Every word Mikel Arteta just said on Balogun's contract, Partey and Mesut Ozil facing Newcastle
The Gunners boss has spoken to the press ahead of Arsenal's FA Cup clash with Newcastle on Saturday
What a difference three weeks makes. How’s the squad and how are you?
Yeah, it’s great to win the last three games obviously. The spirit the energy around the place, the vibe is always better. I’ve been better myself. On this Christmas period to win three games in a row is never easy in this league. And we’ve done it and hopefully we can pick a much better run.
Do you look back on winning the FA Cup in August with fond memories.
Well, it was a beautiful day. It’s the last game of the season. Everybody takes off after that. It was a really difficult end of the year with all the COVID situations that we have in place. And obviously it was a great day to finish on a high.
Are you going to go after this competition again because it’s yours?
Absolutely. We’re gonna go after every competition. We are the holders we have to defend that title. We know what it means for the football club and the history that is related to the FA Cup. It’s a great competition to play for us.
What’s MesutOzi’sfuture? Will he be leaving?
I don’t know what is going to happen. Obviously now he’s free to negotiate with other clubs. We will discuss internally what is the best situation for him for the near future. And obviously with the player and the agent. And try to find the best solution for everybody.
If you were in his shoes would you want to play every last game you can?
I think every player wants to play football. This is why we picked this profession and we are so lucky to be doing what we do. And for every player who’s not playing it’s always hard.
Is there apossibilityhe could still stay?
I’m saying we will decide what’s happening in the next few days.
How much of a concern is COVID going forward?
Well, it is worrying because we see every day what is happening in the country. And the level of infections and deaths is increasing. You can sense not the panic but the worrying around everybody. We are suffering for all the people that are involved in different and difficult circumstances at the moment and we cannot isolate from that. What we try to do is to maintain the infections as low as possible, follow all the protocols. The doctors are doing an incredible job to try and maintain a safe environment for us. And we have to try to keep insisting not just to our players but to all the staff and everybody involved around the place to be very of conscious of how difficult the situation is that we are in and how lucky we are to still do what we do.
Are your players anxious because of COVID?
Yeah, they are worried. But they know that in this environment they are very well protected. But obviously this virus is touching everybody in a personal level. You always have a relative, a person or friend, that has been hit with the virus in many different ways. So, we are now very educated about it and we all had a history related to it. And then it becomes more worrying of course.
If you get through the fourth and fifth round draws will be done at the same time. Do you think they just need to keep things simple?
Yeah, but it seems like every year we’re changing some rules in every competition in every cup. Something has to be different I don’t know what it is. I think we are doing something good in the country that every competition is becoming more important. You see for example the Carabao Cup the teams that were involved in the finals and semi-finals compared to the last eight, ten years and it’s improved. Because everybody wants to win a trophy, everybody knows how difficult is it to win a trophy. So you have to stick to every competition and that is raising the level certainly. But as you mentioned we can do some things a little bit simpler sometimes.
Has the emergence of Emile Smith Rowe and other youngsters meant if you were thinking about keeping Mesut Ozil that you don’t need toanymore?
We need every player that is involved in our squad. And the fact that the youngsters are involved in our squad means they have the level to compete with every player in that squad. The young players they have moments in the season you know, it’s really difficult for them to be at that level for ten months. But sometimes players develop, players have moments and you have to take those moments. If that means they are pushing somebody else then I think it’s a really healthy competition for the team and the team always gets better when that happens. So I think it’s really positive news.
There was a lot of excitement about Mesut joining Fenerbahce. Do you think it would be good for the club and good for him if he was to leave this month?
If something is sorted this month it’s because it’s good for both parties. It’s because it’s good for Mesut and his future, and it’s because it’s good for the club. If that’s the case we will move forward. If it’s not the case then the played will continue here.
Is he training with you? There were some pictures of training but he wasn’t seen in them.
Well, he’s been training with us but he had some days, because we decided to give him some days for something personal. And that’s the case but he’s been training with us all the time.
Are you aware of him talking to other clubs?
We are aware of all the conversations that we had with Mesut, internally and with his agent. And this communication keeps going. And, of course, because from now he’s free to talk with any club so he’s entitled to do that.
There are reports that Omar Rekik has passed a medical to join Arsenal and that he’s training with you?
We will announce it when we possibly can. He’s a young talent that we’ve been following for a while. That we believe has a really bright future. But we will give more details when we can.
Are you expecting somethingsoon?
I don’t know very soon.
Will Partey be back?
Well, we’ve got an extra two training sessions. We will assess after that whether he’s completely fully ready to start or participate against Newcastle or if we’re gonna leave it another few days for the Palace game. But he’s been training really good. He’s comfortable. He’s not aware of the injury right now. He’s done more than what he did after the injury when he played against Spurs. So he’s in a good space, a good mood and you can see the player he is when he’s training.
William Saliba went on loan. He’s gone to Nice and made his debut last night. How important is it for him now to be getting games?
