Cup and European competitions have been Arsenal’s salvation so far this season and, in general, they’ve been the saviour of manager Mikel Arteta. Gunners fans will be desperate for that trend to continue on into 2021 and beyond, but before we get there, Arsenal must first try and edge their way past Manchester City in a huge Carabao Cup quarter-final tie tonight.
In what some still believe could be one of his final press conferences as manager, Mikel Arteta took the time to speak with the media prior to the game.
On a result in the Carabao Cup being a distraction from the league:
This is what we want to use it for, as well it’s a competition we want to try to win. We have two difficult opponents before in Leicester and Liverpool, we managed to beat them both and now we are playing at home and we are one step closer to Wembley. So it is a really nice game to play, as this is the type of game we are looking for through the season.
On if the job is tougher than he thought when he took it:
Well, I could not think about some of the challenges we have been through this year for many different reasons, some internal at the club and some external with the pandemic. Then as well with some results that we have picked up in the last few months in the Premier League, but probably as well I could not imagine some of the nice moments we had when I stepped in. I knew the challenges that we were facing, that we had been going through for a couple of years or more already, so some really positive highlights and obviously now everything is looking a bit more negative because of our form in the Premier League.
On whether he is feeling any pressure from within:
No, from within the club everything I am feeling is just support, encouragement, and total confidence that we will get through this together. Externally I never read what is happening, I know more or less what is happening but I never read it: in beautiful moments I don’t read it, in difficult moments I don’t read it, I just try to focus on the job and what I have to do. But obviously a club of this stature deserves the best and when it is not happening, everyone is going to question what is happening. I am the most responsible one in terms of results, so I have to accept that.
On whether he is worried about relegation:
Well, when you are in this position and you have the points that we have at the moment, you have to look and be careful because we haven’t been a lot of times in this position. I think last year when I came in we were in a very similar position and the same talk was around the place, it is normal because we need to start picking up points and then forget about it and start to look up the table much further. But it is a normal thing to do when you just look at the table and get the conclusions pretty quickly.
On the atmosphere in the dressing room at the moment:
I didn’t say that I don’t pay attention, I said I don’t read. I do pay attention and I have to be aware, and I am aware of what is happening and that s part of my job. What I am saying is that I don’t read, if I started to read all the comments whether they are positive or negative, it would drive me mad and my suggestion to every player is exactly the same, all the time it happens with social media as well because you cannot control who is writing or what their intentions are so it is a very dangerous thing to do. When you talk about the dressing room and the atmosphere at the club, the atmosphere is good, as good as it can be when we are all hurting because results in the Premier League are hurting us. Everyone is worried and everybody is suffering because we want much more. We are working to get much more. In the dressing room when you are losing football matches it is difficult because they suffer as well because they care, because they want more, because the confidence level starts to go, but the unity is there. Is there 100 per cent unity around the club? It is impossible in any club even when you win because when players are not participating, it is more difficult but when you look at the perspective about how we are losing football matches and how we are where we are, it is pretty incredible. Last year we won the game against Everton with a 25 per cent chance of winning, you win 3-2. Last weekend, it was a 67 per cent chance of winning, any Premier League game in history, and a nine per cent chance of losing, and you lose. Three per cent against Burnley and you lose, seven per cent against Spurs, and you lose. There is something else apart from that it is not just the performance on the pitch, it is something else that needs to go our way and at the moment it doesn’t. Saying that, it doesn’t care and you lose, and the only thing that anyone cares is that you lose a football match and this what he hear.
On why possession isn’t converting itself into chances:
I’m zero interested in ball possession. I’m interested in what we do with that ball and how efficient we are. Our conversion rate and our finishing quality is that is letting us down at the moment because with the rest it’s what it should be to win many, many football matches. And it worked there before and we were winning because our finishing quality was through the roof and we were winning these football matches. At the end of the day in football, both boxes make the difference and if you don’t make it right in your own one and when you get into your opponent’s box you don’t put it in the net, that’s what makes results go one way or the other.
On if he is concerned about the negative impact of current form on younger players:
It’s part of what they have to do and what they have to go through to become really important players for this football club. You have to see how people react in difficult moments and they have to experience it themselves, to get through these difficult moments and how they’re going to handle that pressure. If they are able to do that, they have to handle good moments and how they handle that to continue performing at the level that is required here. So it’s another experience for them and I must say that they have been much more mature, responsible and efficient than I was expecting. So in my opinion, they are doing really well.
On how the pressure compares to being the assistant at a club like Manchester City:
Well, it’s different because at the end of the day the decision making is completely down to you. You are in the spotlight when things are going well and when things are not going well. That’s the biggest difference. There are a lot of similarities in certain areas but it’s not like being the main man and the decision maker and that changes it all.
On whether winning the Carabao Cup would be good enough for the club this season:
It’s not enough, isolating just one competition. We have to play every competition to try to win it. Last season, we managed to win two of those and we have a really nice opportunity because we’ve done really well in the competition this year and tomorrow’s game is another step forward to be closer to winning another trophy and this is what we are going to try to do. But this doesn’t mean that it’s going to reflect on the rest or it’s going to look better because at the moment – whatever happens in any other competition – in the Premier League we’re nowhere near where we should be.
On whether he would consider walking away from the job:
I don’t like to think about those steps because then I will be thinking in a negative way and I cannot do that. At the moment, I have to try to be as positive as I can, believe in what we’re doing, try to modify things to make it work better, and stay strong. We’re going through a lot of difficulties, the last thing we want to be thinking of is more problems coming up in the next few months. I’m not in that state of mind. I know the responsibility that I have and why I am here. Everybody knows that from a few months ago, this wasn’t going to be resolved really quickly. I think that’s the consciousness of everybody at the club.
Quotes courtesy of Arsenal.com
Can Arsenal pull off the upset tonight?