Press conference

Transcript: Arteta on Pepe, Saka and transfers

Mikel Arteta was a happy man after watching his side come from a goal behind to beat Southampton 3-1 at St Mary's Stadium.

After the game, he was asked about our performance, Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka and the latest on any January incomings. Here's what he had to say:

on the performance...
To come here and play the way we played after having a big chance in the first minute and not scoring, then conceding from a set-piece but still reacting the way we did with the way we played football against a really good side... The three goals we scored, overall I think we should be proud because it's never easy to come here against this team.

on how happy he was with how we looked going forward...
On Saturday, we had some difficulties against the high press that we resolved today. We were much more efficient in breaking their pressing and that's why we were in much better positions and providing much better spaces to show their qualities. That was a big improvement. Defensively, we were really good on the high press and won the ball in really dangerous areas and got going from there. When we had to defend deep as well, we did that pretty well.

on 16 points from a possible 18 in the last six games...
Football games are always judged by the results and that affects confidence. Sometimes we were having good games and not deserving to lose at all, but we were losing matches. The moment we started to win, our confidence went up and we started to grow, to understand each other better. We've got some players back and the spirit started to lift a little bit. Things were much better. 

on Nicolas Pepe getting booked for the substitution...
Well we were going to take Nico off and bring Gabi on but Emile got injured, so we had to change straight away. We didn't want to use that substitution because then we'd have to make two. The referee believed that we were wasting time or something and he made a call.

on Martin Odegaard...
I think we are pretty close but it's not finalised, as I understand. I haven't talked to Edu or the club in the last few hours but we are very positive that we can finalise the deal.

on whether we can think about a top-four finish yet...
I don't want to look at the table, I want to look at ourselves and how we can get better, the reasons why we are performing better and winning more football matches and then get that consistency that we've been lacking. We just want to try to improve as a team. Tomorrow is another day so let's review the game, train, improve in the many areas we need to get better and then see where we get by doing that. 

on Emile Smith Rowe...
He was injured for the game in the FA Cup so he wasn't available. We knew that he probably could not play the whole game today. He has some muscular discomfort so he had to come off again. 

on comparisons between Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling...
Bukayo is doing really well and is always asking to train more and improve in areas that he can do better. That was certainly one, at producing the final bit in the box to score or assist, and he's doing that much more often. He's able to do that with the work he has put in and the intelligence he's shown on the pitch, and with the capacity he has to understand the game from different positions. He becomes a really complete player.

on whether he will continue to use Saka further forward from now...
I think he's much better when he plays in the last line of our attack. The truth is that we have only one left-footed full back and sometimes we'll have to use him there. It's good for his development as well to play there. Last season he played a lot of games there and became a much better player. He's got that talent and he's always keen to play in different positions. But obviously in certain moments, we have to try to find some stability for him. We just need to focus on where we are heading with him. 

on Saka being a leader on the pitch...
He's got that. He's really humble, really respectful but at the same time he's got that character within him and on the pitch he can demand the ball. He can make actions and decisions that is not very usual at his age. That's something that is great because we need that leadership and he's gaining that with his performances and attitude around the team.

on why he played Nicolas Pepe on the left...
It was more because of what we wanted to do in attack and the spaces we wanted to exploit. We believed that he could exploit some spaces there and he could be really efficient in doing that. I thought that the other day he had a good game and was involved in our best attacking moments, and the way he's been training he deserved his chance. Today he did the job really well. 

on having a higher defensive line...
When you allow Southampton time on the ball, they play with a lot of players inside and they overload you in really dangerous areas. We had to be really careful of that so the more aggressive we could be to regain the ball in those areas, we knew the way they attacked that they could be exposed in transition. I think we did that very effectively and really well for big parts. Physically it was really demanding and sometimes we had to defend deeper. I think we did that really well as well. That's why we were able to beat a team like them because at the end we did a lot of things right. 

on concentration and leadership being required when defending deeper...
We can defend a little bit deeper and be flatter, be a little bit more strong. But you have to be aggressive and dominate your space. I think that today we did that and everybody worked superbly hard. You get rewarded when you do that. 

on Thomas Partey and Kieran Tierney...
From Saturday, just to make it clear, we had five players who were not available to play. We made seven changes and five of them were because they were not ready to play the game. KT was one of them and Thomas was another, and you could see today that he could not last for 60 minutes, so we have to manage those players, to protect them. Sometimes they are not fit but I cannot explain every single day how every player is feeling. 

on Partey having cramp...
We don't know, we don't know. He was feeling some discomfort and hopefully it's nothing, but he was struggling.

on whether Tierney could return for Manchester United...
I don't know. He wasn't available against Southampton in the FA Cup, he was injured. He's still injured today. Let's see how he progresses for the game against Man United. 

on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang...
No [there's no update] but I love how they support each other and how they protect each other. Auba is having a difficult time. We are all behind him and this win is for him. 

on why Alex Lacazette has clicked since Boxing Day...
The team dynamic since then is better and he's found his form. He's having more consecutive games where he's starting and he's scoring goals. I think that's a really strong combination for any player, and in particular for a goalscorer like him. He needs to be on the scoresheet.

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