Arsenal fans are set to return to the Emirates in their limited numbers later tonight as the Gunners prepare to lock horns with Rapid Vienna.
While the atmosphere isn’t exactly going to be the same with only a few thousand supporters being permitted to enter into the ground, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Alas, it does come at a time when Arsenal fans know that their passage into the knockout stage has been secured, with many wondering what kind of side Mikel Arteta is going to put out.
Prior to the game getting underway, Arteta spoke with the media about that and so much more.
On David Luiz:
He is feeling fine, obviously he had a really nasty cut but they keep monitoring him and checking him, and he was absolutely fine. We made a statement to clarify the situation. Some people can have the perception of whether he should have continued or not, thankfully we have one of our leading authorities in this country, which is Gary O’Driscoll, our doctor, who has massive experience in not only football but rugby as well, and he knows exactly what to do. He did all the testing, he followed all the protocols and we were very comfortable for him to carry on playing. But really you have to make a decision in one minute, when someone is bleeding, when you have a massive concussion next to you with someone whose life is under threat, and maybe it is a moment where we can think to give these people a little bit more time and use a temporary substitution for example if we find ourselves in those positions. I can tell you that everything was done in the right manner and the only aim here was to protect the welfare of the player. That’s all.
On how a concussion substitute would help:
If you have any doubt, at any moment and you need an extra two minutes or five minutes to check someone, maybe we can think about that. After five minutes you need make a decision to find a sub, the player is really pushing you, he is talking about everything, David was constantly asking about Raul, he went to see Raul, he was totally conscious about the situation, the player wants to carry on playing and the doctor has to tick all the necessary boxes to be certain that the player is okay to continue. Of we have any extra doubt, okay we give them a bit more time if necessary but you cannot play as well 10 or 15 minutes with 10 men in football.
On whether the rule should be brought in now:
I don’t know, it is just a suggestion. You want to be extra careful, extra cautious. I don’t know, maybe it is an option.
On whether David could face Tottenham on Sunday:
I think he will be fit to play if the scar is healing properly and he is comfortable heading the ball, there shouldn’t be any problems.
On how excited they all are about having the fans back:
It is going to be extraordinary to have them back, it will feel strange, the club has done amazing work to facilitate everybody at short notice to be able to attend the stadium and I am sure it will work really well. I am feeling sorry as well for thousands of fans that I am sure would like to make it, but can’t be there.
On whether there could be a lot more fans attending in a few months:
I don’t know, with the way the pandemic has developed. Before, we thought it was only a two-week lockdown and we found ourselves in it for three or four months. Who knows how it is going to develop? What we can do as a club, we will do our maximum obviously.
On the vaccine helping to get more fans back:
Yes, that would be great. As I said, we are ready to host as many as we possibly can. It is going to depend on how the pandemic develops, the new measurements when we start to open things up a little bit and see how people react to that. Hopefully we can do that.
On our lack of form:
Well, I am really worried with the results and the margins that we are losing games. When we analyse the games afterwards, why we are losing these football games when they are so tight, there is a reason that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. We need to recover that. Sometimes it’s a lack of confidence in certain moments, we concede that we’ve probably not hit our standards, and obviously the goals we need to score to win football matches more consistently. When you compare what Wolves did and what we did, in a normal scenario, we should not lose that game.
On the lack of goals:
Well, there are many factors, if you compare the Premier League with the Europa League, it’s different. If you look in the last few years, how the team has shared the goals in the Premier League, it’s been quite limited. That’s not an issue that is happening now, it’s an issue that’s been happening for years. That has to be resolved. To put almost 80 per cent of that responsibility on one man is not fair. As a team, we have to resolve that. As a team, we get into a lot of situations and sometimes the service is not right, sometimes the timing is not right, sometimes the last execution is not right but as a team there are certain things that we have to do better. Again, it’s coming from a long way. We’ve been winning matches producing similar numbers but we’ve been very efficient. That sometimes is a state of energy, a state of mind, a state of confidence that you are doing everything right. When it gets to the moment you hit [the ball] and it doesn’t hit the post, and if it does hit the post, it goes in. That’s the difference. Football in the end is about the cohesion and the energy and belief of the team. When you lose games that gets touched and that’s one of the beauties of this sport, how you react against that adversity.
