Arsenal will go to war with Leeds United at the Emirates on Sunday, knowing that a win would be absolutely integral to their hopes of finishing in the top six this season. Losing again really isn’t an option when you take a quick glance at the Premier League table, regardless of how well Marcelo Bielsa’s men may be playing right now.
Before the Gunners lock horns with Leeds, manager Mikel Arteta spoke with the media about several topics as the race for a place in Europe goes on.
On the competition for places between Leno and Ryan:
I think Mat played a really good game, and for a first game he played for us after so little training I think he was really good. I really like the way he reacted because conceding that goal on your debut so early, and still reacting the way he did showed a lot of character from him. That is why we brought him here because he has to be an option and he has to keep pushing Bernd.
On having a week on the training pitch:
We couldn’t work some days because of the snow and the conditions on the pitch, but it was unusual for us to have a week to prepare. But we reviewed a lot of things we have done in recent weeks and the reasons we have won a lot of games and the reasons we lost in the last few games in a strange way when we didn’t deserve to do it. It is completely down to us and what we have to do better.
On what he thinks about Leeds:
They are a really brave, dynamic and attacking side. I think they are a really exciting side, a great coach, great coaching staff who are all involved and a bunch of players who believe 100 per cent in what they do and they just go in every game with the same energy and enthusiasm to get the points. I think they deserve more points than they have in the table at the moment.
On the online social media abuse directed towards players:
Of course, we’ve spoken internally to the players and tried to give them some advice and tried to protect them as much as possible. The incident that occurred a few days ago with Mike Dean is completely unacceptable and I think we should all stand for him and support Mike and the referring community as well. They have a tremendously difficult role in the league at the moment with a lot of key decisions that effect teams and leagues one way or the other, but at the same time they try to do their best. They prepare in the best possible way and we all make mistakes and I think we have to support them.
On if the league position can be explained by the amount of absentees we’ve had this season:
I don’t know. I don’t like to use any excuses. It is what it is. We have to adapt and we have other players trying to do the job but at certain moments you need some consistency, you need a team that has to play and you see all the successful teams and you need some consistency in your starting XIs and get that chemistry, that cohesion, that togetherness there and we haven’t been able to do that. It’s the context, it’s the situation, it’s COVID, it’s a strange year with no pre-season, there’s a lot of factors there but I think still we could be in a much better place just looking at what we’ve done in games ourselves and what we have given away.
On Marcelo Bielsa’s ‘murderball’ in training:
Yes I’ve heard about it. I’ve seen it. Marcelo has some incredible methods. You just have to see the way the team plays and some of the things they do constantly, some habits that they have that they implement throughout the game with such a conviction. There’s a lot of things that young coaches like me can learn from people like him who have been in the game for a long time and have been really successful.
On Leeds using attack as the best form of defence:
When you look at a lot of the game they’ve lost and how they’ve lost them, it’s pretty incredible as well. Maybe they haven’t deserved those defeats. They’ve been really punished on set-pieces as well, which is one key area there. But overall what they’ve produced in open-play compared to the opponent, it’s difficult to see games where they have produced less than the opponent.
On whether he’s a Bielsa disciple:
No I’m not a disciple because I don’t know him that well! Pep knows him much better than I do but obviously you try to learn, to try to pick up things from other teams. I will be interested to learn how they develop their teams, their ethos, their way of playing. Marcelo’s got a lot of positive things to look at.
On whether we will now start to prioritise the UEL:
The priority is Leeds and then we go back to Europe. Obviously it’s a competition that we know can give us access to what we want. There’s still a long way to go, still a very strange year as well with the locations of where we’re going to be playing those games. Let’s go step by step.
On whether the priority for Mikel is protecting those around him:
Absolutely, but we are lucky enough as well that the club is very supportive. We do what we have to do when those things happen. My only purpose is just, it’s not going to happen tomorrow, but can we do something about it in the medium to long term to protect the people that are involved in the game, and maybe in other industries it happens in the same way.
On why Martinelli isn’t starting most games:
Well, he came back and did really well, but then he picked up another injury. It took him a while to come and now it’s about getting in his rhythm and getting his place in the team like anybody else. Don’t forget that we played him last time against Manchester United and he started ahead of other players, so it’s not like he’s not having the opportunities. We know that he’s got a huge potential and he’s done some really good things since he’s come back. He has a lot of things to develop in his game because of course at his age it’s normal.He came here from a different league and physically it’s much more demanding than the Spanish league. He got injured, he wanted to get back, he got back and then he got injured again, so his rhythm has been in and out. He hasn’t had a pre-season and he hasn’t had the type of that is needed for such a change. Then it’s probably anxiety from being so willing to do well and to feel important because he’s a big signing. All those things add up and he broke down again, so we have to be patient now and he needs to recover properly because he’s going to be key for us.
Quotes courtesy of Arsenal.com
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