Every word Mikel Arteta just said on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil, Alex Runarsson and West Ham
The full transcript of Mikel Arteta's pre-match press conference ahead of the Gunners' Premier League clash vs West Ham
One place to start. How big is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang signing his contract extension?
"Obviously I knew what was coming so I was a little bit more relaxed. I am really pleased to have convinced Auba to stay at our club, as well in the terms that we've done. With the passion and determination that him and the people around him show to stay at our club, how happy they are with what we have achieved. As well, really pleased to see the reaction of everybody. First of all here at Colney at our club and as well our fans, to keeping him."
What sort of character is he around the squad?
"It's a joy to work with him. I think we have a very transparent relationship, we were very clear with each other with what we were trying to do. How big a part of my plans for now and for the future. The way he trains, the way he behaves himself and the way he performs is exactly what I want. So, I want him to do that again, consistently in the next few years."
Was this the one deal you felt had to be done?
"Yes, it took a lot of work and a big effort as well from the club. So thank you very much for supporting us because it was key to achieving it. It was a thing that was worrying because it's so hard to find a replace of a striker of that calibre so I'm really pleased."
What role did you play in helping make his mind up?
"I think the big reason Auba is staying is because we have an incredible football club. We have some fantastic people working here and he feels how much love he's got from the fans. I played my part which is part of my job to try to explain what we are trying to do and how important he is going to be in what we are building and that's it. The club has to take credit for that and the people that has been able to put a project and package for him to stay at the club as well."
You did it despite offers from big clubs like Barcelona and Milan?
"Yes, but the size of our club is as big as those names.That is what I am saying, the most important thing is the club, what we inspire, who we are as a club and what we can achieve in the future as well, and how we can explain what we are trying to do so the players believe in our project."
Do you have to sell players to bring more in?
"We are trying all the time to adjust the squad in the most efficient way. It is clear at the moment that it has to go both ways and in order to achieve that we still have some time but we are pretty clear in what we are trying to do."
Can I ask about Alex Runarsson?
"Obviously with the departure of Emi, which is a big loss and someone that I think we all wish the best to for what he has done for the football club as well as the person that he is - we have to replace him. We are looking in the market and I think we will shortly in a position to announce a new signing."
Is that hours or days away?
"I don't know, in football the hours can become days and then something that looks unlikely can happen straight away, so unfortunately I cannot tell you."
Do you need to sign one or two keepers?
"Well, depending on what is going to happen with our third goalkeeping position as well because we had some talks about that over the past few months so still the market is open and things can change."
Can you tell us about Arsenal's interest in Houssem Aouar and Thomas Partey?
"Sorry, unfortunately I cannot talk about players that are not at our club but I appreciate the question."
Mesut Ozil's been a hit with his training performances on social media. What's the likelihood of him playing?
"I think they have all been training really, really well and the spirit at the training ground is great and we are happy because everyone is pushing each other, so let's try to maintain that."
West Ham, always a threat?
"Always a threat, we have a good example of the game we played against them last March. It was really difficult, we managed to win the game but we had a lot of problems, so we better be ready because after a defeat teams are always more dangerous."
How important was Aubameyang staying for other players?
"It was a big boost because everyone was hoping for Auba to stay but it was creating some uncertainty around the place and obviously it is great to finish that speculation, move on and find some more stability."
What statement does that send to the footballing world about Arsenal?
"I don't know, we made the decision because we believed he is the best for our football club. We are not trying to send any statement, just trying to get the right decisions and the right people around us to be as successful as we can."
How pleased are you with the competition for places across the pitch?
"Well this is what we want to produce, some days it is not easy for us managers to deal with that when you only have one game a week. But it is great to see how the players are training, competing with each other but it is very important as well that whatever the decisions are, that they keep supporting each other and we are able to maintain a good, but natural competition between them."
How pleased were you with Willian at Fulham?
"I think he was great, he was decisive and that is what we are looking for him to do in a consistent way. He is a player with tremendous quality and knows the league really well, and we knew he wasn't going to need a lot of time to adapt to our way of playing."
What did you think of West Ham vs Newcastle and the weaknesses you can exploit?
