Every word Mikel Arteta just said on West Brom, Kolasinac, Nelson, Saka and transfers
The Gunners boss has faced the press ahead of Arsenal's Premier League clash with West Brom on Saturday
Could you give us a health and fitness update? In particular,BukayoSaka is he OK after his knock the other night?
Well, we will see today. Some players had to come in yesterday to get assessed. After the game we had a couple knocks. And then we have the players who have been through all the regulations with COVID, different individuals which I think we’re gonna recover for the game against West Brom. But we will see tomorrow who is available, who is fit, and how is everybody feeling.
Saka in particular is there an update on him?
I hope he is available we will see today with training or not. He’s played a lot of minutes as well, and I'm confident that he will be OK for the game.
Back to backwins for the first time since the very start of the season. What has that done for morale and how much confidence will that give you for kicking on in 2021?
Well, we needed those results that’s for sure. But we need a much longer run than that. There are a lot of things that we’ve done much better to get the results in the last few games, but there are a lot of things still that we have to do better and we have and improve. Confidence-wise obviously, it’s a completely different scenario when you are winning football matches. Everybody is playing with more freedom, more belief, the pressure gets released a bit and that’s always a positive thing towards performances.
On Saturday you go to West Brom who have had a change of manager. What do you make of those two matches that you’ve seen?
Well, two very different matches. The first one against Liverpool, when they had a really clear plan and they executed it really good. I think even going 1-0 they didn’t really change anything at all. They knew they were gonna have their moments. They grew and they got into the game, and were much more efficient in the second half and put Liverpool in trouble. Sam is very efficient at what he does. He has a very clear philosophy of playing, he always picked up results, he always made it really difficult for you and it’s not gonna be different. His teams are always organised and they know exactly what to do so, it will be a tough test again.
After the back-to-back wins has that pressure lifted on you?
I think it’s lifted on everybody. But it’s not honestly, this type of pressure we understand. Most of that pressure is coming through a willing to do so well and disappointing people more than anything else and just finding ways to improve the situation as much as possible. Sometimes in this game it’s difficult to explain the reason why you lose football games, and sometimes doing much better than the opponent you lose it, and sometimes when you don’t deserve that much you still win football games. It is what it is. But what is clear is that we needed to win games to release that pressure for everybody. We’ve done that but it’s still a long way to go.
You learn a lot about your players in mega tough times and Saka for you has been brilliant throughout. What’s he like? Is he one of those players who wants to soak up the information? Is he desperate to be out there all the time and learn?
Yes. And that should be a given though by any player always trying to learn trying to get better. For me, the biggest thing that he has done in the past few months is the personality that he plays with. The responsibility that he takes in the decisions he takes when things are not going well, and the impact he has had on the team to get results. That, at that age is not common at all. But that it’s nature and he wants to evolve that. You can see that his teammates trust him, his team wants to give him that responsibility. And that’s great because then you don’t have one or two players, you have more players. And it’s a great example for any young player to play with that commitment, that passion, but as well with that courage when you have to play for a big team.
Sam Allardyce has concerns over playing in the current climate. Do you understand his concerns? Do you think a circuit breaker would have been the right decision? And do you understand where he’s coming from?
Absolutely, I think we are all concerned with our own health and as well with what’s going on around us. But I've said that all the protocols we have in place, everything that we do around the training ground around football matches, the fact that we play our game outside, it minimises the risk a lot. If you see the records since we started to test it’s incredibly positive. And I think as long as we can we have to carry on doing that. Obviously we can’t put anybody at risk, but we have shown that the system is working. OK in the last week or so something has happened. But we’re gonna have more restrictions I think, we’re gonna have more tests to try to be as efficient as we were before and we will see. But I think it will work and I think we can carry on doing it.
Sky in Germany are saying SeadKolasinacis going back on loan to Schalke. Can you confirm or bring us up to speed with that?
I cannot confirm anything yet. We are working on a couple of things. Obviously the window is going to bring a lot of news. Some are true some are not. Whenever we have something to say we will announce it.
Is there any truth in that move?
We have had some conversations around a few players and whether we can find some loans because the numbers we have in the squad at the moment are really big. But again, we cannot confirm anything at the moment
Do you think going forward that it’s important for the mental health of supporters that football keeps going?
Well, the importance of football in this society is massive. I think when you ask around and talk to people what it means to have football games in this difficult period when there is not so much to do, I think it’s really important. What we have to do is try to do it in a safe way as we have been doing recently. And if we carry on, I think there are many, many positives.
