Arsenal are set to go to war with Everton later today in a game that could wind up making or breaking Mikel Arteta’s stint as the club’s manager. The 5.30pm kick off at Goodison Park may as well be a cup final, because it really is do or die based on the recent record that the Gunners have had in the Premier League.
Before the game, Arteta decided to speak with the media as the speculation continues to grow regarding his future as the man in charge at the Emirates.
On the mood in the squad:
We had a disappointment of not winning the game, but at the same time I think the players realise that with the difficulty of playing 35 minutes with 10 men, a draw was probably a result we had to take and they could see some positives as well in the resilience and attitude they showed to hang on for that result.
On facing an in-form Everton:
It is always really tough to go to Goodison, I played there and know them really well. They are teams in two different moments but we are preparing the game to go there and beat them, because we need a result.
On his memories of his time at Everton:
Magnificent. I had seven incredible years there, they treated me incredibly well, we were very successful for the team and the results that we had in the moment, and I still have a lot love, admiration and friends over there because I am grateful they treated me really well and I really enjoyed being part of their family.
On his first year in charge:
I think it has been one of the most challenging years in the club’s history for many, many different reasons. I think e have made a lot of progress and implanted a lot of positive things that have worked really well. We have gone through structural changes right across the club that has obviously shaken the club, big time. I would say the highlights of the year is the two trophies that we have won together, and the most disappointing thing is that we haven’t had our fans with us to take us through this difficult moment. I think it could have been a really, really positive year but the recent form in the Premier League is taking the gloss off what we have done in the calendar year. But we have to accept that our Premier League form in recent weeks is not good enough for this football club.
On whether the job is harder than he thought:
I know, and I realise, how difficult the job is in normal conditions when you get to a club that goes through what we have had to go through in a year, and on top of that we have a pandemic that is affecting the whole industry. The way that you can even live your profession and then do what you want to do normally is even more challenging. But this is what we have. At the same time, I am telling you I love what I do, I feel so lucky and privileged to represent this football club and the circumstances and context that is in this moment are where they are, and we have to face them because there is no other choice.
On how he deals with the red cards we are getting:
I said the other day, think we have had seven red cards since I joined and two are disciplinary and the rest have been for different actions. The last one, with Gabriel, he is 22 years old and he is settling in the Premier League – don’t forget that – and they were two very different actions but in this moment we cannot afford it, because the Premier League level is too high and the margins for us at the moment are too small to win or lose football matches.
On concussion subs being trialed in the new year:
I think it is great progress considering the Premier League has opened up that window to explore what we can do and if there is something we can do better. At least we can test it, because a lot of question marks are there on how and when we can do it but I think it is a really positive thing because there is something happening there and the fact we are all aware of it and we are acting is a really positive thing to take.
On whether Wednesday’s draw could be the turning point:
It’s better. We could’ve won it at the end when Rob hit the post in the last minute. We are lacking that luck. But I really liked it because when a team is in this moment, you could completely drop and give up, but the team never did that. I think it was completely the opposite and I’m proud to see that reaction from the team. Right now, what we need is to win football matches as well. That’s our reality.
On whether we’re prioritising the PL ahead of Tuesday’s quarter-final:
Let’s see which players we have available. We are losing players every game. Let’s see who is available for tomorrow and then the next game. There’s not much we can play with the squad that we have at the moment. Let’s go game by game.
On whether he is able to look further than one game ahead:
At the moment, we have to look at the next game. There are players that are ended up the last phase of their rehab, like Calum Chambers, Pablo Mari who has already played some minutes in the Europa League. Mustafi as well, Gabriel Martinelli is very close to being available and fit to be part of us as well, which is great news. We will see what happens.
On what it will be like to manage against Everton:
It’s going to feel really strange. It was my first experience in the Premier League as a player. A lot has happened since then and as I said before, I’m so grateful for the years that I had over there. Now I’m privileged to be going back to Goodison, representing Arsenal and being the manager.
On how important Everton was for his development as a future coach:
There’s a lot of things that I took on board. It was David Moyes for the whole period and all the coaching staff who were there implemented a way of playing that was new to me, because I was coming from a different education. I had to adapt, I learned a lot of things, it was a challenge. I had to embrace and adapt to it, and I really enjoyed it with everybody at the club because I built up really strong relationships with them and of course the fans.
On which player could come in for Gabriel at centre back:
Let’s see who we have available tomorrow. Obviously we’ve lost Gabi now with the red card. We will assess them today and decide who is the best to go and try to beat Everton.
On whether he will be given time to get things right:
I said it from the start that I felt really supported by the owners, by the board, by the technical director and then by everybody that is at the club. At the end of the day, it’s the feeling that I have with the staff, with the coaching, with the players – the most important one. It’s about what chemistry you have with them, what understanding they have. Do they follow you? Do they believe in what you are trying to do? I always have to say thank you, because I haven’t seen anything that goes against what we are trying to do. It’s like anything. This industry needs results. After a big shakeup we need to find the stability. In order to do that, we need time. We all knew – at leas the people who made the decision with me to start this new project – that it wouldn’t be a quick fix and it was going to take time. When you are shaking things up, things can take a while.
On other fitness issues:
We have a few doubts. Obviously we cannot tell you who but we have some doubts for tomorrow, yes.
On whether he understands why other clubs voted down the motion for five subs:
At the moment no, because I think the most important thing at the moment is the welfare of the players and the best way to protect them and have options to protect them is to have the option to extend the substitutes. So it’s like yes, we’ll give you a little bit of this so that you can have an extra two on the bench but not the option to change. We are the only ones doing that and for me that doesn’t make a lot of sense but obviously it’s not up to us. We are pushing, we are giving our opinions and we have a lot of stats to support what is happening in the Premier League in terms of injuries but still, there is no reaction.
On whether he thinks it will make a difference having two extra players on the bench:
Well, I think it’s a positive thing to have an extra two players on the bench because you want everybody to be involved and we are in very special circumstances where the players are coming to training and going home, then to training or a match. Nothing else. So if they can participate, they can be part of the squad and they can travel with us, they can feel part of what we’re doing and that’s much better than people being at home just feeling that we don’t count on them and we don’t trust them. So in my opinion, that’s a really positive thing to add.
On whether he looked at coaching at Everton before he went to Manchester City:
It was part of some conversations but I decided to take my route.
On if he finds himself taking bits from each of the coaches he played for:
I think you have to be yourself but obviously you have moments and experiences that mark you in your football career. It’s not about the way you think about the game but who you are as a person, how you react to certain things and I was really lucky with the managers that I had. I learned a lot and I think that builds the person as well as the player that I was and of course, the thinking behind the manager that I am today.
Quotes courtesy of Arsenal.com
Is there a route to victory for Arsenal this weekend?