"Well they have many strengths and some weaknesses, like we all have. I know David, the manager, really well and I know what he will be trying to do tomorrow to hurt us as well. It will be a tough game and I am expecting a difficult battle tomorrow."
What did Aubameyang mean by wanting to become an Arsenal legend?
"Well, I think he's done some great things since he's been here, individually some of the things he has achieved in terms of goals and assists, it's been incredible. Now we have to take it to the collective and take it to club level and in order to achieve that there are a lot of small things that you have to do every day to achieve them. Auba is very aware of that and if we are able to take the person and the player into the next level, I think we are all going to benefit from that and the day that he leaves the football club I think it will be in a different way.
Do the rest of the squad have to follow his example at step up?
"That's the next step but for now, the goals that he has scored in the semi-final and the two finals are bringing titles to the club, which is something that is going to stay there and is going to stay in the history of the club. And now, all of us have to push to support him and for him to maintain and improve the level that he has - not only for scoring goals but in his overall performance, whether it's in aspects related to our attacking phases or defensive phases - is going to make us better."
Is the West Ham game poignant, them being the last game before testing positive for COVID?
"Well, it was ages ago. But obviously when I started to look back at the game and what we did, I think we were lucky that day to win the game. They created a lot of issues, we did not control certain important aspects of West Ham's threats and we have to be better tomorrow."
What does Gareth Bale do for the Premier League and competition in north London?
"The Premier League in its history has always had the best players in the world. I think Gareth has been one of the most significant names that left the Premier League years ago to go to Spain, so I think it's really positive to bring really important players back to the league and it will be a challenge because we know at his best what he can do."
Will you have to work harder to keep north London red?
"I think the competition from every club, the way they are all recruiting and improving their squad, is making this league harder and harder."
What's the long-term project for you at Arsenal?
"Well, you can have a lot of great thoughts about the long-term in football but the reality is that the daily decisions, results and things that happen that are sometimes out of your control, that's what determines a lot of the future. What I find at the moment is that we are all on board, from the top of the club with the ownership, with all of the board, with Edu, myself and the staff around us, of what we are trying to do. We are very united and I feel we are in a strong position to move forward in the future. But again, our demands are tomorrow and today in training and we try to maintain and improve the team as much as we can and create a sustainable model that brings success and brings joy and happiness to our fans."
Under pressure to let players go that you don't want to?
"No. Again, with all the players that we have here, we're going to try to get the best out of them. We're going to try to improve them as much as we possibly can and create the right environment for them so that they are happy at the club, because I believe it's the most important thing for them to perform to the level that we want. After that, obviously in the market there are things that we cannot control. There are things that we can control and let's try to manage in the best possible way."
Will Aubameyang or Willian take penalties?
"Yes, Auba will start taking the penalties, for now"
Opted for Bernd Leno or Emi Martinez. Hardest decision of your managerial career so far?
"Well, there's been many challenges since I joined the club! Obviously that one was tough but before that, as you can imagine, there were some conversations in the background about things developing in one way. So I knew what was going to happen with Emi. I had many discussions with him and I think we all finished in really good terms and we decided that Bernd was going to be the starter."
What convinced you Bernd was the long-term option?
"I was very clear with both of them that it wasn't a #1 and a #2 and that they had to compete for the place like any other position in the team. To be fair, Bernd was superb before he got injured at Brighton and Emi was absolutely excellent with all of the games that he played and how much he helped us as well with winning the trophies. But at the end of the day, that created a big competition, some big expectations from both of them and we had to deal with that. We were really open, trying to have those discussions and at the end, Emi had a really good offer, really well-suited to what he wants to achieve long-term and short-term and we allowed him to leave the club."
Sead Kolasinac has been linked to Germany for family reasons. Hard to stand in a players way?
"I think in every case you have to try to take it individually. First of all, try to understand the reason - if that's the case - when they want to leave and why. If there are things that you can help them to change, to give them more, you have to try to maximise those options and when it comes to a point where it's obviously something that you cannot control and cannot help and it's evident and clear, then you open the door. But then it goes down to the club to decide when and how and that's a player with a contract that has to get the right value and go to the right club."
Do you expect Sead to leave?
"At the moment, I'm not expecting anyone to leave very shortly. That's where I am."
