Press conference

Transcript: Arteta on Saka, Guendouzi and more

Mikel Arteta was a happy man following Thursday's win at Southampton.

We returned to winning ways on the south coast, thanks to goals either side of half-time from Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock.

Arteta was asked about our performance, Matteo Guendouzi's absence and more after the game. This is what he said:

on how relieved he was to get the win...
We had two very difficult weeks with a lot of things that happened to us. I was concerned because after the defeat at Brighton where we threw the game away, it really touched the team. Confidence is everything in this game and we have to lift them up, but I could see yesterday that the reaction was really positive and they were really at it. We just demanded for them to play together, to enjoy competing with each other and defending each other as much as possible - then we would be fine. It was an important win for us.

on Granit Xhaka's importance...
He's a big presence. He's someone who doesn't hide. He has very clear principles and values, and he puts that on the pitch every time he's there. His commitment is excellent and he's a really good example for the rest. But I don't like to focus on any individual. Today the starters, the subs and the players that I didn't use all had the right energy, with the right commitment and the right intention every time they jumped into the pitch.

on Matteo Guendouzi's absence...
No [it wasn't punishment for Brighton]. It was squad management.

on whether European football can be attained this season...
I don't know. I said that I don't want to talk about what's going to happen on the table, but I'm concerned about what we do every day in training and how we prepare and compete in the games. We had two very different games against City and Brighton. Against City we lost two players in 20 minutes and we played 45 minutes with 10 men, and we gave them two goals. Against Brighton we had total control of the game and we threw the game away in seven minutes. I know what this team can do but only when we are 100 per cent focused and we are 100 per cent committed to competing. If not, we are at the moment average. Today we showed that when we do it, we are difficult to beat and we can win at any ground.

on why our game management has improved in just four days...
We have to develop and we have to evolve as a team. There are a lot of things that we have to improve, we have to recognise and we have to probably go through in a negative way to learn. But they are so willing. They want to do it and the way they follow us is incredible. I never criticise the effort or how much they want it. I was a little bit critical about how we competed and how we gave the opponent points. That's a disappointment. There are small details and I know we are a very, very young team with a lot of inexperience but in the Premier League we have to manage these moments. We cannot play the same way for 100 minutes, it's not possible.

on the back three...
We will change the game plan in relation to what we want to generate attacking-wise and as well how we can constrain the opponent and how we can better control their strengths. As well, with the players we had available it was the best fit for everybody to play in their position and be more comfortable, more secure about their jobs. We don't have the flexibility that I would like right now to change more things, but it's part of the process.

on the Sheffield United game...
It's very important because confidence is everything in sport in general. When you play team sports it's even better because you have to share that chemistry, those feelings, that energy. The win will be really good for the squad, for the belief, to keep going in the process that we have set and as well because of all the injuries and things that are happening. The team has suffered a little bit and it's a lot to take in a very short space of time, but they are so willing.

on whether Guendouzi's absence was linked to the incident at Brighton...
No. Whatever issue we have internally, I will resolve it in a private way. I explained that I cannot explain and that's it.

on whether our players are getting more used to the standards he expects...
I don't like to make any decisions to send messages. The messages that I send to the team or individually are very open and I'm clear with how I feel. Winning is the most important thing and when you win, everything is fine.

on Eddie Nketiah...
Eddie, since I joined, the maturity and the personality that he plays every game with is incredible. I demand a lot of our forward players to put the opponent under pressure and they've done it. A lot of the goals we score are because of the errors that we force on the opponent. In that heat, to keep chasing players and putting them under pressure, sometimes it's not a really nice thing to do. But obviously when you get a goal from the mistakes they've made - which could have caused a few more goals - it's really important. It generates belief in what they do and it pays the price for the effort. I am happy with Eddie, the way he's played again today, but I'm happy in general with the team. I'm really happy with the subs, the way they came in and helped the team together with the result and the attitude that they showed.

on Bukayo Saka...
It's in his hands. He has a manager that has total belief in him, he has a club that really supports him and he has team-mates who adore him for who he is. He's such a nice boy, he's very intelligent and he's so willing to learn. He's eager to be the best, he tries to be the best every day, and you can put him in different positions and he picks it up really quickly. Every decision he makes, he takes risks. I think he could have produced three goals today. The maturity he shows on the pitch is really good.

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