Every word Mikel Arteta said on Ceballos, Willian, Saka, Guardiola and Leeds United
The Arsenal manager has speaking ahead of Sunday's Premier League clash at Elland Road
What issues do you have after the international break?
Yes, it is very unusual and concerning because you have players all over the world with the context of Covid makes things very unpredictable and most of the time when it is unpredictable, it is not good news for the team. But I think a lot of clubs are in the same position and you have to try to make it as easy as possible for the players but at the same time it is not ideal to prepare for football games.
What are you expecting from Leeds United on Sunday?
That they will go full gas like they always do and they have had two weeks to prepare for the game, they don’t have as many internationals as us and I don’t expect them to change too much. They are very loyal to their principles, to the way the play and they approach every game the same way, which is to win and to be very aggressive with and without the ball and try to win. It doesn’t matter where they play, what I have seen from them in the last season, it is not a concern about who they play against, it is about what they do.
Mentally how important is it for you to bounce back from the defeat to Aston Villa?
Obviously it’s been a painful week because normally when you have a defeat at home, you want a game straight away. That wasn’t the case but we used that as well to reflect on what we are doing, to analyse why that happened. We were all shocked the way we ended the game, the last 25 or 30 minutes, before that it was a different game but still we have to improve in many areas. That consistency is something we need to get much better at and after the good result and brilliant performance at Old Trafford, to get that loss was a shock to the system for everybody. But let’s take the positives out of it, learn and move on.
Frank Lampard described management as 'all consuming, dealing with 50 things every day'. Do you agree?
At the moment in the actual context it makes it that way. I feel so privileged to be where I am because I love so much what I do, I love to be sitting representing this football club and having the opportunity to spend time with these players and staff. I think it is becoming a job where every time you are resolving issues and resolving problems. If you get shocked by that every day, then it is very consuming energy-wise. I come in now and I am expecting someone to come in through the door and give me bad news and having to react quickly because I know it is coming right now. I try to prepare myself and my mood in the morning to say, ‘Okay, let’s see what we face today and let’s go for it.’
Is resilience the most important trait to become a manager?
Absolutely, and how you bounce back, how you navigate through difficult moments and how convinced you are about what you are doing and at the end of the day, how you judge yourself on the decisions you make, and where those decisions are coming at the end from you. Is it a real feeling, do you do it for someone else, or for any other opinion, or because you think it is the right thing for the club, the players or the staff.
Do you have any idea when Thomas Partey could return?
No, he picked up an injury very early in the game he tried to carry on and he wanted to play the second half and we knew it was a significant injury. He has done really well, he is working very hard and he wants to be available. Hopefully we can get him back soon but it is an area where we have to be careful and a bit protective with the player.
Are you satisfied with the protocols when the players go away compared to what they have at the club?
To really know the protocols that all the national teams are applying is almost impossible because there are so many things that have to be controlled. We're just trying to be in contact with them and making sure that they know what we are expecting. They are trying to protect the players as much as possible, like we are doing. In some countries it's more difficult than others obviously, the more exposed they are in flights, if they have to go on different planes, the percentage of risk is increasing constantly. It's not ideal but we need to go through this. We are learning every day about it and there's not much that we as managers can do as well.
Gabon manager has said Arsenal won't release Aubameyang again. Is he right?
No [he's not right]. Obviously it was a shock to see a full squad sleeping the way they were doing. I always believe that everybody's trying to do their best and the Gabon national team are trying to organise things the best possible way. Sometimes unpredictable things happen and it was an experience. I said to Auba, 'Take it as an experience. I'm sure for many months or years you haven't slept on the floor, take it from there and just make sure when you're in your bed, you know how good it is, how comfortable is it and how lucky you are' and that's it. You cannot change it, you cannot rewind it so take it the way it is and move on. I hope that the next time it doesn't happen and that our players have the rest that they need.
Can you clear up what happened with Dani Ceballos and David Luiz?
Nothing. Training is very competitive and issues happen a lot of the time, but those things get resolved immediately within the team. There's not much to say.
No problem between the two?
No problem at all.
Did you see what happened between the two?
No. I've got a really bad vision from far away! That's why we train behind closed doors.
Is Willian fit to play on Sunday after being in Dubai?
You keep asking me for more and more issues. Whatever happens internally with any issues or things that we don't expect, as always we will try to resolve them internally. That's been dealt with and explained, and we move on.
Did he let you down?
We had a conversation and I explained what I expected. There are a lot of personal factors at the moment and as well from our side, we need to be in their shoes. A lot of players are having different issues, like any person out there and sometimes they make decisions based on the needs of the moment, or what people are expecting from them. Whether they are right or wrong, it's a thing that we have to discuss. But it's been dealt with in the right way so let's move on.
Is it possible that Joe Willock might start on Sunday?
I mentioned with Joe that I've been really impressed with him, the way he's handled the situation of not having much game time in the Premier League. I haven't seen him train like he's done in the last five or six weeks under difficult circumstances. I think the reflection of that is the way he's playing in the Europa League when he's had the minutes, or the Carabao Cup in this case. He has a chance like everybody else to play on Sunday.