How do you keep motivating Aubameyang now he's signed his contract?
"Before motivating them after they sign the contract, I try to do the opposite thing. I try to make sure that I can motivate them and in order to do that I have to get to know the player really well and the people around him. What he needs in order to be as motivated and not with flat feet, to try to improve and as well, the player has to see that he has some room for improvement and that we are the right people for helping him to achieve that. And to be fair, all those boxes are ticked with Auba so I think we will be able to do that with him."
Does David Luiz come straight back in?
"David is training with us today again and he's feeling much better. He will be available for tomorrow."
How do you feel about the way Jack Wilshere's career has gone and that he won't be featuring?
"Sad, it’s a big shame. First of all, for Jack, who as a person - I was going to say as a kid because he was a kid when I played with him - but he’s such a special character with such, talent, ability and personality on the pitch. He could have achieved much more, but injuries have been really tough on him. He’s shown time and time again after that it doesn’t matter how bad those look, he always finds himself in a position to get back and hopefully he can do that again. I think not just me, but everyone else here wishes him all the best. I hope he can come back, he’s done it many, many times. I hope he can maintain that mental strength and that willingness to still be as good as he can, because he deserves that."
Was letting Martinez necessary to bring in transfer targets further down the line?
"Well, at the end of the day we have to find some balance between what we want to achieve with our squad and our finances - and it gets to the point where if you want to achieve certain things, you need to sacrifice others. Time will tell whether we are weaker or not and obviously the recruitment we are planning to do to try and get our second goalkeeper, they will hopefully bring a really good performance level. We can see Emi being successful at Villa and we are all happy for him."
What did you do with Eddie Nketiah and Dani Ceballos after seeing the footage from Fulham?
"Well, I was surprised first of all because it isn’t a common thing to see at the start! To be fair, I didn’t like too much that image in public, but then I understood what happened and I understood how much both of them wanted to play and their level of frustration they were managing. I really liked the way things were resolved, though. First of all between them personally, and then publicly with that picture. It was the end of the story and now we can learn from that and move on."
Was it frustration from not starting?
"You can see the way Dani and Eddie came on the pitch in the last few minutes and how committed they were and how much they wanted to play. I cannot demand the players all the time to be 100 per cent and pushing, but then to be soft and have a really bad body language during the rondos. If you give me the choice, I don’t want them to kill each other! But it’s okay, it’s not bad!"
Will Reiss Nelson go out on loan?
"I think they all realise the competition we have in forward positions. I’ve already spoken with Reiss about it and I really like the way he’s training. I think we both agree about how much he’s improved in the last few months and he’s going to carry on pushing himself and the rest of the team. He needs to be ready because in football, unfortunately, or fortunately, things don’t take three months to change, it can take three minutes and you have to be ready when that opportunity comes."
Does he need to be playing to progress?
"I think if you ask any of those 27 players if they need to play, they will all say ‘Yes, of course. I need to play regularly and I need minutes.’ But at the moment it’s just not possible playing one game a week and with this rule of just being able to have 18 players, it’s very difficult to give everyone the same minutes - impossible."
Did you ever doubt Aubameyang would sign?
"To be fair, at the start when I joined I wasn’t as positive as I was a few weeks ago. Obviously financially we were in a position where it was difficult to get what we wanted to get and I think Auba had his doubts at the time - but things evolved in a natural way and I had a feeling that the club wanted to move forward. I had a feeling that Auba wanted to stay here and we were just trying to put those things together, and that can sometimes take some time, but if the outcome is what we both wanted then we’re happy."
Will him staying help attract new players?
"I don’t know, but certainly I think it’s a decision that’s been received in a really positive way outside the football club and with a very clear direction that we want to maintain and look after our better players, as well as promoting and challenging our young players."
Does that show Arsenal are serious about getting back to the Champions League?
"Yeah, we had to do some structural remodelling because we couldn’t maintain the size of the club with what’s happened in the last three years and the coronavirus, but we cannot forget that we’re Arsenal Football Club and our history demands success and excellence.
And in order to achieve that, whether it’s our people, our staff, or our players, we have to maintain the quality as high as possible in order to maintain the best possible chance to be successful."