Arsenal have been on a solid run of form as of late but if they’re serious about challenging for a place in the top four, they need to keep winning – because even the smallest slip-up in this incredibly unpredictable Premier League campaign could cost them in a big way. Their next test will come in the form of another London derby, this time at the Emirates against Crystal Palace.
Gunners boss Mikel Arteta recently spoke with the media and previewed his side’s upcoming encounter against the Eagles.
on how much he’s looking forward to a return to Premier League action…
Yes, there’s a lot of games coming up now, some important ones as well. We need to get our home form established, we’ve had some issues there and now it’s time to get some wins. We’ve got two at home right now that are going to be key for the future of our season in the Premier League and the team is in great spirits. Obviously, after four wins everything looks better and we’re looking forward to the games.
on Emile Smith Rowe…
I’ve been impressed with his performances and the capacity that he’s shown to do it in consecutive games which normally with young players is not something that is very common. The other day he came into the game when we needed a different energy and a threat in the box he did exactly what we expected and he scored the goal, which is something that we’ve been talking to him about. There is no message to any senior players, this is a squad of players with different profiles and everybody has to be pushing each other and trying to make each other better. Everybody contributes in a different way because every player is different in the squad.
on what to expect from Crystal Palace…
They are a really dangerous side and they have shown that against big teams. They are a really compact and organised team and you know what you’re going to expect. They have players with a big individual talent that just need moments to win games, to create actions that can unbalance the game so we have to be very careful with that. Then, we have to play to be dominant again in the game. We go from the first minute to try to win the game, to attack them and be cautious as well of the strengths that they have and try to control them as much as possible.
On the importance of moving up the table:
Yes, again, we want to keep that consistency and having the belief that we can go into every game having the feeling that we are going to win it. The more games we are able to win the better that feeling is going to be. Obviously, to start thinking more about the table in a different direction, if you are able to win these matches your mind starts to look in a much more positive way.
On Gabriel Martinelli:
We don’t know how bad he is. He’s getting a scan this morning. We didn’t look after the game because he was in a lot of pain but yesterday he tested it a little bit better, so let’s hope. We have a scan today so let’s hope it’s not as serious and we can have Gabi back really soon. We will know more tomorrow, certainly.
On Gabriel and Thomas Partey:
Well, Gabriel had a training session the other day. He tested positive and had very mild symptoms, so he’s missed a few weeks of training because he had to be isolated. It’s better now and we expect him to be training with us in the next couple of days and then make an assessment on whether we can have him or not on Thursday. Thomas has been in full training for the last four or five days, he’s completely asymptomatic. It would be a little bit rushed to try and play him against Newcastle but I think he will be ready for Thursday.
On new restrictions on celebrations:
Well, first of all, to control the emotions when you’re going 200mph in the game is very difficult. We’re asking our players in corners for example to be man-marking people, to be pushing people around and then we cannot say hello to anybody. It gets a little bit controversial and difficult to understand. Morally, with the situation we have in the county, with the situation we have worldwide, to keep doing what we are doing is a little bit of a strange feeling. We know as well what we can bring to society if we are able to do it in a safe way, then there are a lot of positives to take. It’s just that balance. When this starts to get damaging and worrying and it starts to exploit people, and when we can do it and it’s still safe and we can add something positive. It’s a difficult context.
On football being stress relief for people in lockdown:
No, but that’s why all the protocols and guidance and everything that we are told to do to keep the industry going is really helpful. I think so fat, until the last week or so, we did brilliantly and we were able to control that. If that’s the case and the government and the people are happy to do that again because they believe that it’s something positive and something to look at and keep people entertained then it’s great that we can help in that sense. If not, it’ll be them that are the ones making the decision that there’s no sense in keeping this going.
On whether Martinelli is going to be an injury-prone player:
It’s more bad luck. It’s only three injuries and they’re really different ones. One was a contact and the other one was something that can happen to anybody, so you have to be really unlucky. We’re going to scan him today, hopefully it’s not that bad and it doesn’t knock Gabi back but I was gutted for him because he was in pain and he was gutted.
On how well he thinks Ozil has handed the last nine months:
Well, it’s always difficult to handle this situation when you are left out of the squad. It’s been difficult for everybody to have players who weren’t in the squad – it wasn’t only him – because you need them motivated, training well and being part of what we are trying to do and they don’t feel like they can contribute to that. It’s always tricky. We have tried to manage that in the best possible way.
On Crystal Palace having one win in six and whether he believes they are as dangerous as previous seasons:
As I said before, they don’t need much, they have very specific players in positions that reinforces their way of playing. Roy always makes things difficult and they lost some games, some undeserved and some with a big margin like against Liverpool. But for me it’s not a real consequence of what they are as a team. Listen, every game in the Premier League is tough. It will be tough against them when a team is in the moment that they are in because we weren’t that far away a few weeks ago. I know what the spirit is in that dressing room and the willingness to put things right is, so we have to be there and be really, really ready to go and win that match again.
On whether top six is now a realistic aim again:
I think the next two games are crucial to see the direction that we are taking and to reinforce all the things that we have improved on and the results that we are having recently. We will know much more I think after the next two games.
On Wilfried Zaha:
Undoubtedly he’s a player who has done exceptionally well in the Premier League, he has created a big name because what he’s been able to do – sometimes on his own with some individual actions – is what people highlight most of the time. He is a player who plays for Palace at the moment, and that’s it.
On whether he wants to manage for as long as Roy Hodgson:
If I could do that, that would be exceptional and that is the word I would use to describe what Roy has done in the game and the way he has done it. I think his charisma, his personality, the way he approaches people, the way he is as a person and what he has achieved as a coach, is just exceptional. I have been doing it for a short period, but I can only imagine to do it that long, it is an incredible achievement so my hat is off, because you should have something really special and really special people around you [to manage for that long].
On whether that is possible to do it now in the modern game with the increased demands:
Probably we will see what happens. I heard a lot of coaches when they start say they are only going to do it for five or six years maximum, and it is now 15 or 20 years and they are still there so it is a difficult drug to take out of your system.
On whether it is an addictive job:
It is, yes.
Quotes courtesy of Arsenal.com
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