It’s another week of European action for clubs across the continent and that includes Arsenal, with the Gunners hoping to take another big step towards the knockout stage of the UEFA Europa League. There are some hefty expectations when it comes to what the club can achieve in the competition, but as we all know, that’s been the case for the last few years.
Mikel Arteta should and will be feeling confident heading into the game against Molde, and before the game, he spoke with the media about what he expects to see.
On what he expects from this game:
They will be tough. It’s a different competition that we’ve been really excited about playing, against a team who we know are good and tough. They made it difficult for us in the first leg and tomorrow on an artificial pitch, it becomes different. We need to get used to it and today’s a good day to practice.
We are getting used to it unfortunately. We have some news now in England with the Premier League that fans are going to be allowed in the stadium, which is great news. Everybody’s been waiting for them so let’s see now how the clubs cope with the final detail to provide a safe environment for them and the best possible conditions so everybody’s safe, and they can support us.
On what he expects from Molde:
A really organised team. They are very dominant in the league obviously and are so used to winning football matches. I expect them to have a real go tomorrow. They were aggressive when they played against us in certain phases of our play. They were organised and good on the the counter-attack and set-pieces as well. We want to be there, win the game and we know that will give us the qualification.
On whether this is the perfect time for Pepe to get straight back into the team:
Yes, absolutely. We’ve all had disappointing reactions in our playing careers and obviously we were frustrated because when you play against a team like Leeds for a long time with 10 men, it makes a huge difference. Even more with the way they play. He had a really good reaction, the way he apologised, the way he understood his responsibility and hopefully tomorrow we can see the player that we want to see, and have a good reaction to help his team.
On how we’re going to get out of ‘bad form’:
If you see the results that have happened in the Premier League and why teams win or lose games, the margins are minimal. Teams are winning with one shot on target or with two shots on target. We want to improve that, of course we do. But as well there are many aspects that I am really happy with, enthusiastic and optimistic about. When I see the young talents we got here and the future that we can produce for them, it’s things that get me really excited. We know that we are going to go through difficult periods because you don’t change issues that have been going on for years in a small amount of time, it’s all about the context and how we are working. It makes it harder but we know that we are Arsenal and our aim is to be the best all the time.
On whether Christian Eriksen could solve our creativity issues:
There are a lot of players out there that could improve any team. But obviously we are not going to discuss any individuals.
On the schedule:
Absolutely. We can give a few hours at least. It makes a huge difference in this schedule when you are playing twice away around Europe, it makes the recovery time incredibly difficult. So yeah, if they take that on board, then I think it’s beneficial for all parties because at the end [of the day] it’s an entertainment business and we have to provide the best possible outcome for that. That only happens when the players are in the best condition to perform and are physically ready to go.
On if Jack Wilshere could return:
We haven’t analysed that situation. What I can tell you about Jack is what I’ve said in the past, as a player, as a teammate and as a person I rate him really really highly. Unfortunately, at the moment we haven’t looked at that. We are focused on the players we have and we’re trying to do the best we can with them.
On if he might be invited to train with the squad:
Again, we have no request on that. We haven’t been approached, I haven’t been approached. It’s just a question that you are throwing at me at the moment, I can’t tell you much more than that.
On how that influences his decision for selection in the UEL:
At the moment we cannot really pick and go here. We have some really serious injuries in recent months with some players out for long periods. We had some injuries, we now have a suspension, we have issues with COVID as well, so we haven’t really been in a position where we can say, ‘OK, he plays this game, he plays this game’ because we have to accommodate with the amount of injuries and circumstances that we have. Hopefully that will change in a positive way in the next few months.
On how beneficial it would be to secure qualification tomorrow:
For the squad management, in football when you have the chance to grab something you have to do it in that moment. You don’t know what’s going to happen in a week’s time, two weeks’ time, in any game. There are a lot of things that can happen. I always tell the players, ‘When you have it, you can do it today, then do it and then forget about it, then let’s move on’.
Quotes courtesy of Arsenal.com
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