomorrow is the most important day, and we have to win the game. The rest will take care of itself.

on whether we can compete for the title...

I don't know what will happen, no one can predict it, this league has given a lot of surprises in recent years to everyone. From our side we know what to do. Ewe know where we were, what we want to be and the best way to do it is to go game by game.

on being in the side the last time we won at Anfield…

I hope so [it’s a good omen] it’s been a while as you mentioned, so it’s time to do it again. I have experienced both, winning and losing and I know why you lose matches at Anfield and which is the mindset emotionally and the preparation that you need to go there convinced and make sure that you are at the races to compete in that stadium.

on Rangers appointing Giovanni van Bronckhorst as manager…

Well it obviously was a surprise. First of all as a Rangers fan I must say thank you so much to Stevie [Gerrard] and the coaching staff for what they did for the club because they turned the club around in such a difficult moment and to manage to win the league in the way they did it was a big boost. Football is like that, people want to move, people have other expectations and now I just wish the best to Giovanni and the club and see what happens

on our record at Anfield…

I don’t know [why we haven’t won there more], obviously the quality of the opponent has a big say. It’s not a coincidence that last year as well before we went to Old Trafford, it was I don’t know how many years before we won at Stamford Bridge the same, but first of all you have to believe that you go there and that you can beat them, that’s the first thing. If somebody is not with that mindset, they should not put the shirt on and go to Anfield tomorrow and then as I said you have to raise individually your game to your best, emotionally, physically, technically and tactically you have to be able to suffer in the right moments, because there’s going to be moments where you’re going to have to do that and then as a team you have to have very clear ideas of what you’re going to do on that pitch to beat that side.

on why we can beat Liverpool…

Yes [we can beat them] because of all the reasons that I said, what I see and because if not, there’s no point travelling and you always have to find the reasons to believe that your team can go there and beat them.

on a plan to stop Mohamed Salah…

We have a plan like every week for the strengths and weakness of every team that we have to minimise and expose the weaknesses that they have.

on if this is the toughest test for our defence…

It’s one of the toughest places to go in the league, that’s for sure. For the environment, the energy that the stadium creates, the quality of the opponent, the quality of the coach that they have, for many reasons, that’s why they’ve been where they’ve been in the last few years, but we know that and we have to focus on what we can do and what we have to do.

on what makes Anfield different from other stadiums…

That you really feel as a footballer you are in a place where you really have to give your best and when you do, it’s an incredible feeling, because you have overcome a really difficult and challenging situation and when you don’t, like it has happened other times, after you feel regrets for things that you haven’t done or you should have done differently, or you haven’t approached the game in the right way. I think it’s one of those places where you have to go there and believe on the day and show why you want to play football.

on if Aubameyang is still on penalty duty…

We will make those decisions in regard to what we want to do

on our England internationals…

I see it as a reward, and in Emile’s case, obviously because it was his first time and not only what he’s doing on the pitch, but the maturity that he’s showing to handle many different situations that have occurred very, very quickly for him in his career in the last few months. I just see enjoyment and happiness and obviously for them to be bonding together in that environment, in that elite environment, I think it’s very, very beneficial.

on the success of Hale End, and if he knew about it before he joined...

Well, I knew about it about because of my time here as a player. I had already seen some of the talent come through and I played with some of them. It’s part of our identity, to raise players. We have a great academy, we have coaches that deserves so much credit for the education that they are giving those players, and for how they have been coached. And then - like anybody - they need opportunities, they need game time to prove that they can do it at that level.

on how Hale End rates in comparison to other club’s academies…

I cannot rate compared to others. What I can say is that I’m really happy and proud, and that this is not stopping here. We have to continue to evolve it, to improve it, and to keep providing players, because it’s a huge boost for the club - and obviously it’s very beneficial for many aspects.

on whether he looks to the academy before the transfer market before improving the team…

Always in our system. Whether it’s a player, whether it’s a staff member, whether it’s in any (other) part of the club. If we need some recruitment, first of all we look inside: what do we have, can we promote them, do they have the qualities to do it. If we don’t (have it), then obviously we have to start the process outside of our club.

on Lacazette’s contract…

There is so much talk. What I can say is that I’m really happy with what Laca is doing at the moment, and I’ve said that we are not going to be talking about any of that until the end of the season.

on Elneny’s future…

Again, I’m really happy with Mo. I won't be discussing individually other players, and it’s no time to do so.

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