Arsenal fans have been through an awful lot over the course of the last few months and especially in the last few days – but that isn’t going to slow down anytime soon. The trend, in fact, will continue right on through until the end of the campaign.
The next step on that journey takes the Gunners back to the Emirates as they prepare to host Everton. Both sides are on the outside looking in at the top six with manager Mikel Arteta speaking to the media about how important this encounter really is.
On the latest team news and five players being out:
Yes it is unfortunately the situation we have at the moment. They are all doing really well to be fair, they are a little bit ahead of schedule. We don’t expect them for Everton I think, we have a doubt with Martin a little bit, let’s see how he is today in training. The rest will be out and get them back in the team as quick as possible.
On keeping the players focused in training during this strange week:
I am getting used to it, since I joined it has been a rollercoaster and more things have happened in those 18 months than probably in the last 20 years. Dealing with it, trying to maintain the unity and commitment of everybody, trying to be clear and transparent with the news that we have, and trying to move on. It’s been a really challenging week for everybody in world football but we have to move forward. There are a lot of lessons we can take from it and we have to learn and probably reflect and put football in a better position.
On how big the game is against Everton:
Again they are having a really good season, we are not getting the results that we want against Fulham where the result was disappointing apart from the performance, which in my opinion we totally deserved to win the game. But we need to win every game now in the Premier League to give us the best possible chance to be in Europe next season through that competition.
On whether its special for him to face Everton:
Always. I had an incredible seven years over there, there are a lot of people there that I love, a lot of feelings towards the club, towards their supporters and I’m always grateful because I had some amazing years there and will never forget them.
On whether we have momentum after four games unbeaten:
Yes I think we do, and the way we are playing as well. But the Fulham game, not winning that one was a real shame for us because that would have put us in a much better position. But we have to move on, we still have a lot to play for in the league and playing the semi final of the Europa League so we are all excited about the way we can finish this season.
On whether the Villarreal game will be in the back of his mind:
No, I want to focus on Everton. We still have more than five days to prepare and how we get on there will depend on how we do against Everton and that is the only focus today for the team.
On remembering the penalty he scored against Everton back in 2014:
I do remember it, yes. For me it cannot be any other way!
On when he found out we were signed up to the Super League:
I found out just a little bit before the news was leaked. Then everything was completely out of control and the world reacted in a really unified manner. I didn’t really have time to think about it, reflect, evaluate or anything because by the time it was out, a big tsunami already came on to it and basically killed it.
On who from our board has spoken to him:
Vinai spoke to me and explained a little bit what was happening, the process just before that was announced, and he was very clear and transparent with me. I understand the reasons why we could not know. Obviously we were not involved in the decision and we understand the logic of it.
On whether anyone has apologised to him and the players:
Yes. Starting from Vinai, the ownership and everybody that is involved in the process. All of them, with the right intentions to defend the club and put the club in the best possible position for now and for the future, but accepting that the way it’s been handled has had terrible consequences and that it was a mistake. I really have to respect that when people have genuine intentions to do the best for this football club. But if it doesn’t happen or not the right thing to do, they can stand up here and apologise. I’m speaking for myself and I think the players, staff, everybody working at the club, we have to accept that and move on. The way it’s been handled has been really good internally.
On whether there was any communication from the Kroenkes:
Yes, I had some communication from them as well. I spoke with them yesterday and those communications were in the same terms. As always, every time we need something and every time something is happening, they are straight away ready to act, to give the answers they can do, to give us the support they can do. They’ve done it again.
On whether the Kroenkes apologised:
Yes, absolutely. Obviously they have the maximum responsibility of running the football club and this is what they said. They apologised for disturbing the team, not having the capacity or ability to communicate in a different way earlier and explain the reasons why. They wanted me to pass on the message to the players. That’s all you can ask for. The way they’ve done it, I have to accept it completely.
On if there is now mistrust between the fans and the club:
This has given a big lesson and it shows the importance of football in the world. It shows that the soul of this sport belongs to the fans and that’s it. During this pandemic for a year, we’ve been trying to sustain this industry with no fans in the stadium but when the fans have to come out and talk they’ve talked really loud and clear. They’ve sent probably the strongest message that has ever been sent in the football world. Every club leaving their interest apart have done the right thing, which is, they [the fans] are the ones [we have to listen to]. We have to listen to them. We put it out and within 24 hours they killed the project. That’s a massive statement in the history of football.
On if the big six could have any argument against facing sanctions:
I don’t know the legal details to respond to that question. Obviously, when you act and you make the decision, there are always consequences but I don’t know the extent of those consequences. I think here we have to understand the principal and the reasons why those clubs were trying to achieve something but if it wasn’t done in the right way then there are always consequences and we’re going to have to accept any there.
On why Arsenal thought it would be a good idea to join the Super League:
Well, I don’t know. I know the people who work in the organisation, first of all they are very caring for the interests of the football club. Secondly, they are very intelligent and professional people, so I am sure that they had the right reasons to start something but it clearly didn’t work, or it wasn’t the right time, or it wasn’t done in the right way or it was time to step back. It says a lot about the people who are involved in those decisions, again to undo something straight away and to show the importance to the people that are really important in this industry, which is the fans, and [they’re] the reason why we are all sitting here.
