There are a lot of things to talk about right now within Arsenal Football Club – from the fact that the Vitoria game today is kicking off at 3.50pm to Granit Xhaka being stripped as captain of the first team. As we look ahead to this afternoon’s game, Hector Bellerin and Unai Emery have both taken the time to address the media ahead of the encounter.
On negativity surrounding the club:
HB – Well first of all, good evening everyone. It’s been a tough couple of weeks in terms of the results but I always say that the good thing with football and at a club like Arsenal is that you have the chance to redeem yourself every two or three days. So we’ve been analysing and working hard in these couple of days that we’ve had and tomorrow we’re looking to get back to winning ways and to get a positive atmosphere back into the dressing room. That’s the message. We keep working, we keep trying hard to do our best and in this competition, we want to go far in it and it’s important that we keep our heads straight.
On what he thinks about Vitoria:
UE – Good evening. It’s not an easy game, no. We played the first match against them and they showed us their capacity. Also, Portuguese teams are very organised, they have good players and every coach from Portugal I know is a very good coach. We are thinking, after the first result [in London] that was 3-2, that we know here it will be more difficult [as they will be at home].
On Xhaka being out of the squad:
UE – Again, we can do one step more with him. He’s not here today but also I think we need to take time with him, first to protect him and also to be calm and training with us every day. But I was speaking with him this morning and also I decided he’s not one of the captains in our group and I decided that and I told him this morning.
On Xhaka’s response to the decision:
UE – He accepted my decision and also I told the captain and other captain my decision, we need to carry on and to focus on tomorrow’s match and Saturday’s match. I needed to take one decision, and now it is closed.
On Xhaka situation influencing the dressing room:
HB – Well, as I commented after the night of the game, I think sometimes it’s hard to deal with your feelings. He knows he made a mistake but as a dressing room we all have to be together. These things happen and that’s it, we all back him. He’s playing his part now and we respect the players. We respect the decision of the coach and the club. For us, it’s just to give him our love and care and for us, he is one of us, so we’re just helping him get through it as well.
To be continued…