In terms of you what a difference a week makes. You’re a completely different to be talking to compared to a week ago.
I am the same man. I am obviously happier and more released. But results in this industry change everything. And the perception is completely different when you win matches and we all know that and we needed that. Yes Ian, I am happy.
What were your thoughts when people were mentioning Arenal in a relegation battle?
Well, but when you lost the games that we did and you are in the position in the table at the end it’s what it is and you have to accept. There is nothing worse for me than to try and run away from that reality. And for me, the worrying thing as well was the way we were losing football matches and the reason why we were losing them. And that brings obviously a sense of fear that without them doing nothing they can still beat you. OK we broke that tendency. Now we are in a nice positive run. But there is a lot to do.
You’re trusting in young players. How important is that in 2021 that these young players kick on and repay the faith you’ve shown in them in the past week?
Well, we know that our club has a history to bring players through the academy. It’s in our DNA. We want to keep doing it. I think I have done it since the day I came through that door. But they need the right process, they need the right players around them, and you have to respect the timing in their development. There is nothing worse than rushing those players if they are not ready. If they are ready and they respond keep doing it. Then you don’t have to hold them back. Then you know the energy and the passion that they have to do. Let them run, sprint and do whatever they want. But as well, 11 kids, it’s impossible. When you have the right mixture then these kids they start to become more senior players and they have a little bit more experience and they are in a good development phase, let’s go for it. But we have to be cautious
At the start of the season the target would have been top four. What is it now?
I never go that far. For me the important thing is the next match. And how we do that, and if we can get a result there and how we get that result. What is our performance? How we are evolving. And when you don’t? OK the things we have to improve, and see how people reacts when things are not going well, because it’s a real assessment for the squad, for your staff, for the players and for the club. We’ve been through a lot in the last few months. Some really positive things that we have been able to change. Some achievements that we didn’t expect to have and as well, a lot of disappointments recently in terms of results. For me to plan, and in this world, at the end of this season what is good and bad, it’s impossible to say. We know the aims for this football club that is to win every competition that you are involved in. And it has to be nothing less than that. But as well we have to understand the context that we are in. Respect that. But always have the mentality to change it as quick as possible.
Do you see any similarities to last season in terms of picking up results going into the new year?
Well, it’s different because I’ve already been here a year and I've seen and I've got a much better understanding of what is going on, what is working, what has to be changed and how we can do that. But yeah the challenge is not very different. And I think we know better how to do it I think.
Happy New Year, my new year’s resolution is to live healthier and not ask so many boring questions in press conferences. Have you got on?
I wish you all to be healthy to be as happy as you can. And you are free to ask the questions because it’s your job. And I will happily respond when I can.
So none for yourself?
For me honestly, it’s the people around me that are healthy and safe, that’s all I can ask. I am privileged to do what I do and happy with what I do. So, I cannot ask much more from my side
Just wanted to ask about Reiss Nelson. His last appearance was on December 3rd, he was 19thman against Spursand we’ve not seen him since. What’s the latest on him?
He had a little niggle he’s not been 100%. He’s had a muscular issue. He’s been in and out of training, he’s not been 100%. It’s a shame because I felt he was getting into his performance levels, he started to have some really good games and he was starting to build that momentum. This little injury set him back a little bit. But I think he’s been much better.
People have been assuming this might be something to do with a January transfer that you haven’t been using him but is that not the case?
No. Only it’s my mistake then not clarify the situation what is happening. But yeah, he’s not been 100% fit. That’s the reason why he’s been out and he’s not been featuring with the squad.
Given the size of the squad and the issues you’ve had there, is the focus now on getting players out and are loans the best way to do that?
Well, we have a large squad. We knew that. A lot of things that should have happened in the summer we could not accomplish them for different reasons. There are a lot of players that are going to go on loan. They are going to leave. And that’s the priority at the moment because we cannot sustain the numbers that we have in certain positions. We are looking to do that. And then we will see if we have the right opportunities in the positions that we need some more help we are working with the club to try to address them.
Would loans be more likely than permanent given where we are financially. And if you do bring someone in, is it important that they don’t stifle the development of a player like Emile Smith Rowe for example?
Yeah, we need to be careful with that. Obviously financially it’s only us, it’s every club in the Premier League that have been in hit with big numbers. We know that this is not going to change in the last year or so. That we are gonna have to add somehow if we’re going to improve the team in different ways financially with some support. And we will decide whether this is with loans or buying players in relation to the opportunities we will have in the market.