Yes, well, we signed a big project that we had some issues with because he hasn’t played enough football in the last eighteen months. At that age and in the development phase he is at that is crucial. And I was very conscious when he came back, when he didn’t do the step that he had to do before joining us that to start a relationship with a new manager, with a new club, with new teammates in a situation where he is not having any game time it’s really difficult and I think it’s really damaging for the future. And I want to protect the player that we signed and the future that we have alongside him. The best way to do that is to give him minutes and play. He’s been really good, it’s been difficult months for him and that situation. But I see the development that he’s made, the progression that he’s shown over the months. And now he’s ready to compete. He’s going into a really strong league as well, a league he knows really well. He has experience, and he need to play as many games as possible to be ready for us for next season.
You spoke about next season does that mean Saliba will come back in the summer no matter what?
He will come back for pre-season and he will be with us. Hopefully he will come back after playing a number of games and his performance raising and his development progressing in the right way. That’s why we made that decision. I know that sometimes it’s difficult to explain or understand after the money that the club has spent trying to bring him in, to send him on loan. But a lot of things have happened to him he’s a long-term player for us and we need to protect him as well. And giving him three or four games is not enough. For him he needs much more than that, because what happened in the last 18 months, he’s been through some personal problems as well that we have to try to help him and stay as close as possible to him. And now he needs to play, play and play and enjoy his profession as well. And in order to do that I think we found the right club with him. He’s very happy to got there now. Hopefully he can enjoy his football and be ready for us for next season.
Mesut is available for the weekend. Can we expect him to be involved on Saturday?
We will decide what we do.
The Ozil decision has to be made one way or another doesn’t it with what’s going to happen to him?
Yeah, the decision has to be made when you will register or not register players, when you have to play them or not play them all the time. We know we have a really important player that is one of the key players in the past few seasons for this football club. We had to make a decision, I had to make a decision I made it. I knew the consequences of it. And now we will have to make another one in January, and we will just put in the balance what is the best thing for the club, what is the best thing for the team, what the intentions are of the player. And try and find the right solution for that.
Do you think we have a problem with players breaking the guidelines now, and do you think we need stricter punishments for players who do breach the bubbles and bring it into training grounds?
Yeah, I think we have to be very aware of that and we have to be very strict. I think players like any public person has to be more aware than anybody else. There are a lot of people who don’t respect the rules they are out there they don’t get noticed they get away with it. We are luckier than anybody else because we are still being around the place, we can still do our job and continue with our professions. And we have to bear in mind that everything we do has other consequence that other people when they act doesn’t. And at the moment we cannot deliver it down. We are taking some risks to continue playing. We are trying to do the right things. You know people are sacrificing their lives to help society in this moment and what we have to do is just contribute, contribute, contribute and don’t give any more issues. Neither to the public, neither to the government to make a decision that we don’t want.
Have you made that clear to your players?
Absolutely. And the doc is very aware and really all the time trying to push. We are getting educated now with new rules, new protocols around the place. We have a lot of people and sometimes you can make a mistake, you know. But there are certain things that we cannot allow to happen.
When you say you need every player available does that mean you will block possible loan deals for Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson because you want them around in the squad?
Well, once we have the players in the squad we need everybody available, becacuse then we have a larger options to chose. When we have to decide is this player going to have enough game time if we keep him here? Is it better to send him on loan? Then it’s a different discussion. But we need these players available as well to be able to go on loan. We have already made some decisions as you can see there are some players that have left the club in different ways and the squad was too large. And it’s really difficult to handle that situation even in training. So that was one of the priorities in this window, and I think slowly we are doing that.
Is the squad still too large?
Is Flo Balogun fit and available for Saturday?
He is fit and available. Again his progression and the use of the time he’s had with us has been incredible, incredible good. And he will keep having chances while he’s with us.
Is there any movement on his contract situation?
Well, you need three parties to make a deal. For sure the club wants to make a deal, the manager wants to make a deal, and I'm not sure about the agent.
Is there room for him to come through at Arsenal?
And just to be clear on that you’re saying his agent is the one who’s stopping his contract being signed?
No, I'm not saying he’s stopping it’s that we need to find an agreement with him. We are negotiating at the end with an agent, with a player that wants to stay at the club and we need to find agreement. I’m telling you that we are doing everything we can to keep him here. And hopefully from the other part they’re doing the same and defending the same interest which is the player’s interests which is to stay at the club and be successful with us.
A few monthsagoyou said it stresses you out when teams go long rather than playing it short, but more recently Bernd Leno has been playing it longer. Is that a conscious decision from you and Inaki Cana and why have you changed that approach?
Because we have to adapt in certain moments depending on where the team is in terms of confidence and the risks that we can take and the rewards that we’re gonna have from it. It’s part of the game plan. Depending on the opponents as well, how they approach this type of phase of play and in relation to that we can decide one thing or the other.
With the results getting better over the past few weeks does that mean another change to the approach we became used to in the summer where Bernd was playing with his feet a bit more?
We can vary I think Bernd is playing with his feet in that particular set up. When it’s a closed situation, when it’s more predictable and more set up we need to have in certain moments a little bit more to do what we want to do. But in open play when we use the keeper in that phase we haven’t changed one bit. But again it’s something about the capacity to adapt and then some things that are realted to the game plan on the day.