On if the Super League will eventually happen in a different form:
Football will evolve for sure, like any other sport and like any other aspect in this life. Like technology and the way that we interact with each other, there is a lot of things that are going to change in the next few years. What I’m hoping is that everything is constructive, protecting the wellbeing of football. The competition has to be the priority and the passion has to be the priority. Afterwards, the rest will take care of itself. I think if it’s done all the time with the right reasons and unifying interests I think very important achievements can be done. It will depend, I think now everything is damaged and everybody has to be working. We have a responsibility sitting here and you guys there to again rebuild that trust and put football back in the right place so we can move forward. The world is looking at us and we have a lot to say.
On how he thinks trust can be built with the Arsenal fans:
Well, I can talk with my experience since I was a player, a captain and now a manager. We have always had great communication and full support from the ownership. That goes down to every member of the football club and I think the most important way to show it is that in the most challenging period of the football club, during this pandemic, the way we have done things and the things that we have reached out as a club and the commitment every single person at the club has shown in difficult moments. Not just to be there, but when they had to help the club, we were there. That makes me really proud. The fans have to express, that is their right and they have to do it freely. For me, what it shows is the power and the capacity when they show that determination and passion to achieve what they want. If we can use this with our fans to support the team, I think that will be incredibly powerful and it will make us much, much stronger. So it’s time to leave them to express themselves and now, somehow, we have to engage them again, get them closer to us and believing in what we do. If we do that, we’ll be in a much better place.
On how important it is to not pick up any more injuries tomorrow:
I want to win the game! Then, hopefully, that will come as well. But I don’t even want to think about it. We had so many injuries in recent weeks that put the team in a difficult position but the other players are reacting well, the team is performing well and let’s go and win. That is the best medicine, always, for everything that happens: win football matches.
On whether facing Everton is a special fixture for him:
It’s a very special one. Again, for the memories that I have and the experiences that I had and because I am really attached to that football club and the people who run it as well.
On whether he agreed with joining the Super League:
I didn’t know anything about it. I was informed during the last few months that there were some conversations, but I didn’t have any detail to evaluate or have an opinion on it. Obviously, before I could start to read and understand what was happening, the project was dead already.
On the concept and if he agrees with it:
I don’t understand the concept yet and how that concept evolves and how that concept allows other participants to join, how this is shared and what the merit is behind it. I didn’t have the information.
On it being a ‘closed’ competition with guaranteed membership:
I think the competition and the ability to participate has to be earned and that has to be earned on the pitch. I will always believe and defend that.
On the club’s apology showing communication with the fans needs to be improved:
In a club like Arsenal and in football in general. We have to understand them. As I said before, I don’t want to repeat myself but this has shown the importance of the fans in world football and that they are the soul of this sport.
On the impact on the squad:
I don’t know, we tried to speak to them and we had a conversation with them. Vinai spoke in front of all of them and explained what happened, so hopefully they are in a good place. It was a big shock for all of them at first to go through, a lot to read and a lot of opinions and a lot to digest. But it’s not an excuse. We have a game tomorrow and this is the most important thing. Let’s go and beat Everton.
On whether he saw Chelsea fans protesting outside Stamford Bridge:
Again, people and fans are free to express their feelings, and if they decide to do it that way, we have to respect that and we have to listen to them. World football listened to them and that’s why they made the decision afterwards to withdraw from the project.
On whether defeat on Friday makes the Europa League our last chance for European qualification:
I think mathematically it’s possible and we will give it a go knowing that it doesn’t depend on us.
On whether he was worried about how fans would react to the news:
It didn’t give me much time to be worried because I saw the reaction straight away, so it wasn’t just what will be my perception. It was loud and clear that no one was having it, so I think by the time it came out, it was already dead.
On whether he’s spoken to Pep Guardiola about it:
I was going to, but again, by the time that was happening, it didn’t even give us time because we knew what was happening. It was clear that we were going to get out of it and it wasn’t necessary.
On whether he agrees with Pep that it ‘wouldn’t be sport’:
Well, the main reason why we are here is because we have the uncertainty of winning or losing, and we can dream. We can dream about winning against anybody, earning the possibility to be in a better place, and as well, the risk of being in a worse place, and that’s what keeps everybody alive.
On whether he worried about Arsenal being competitive in a Super League:
It’s depending on what the details were behind it. What resources we were going to have, what was the timing of it, depending on many, many aspects, so it’s difficult to answer that.
On whether he feels let down by the owners:
No, I feel very supported by everybody at the club. I feel privileged, again, and I will say it loud and clear, again, the way we have dealt with this pandemic internally with all the issues that we had in recent months, there have been loads and unprecedented for this football club, internally and externally, I still see everybody coming here with a smile on their faces and proud to represent this football club. This for me is a big achievement and something I’m really proud about because everybody is contributing to that, from the top to the bottom of the club.
On when he first spoke to the players about it:
They’re free to express themselves. Obviously we were involved in the process, so you have to respect that when you don’t do that, people are going to have different opinions with information that they can read or guess, and that was the case. Hector made a post and he was free to do it and express his opinion.
On whether he hopes his players won’t be distracted:
Well, I will try to prepare the team in the best possible way so that isn’t the case. We know that we might have a situation outside the stadium because our fans want to express their feelings, and our job is to try to make the team as focused as possible to perform on the pitch.
Quotes courtesy of Arsenal.com
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