Arsenal will lock horns with Fulham today in what we think could prove to be a really intriguing match-up. Fulham are being backed into a corner and while relegation seems likely, it isn’t a guarantee – and that’ll serve as a real challenge for the Gunners. They want to go after the Europa League crown but they need to keep things going in the Premier League too, just in case the UEL doesn’t work out.
Prior to this afternoon’s fixture, Mikel Arteta has spoken with the media about what we can all expect from the game.
On the latest team news and Auba’s situation:
As we all know, he had malaria – he picked it up when he travelled in the international break and he didn’t have any symptoms and then got some symptoms a few days later. We didn’t know what it was bus the doctor did a great job by making some further investigation and we found out he had picked it up. He had some rough days, he was in hospital for two days but now he is at home, he is safe and he is in good condition and ready to come back.
On when he will be available for selection:
Let’s see how he recovers, obviously when you get a disease like this it can take a bit for the body to feel in good condition to the extreme condition we put the body through in our sport. But he wants to come back very quickly, he is looking forward to being back with the team so let’s wait.
On the win against Slavia being good for the atmosphere at the club:
The fact that you reach a semi-final is always a big boost, this club has always to be fighting for every competition we are involved in. Last night’s performance was a big indicator that under pressure the team can perform, that they have this spirit and desire to do well and show a real character. I really liked the mindset that the players had. From the whistle at the Emirates with a disappointing result conceding so late from a set piece, the players were convinced we would go through and that was really helpful in the preparations to get what we did yesterday.
On how the Europa League affects our remaining PL games:
It has an effect because it is a real challenge playing Thursdays and Sundays it’s a real challenge in terms of recovery, preparation and rotation. It’s been like that throughout the season and with all the other restrictions, injuries, Covid regulations, we have had even more. But now it is about winning football matches, at the end of the season you know you want to get a good run if you want to progress in the Premier League. The priority now is Sunday, forget about the semi-finals, we now have two big games to play at home and we have to do our best to win them because if we do, the season will start to look a little bit different.
On the importance of momentum domestically:
I think the better we are in the league, and if we keep winning, the confidence will be higher, the spirit will be better, the players’ individual performances will maintain and that will have a knock-on effect on the Europa League, for sure.
On the challenge of facing a team who are fighting to stay in the Premier League:
Obviously, they want to maintain the club in the Premier League. In my opinion, they’ve been really unlucky with some results. I started to watch them a few days back and I really like the way Scott sets his team up. It’s really brave, they know what to do really well and again I think they’ve had some very unfair results that could have put their team in a different position. They’re going to come here to do what they always do and it will be difficult.
On if their results haven’t reflected their performances:
Absolutely. That’s how I feel. Small details have gone against them in a lot of games. There have been some decisions in the box that have defined games and they probably should have taken more from them. Credit to them for what they are doing.
On the first game of the season against Fulham:
Yes, I think that we played really well on the day. We won the game, we kept a clean sheet and we were really strong but it will be a different game. Preparation-wise, we don’t have much time to prepare this time. We know them well so let’s see.
On Alex Lacazette’s character responding to that miss:
It shows the personality that Laca has. He missed two big chances in the home game and then you have to see a reaction. That reaction could be with some fear, some doubt or feeling a little bit guilty. Or the other one is to have a strong personality and to react, to say, ‘Now I’m going to put them in the back of the net’. He’s done that in two games consecutively, being really, really efficient. Then his momentum continues, the form that he’s in continues and it’s really important for the team.
On Lacazette being a big-game player:
In key moments and in big matches, you need players – and senior players who have this experience – to make the difference for you. For me, in his style and in his development, even if he’s soon turning 30 years old, he’s on the right path because he’s very willing to learn. He’s doing things in a much better way than before. He really glues the team together and that’s a quality that is not easy for a striker. He’s got it.
On Emile Smith Rowe’s lack of fear:
When you are young and you go through new experiences, it’s really important that these first experiences are positive, because it gives you such a confidence boost in yourself. These experiences will have a huge impact on where the boys were a year ago and where they are now, and the expectation they are producing. All that has come in a really positive way so that speeds up the process of our young talent in the development phase. I think that’s really positive for them and really positive for the team and the club.
On Smith Rowe’s calmness in the box being rare for a 20-year-old:
Top players in the final third or around the box have composure. That extra second, that extra pass, that extra touch… they are in control. Emile had it, to wait for the right moment for the pass. Nico did it as well by not rushing his finish. He took a touch, he took an extra touch and then he made the right decision. It’s all about being calm and that composure in the final third. That makes a huge difference.
Quotes courtesy of Arsenal.com
Will Arsenal be able to get the job done against Fulham?