Is Eddie Nketiah in line to start too?
He's another one that is fighting and knocking on the door every day. I really like his mentality. He's cultured, he comes into the training ground and he says 'I should've scored four' so that's the type of ambition and hunger that you want from players. So again, with both of them and some others, I am really happy.
Are you pleased Pep Guardiola is staying at Man City?
I'm very pleased for him because as you know, he has never been so long at a football club. So the fact that he's extending his contract means that he is extremely happy there, that he has found his place and that he feels valued there and he has the chemistry that I know with the players, the fans and obviously with the ownership. I want the best for him and if he's extended his contract it's because he is very happy and he feels that it is the best place for him to continue his career. So congratulations.
Do you think Pep's unfinished business is to win the Premier League or Champions League?
Well, knowing him and his ambitions and how competitive he is, unfinished business means that he wants to win every competition, every year. For sure. If he needs to win the four domestic trophies again and he can do it, I'm sure he's going to try to do it. Obviously Europe is a massive thing and he really wants to move the club towards that Champions League win and that's on his way. I think medium and long-term, that was one of the things that he wanted to achieve so I'm sure that it will be a focal point.
Are we asking too much of players and managers right now?
It's really demanding and it's never been done, to play the amount of games that we have to play in a calendar year, in the history of football. Obviously, we know the consequences of that and the only thing from my side that I would demand to the Premier League and to the broadcasters is 'let's protect the players'. At the end of the day, this industry, yes we can do it without us being together in a room. We've been doing it, training individually and doing it without having the possibility as the manager to speak to them all in a room, and we've even done it without the fans. But guys, we need the players. We have to protect them as much as possible. They are the protagonists of this whole industry and whatever you can do, if you have to modify the rules and make them a little bit more flexible for them to give them a better opportunity to be fit - and it's not just physically, I mean mentally as well - then let's just do it, please.
Is it time for the Premier League to bring in five subs?
I am all for it and not only that but to extend the numbers in the squad. At the moment, we have a big squad for different reasons and we have to leave seven or eight players at home. And at home means at home because from the training ground you go home and then from home you go to the training ground. So even mentally, to feel involved you are travelling away and you are two days without the squad and without your teammates. It will be really helpful for them. So let's try to help them and make them involved in what we are trying to do here and I think that there are easy decisions. But I don't know. It's my opinion and let's hope we can change it.
Are you optimistic that the fans will be back in the stadiums soon?
I am very hopeful and optimistic, because I've seen the plans, all the protocols and all the work that the club has done to try to create a safe environment. I think we are able to provide that and if they decide to move ahead with the project that we've done, it's very impressive so whenever they give the green light to do that, we are prepared to host the fans.
Is Willian in the squad for Sunday?
The situation has been resolved, explained and dealt with in the team and the club. That's all I can say.
Does it worry you how many minutes you saw Bukayo Saka play?
Well, I'll have to see today when he comes back how he's looking and how he's feeling. Obviously, he's a 19-year-old kid and he's played a lot of football in the last few months and we have to protect him. I understand from Gareth's point of view as well, he had the injury of Chilwell and he probably didn't plan to give him that many minutes but the circumstances forced him to do it. From my side, it's not ideal, but if I was in Gareth's shoes, I would have done exactly the same. It is what it is, let's see how he comes back and try to get him fit and recovered and see how he is for Sunday.
How is Pablo Mari?
He's looking really good in training. Obviously, he had a difficult surgery, He had a screw and sometimes when you have an external body inside it can react in an unexpected way and it was causing some inflammation and irritation in the joint all the time and his ankle was swelling. So we had to take that out again which was a little bit of a setback, but he's been working really hard and looks really good in training.
Does he still have a place in the first team?
Yes he does. We've been hit really hard with some big injuries, not only Pablo but Cedric as well, since he joined here he's had two or three different incidents. Gabi Martinelli has been out for such a long time, Calum Chambers got injured three weeks after I was here and he still hasn't played a single game. He's still recovering. It is what it is. What I can say is that the approach of those players and the way they've been trying to work to get back to their best has been phenomenal in all cases. Let's hope that we can have them, we can use them and they can feel part of what we're doing.
Is it harder to have a grip on discipline at the moment?
It's impossible because we have so many rules, so many guidelines that we have to follow. Sometimes, without even thinking, you break them. Even in training when you give a bib to someone else you think, 'Oh no, I cannot do that, the bib has to be here and someone has to come with gloves.' Sometimes you don't even know [you're breaking the rules] so I just try to think that we are all very aware of what we are dealing with and we take it very very seriously. Everyone can make a mistake, it's just where that mistake is coming from, I think that's the relevant thing.
Cedric to be given a chance?
I've seen a big change in Cedric in the last month or so. I think his performances in the Europa League have been much better. He needed some time to adapt to our way of playing and most importantly, he needed his fitness levels to be at the standard we need. That was impossible because he had some injuries when he came here. He had a really bad injury in his knee, after he broke his nose he had some difficulties but again he's a lad who's trying really hard every day in training. He's accepting the situation and he's fighting against it to prove us wrong and we'll try to provide him more opportunities.