On how we’re going to spread goals around the team:
I never think about the future in a negative way. I try to work as hard as possibly can to believe that it is good to get changed tomorrow. I think it is the first time in the Premier League that we’ve produced 33 crosses. I’m telling you if we do that more consistently, we’re going to score more goals. If we put the bodies that we had in certain moments during that game in the box, it’s maths, pure maths. It will happen. It’s about how consistently we can do that, with what level of quality. We will keep trying, don’t worry.
On what differences he expects from the first game:
Nothing different, I think we know each other much better now after the first game where we had periods where we had difficulties to attack, the way they set-up. I saw a really committed team, really going into every challenge really focused. They were hard to beat, they went ahead after we conceded a goal and the team had a really good reaction after that so they need to win and I’m expecting that they come here with the aim to make it difficult and to come here and try to win the game again.
On whether the Europa League will be treated differently:
We’ve been really consistent in other competitions. Apart from the Premier League, I think we’ve played 16 competitive games and we’ve won 10, lost five and drawn one and all of them in the Premier League. We cannot treat any game differently. We go there tomorrow with a really bad taste for losing the game against Wolves and we have to put it right. The best way to do it is to be at your best level and win football matches.
On whether he has had previous discussions with the medical team about the need for temporary concussion substitutions:
Yes, we have had conversations regarding that issue and there have been conversations going on. Obviously, what happens in football is very common in other sports and it’s just a suggestion that we want to be extra protective, which I think we have to be in certain moments when we are considering the welfare of the players and how to have a fair competition while the game is still running. It’s an option and Gary [O’Driscoll, Head of Medical Services] has a huge amount of respect around the world and a huge amount of experience in all these kind of things.
On what he thinks has been learnt from Sunday:
I think there are certain things in this sport that are inevitable, so that clash, hopefully not but the probability is that it happens. I don’t know to what extent how can we avoid that, I think it’s almost impossible. There are so many unpredictable things that can happen when you have 22 players running in all kinds of directions, fighting for a ball. Again, I insist with the protocols and with everything that we did in terms of the testing and trying to protect the players straight away. You could see the assistants in the stadium and how quickly they went to look after Raul, and from here, we want to wish him the best recovery and love to his family as well and to Wolves because it was a really difficult time and let’s see what happens in the future. But honestly, it’s difficult to avoid these circumstances. It happened in the past and we hope that it’s never going to happen again, but nobody can guarantee that.
On Thomas Partey:
He’s been training separately in the last week or so and we have to scan him again to see how he’s feeling. He’s a player that is so willing, that is pushing us every day and he wants to do it. At the same time, we have to protect him and make sure that when he gets back in the team, he is ready to do that and to whatever extent of minutes we can use him, so it’s going to be crucial with the moment he starts to train with the team to see how he is feeling and how he is evolving day-to-day.
On whether he thinks Thomas could be involved on Sunday:
We don’t know again, he is really pushing every day and he’s trying to get around the doctor and the physios but he hasn’t trained with the team yet so let’s see this week if he can get a session or two and then assess him, we need to scan him again so we can see the extent of the injury and how it’s healed. I know if it’s up to Thomas then he wants to play tomorrow. We have to see medically that he is safe to participate at all.
On whether he feels more obliged to name a stronger XI with fans there:
I think honestly with the names at the end of the day, we’re going to play players that we believe can perform at the level that is required in this competition. Obviously we have a massive game on Sunday but we need to get back from the defeat as well, and it’s important not just to the respect the fans who are here, but for the club we represent. We need to give a really good performance and we have to win the game.
Quotes courtesy of Arsenal.com
How excited are you to see fans return to the Emirates?