For the final time this season, Mikel Arteta took his seat in front of the media at London Colney for his pre-match press conference ahead of the game against Wolves.
The boss was asked about Sunday’s final fixture, as well as Bukayo Saka’s new contract, his plans for the summer and his assessment about things on and off the pitch during the course of the campaign.
Here is everything he had to say:
on team news:
We had some issues this week – well, in the last few weeks – as you’ve noticed, some players were unable to play and to participate in the games, with Reiss. We have a little issue with Bukayo, which has been going on, and with Leo [Trossard]. The rest I think are going to be fine. Alex [Zinchenko] is still out. William is still out. Tomiyasu is still out. Elneny is still out. There are a few that are not available but the rest are all good.
on any issues as to whether Saliba will be back for pre-season:
It’s probably too early to say. I think he’s evolving in the right way. In the last few weeks, they’ve been much more positive than in the previous two months. We wanted to protect him; it’s an injury that needs some care and attention. We’ve been pretty conservative to give him the best possible chance to have a good pre-season and go again in the next season.
on Saka’s new contract:
It’s great news for the club. I think the club has done a great job with what it has participated in that deal to make it happen. He’s a crucial player for us who represents our club in the best possible way. Hopefully there are a few more to come.
on his parting message to the fans ahead of the summer:
Now it’s about finishing the season in style, providing a great performance and getting a victory in front of our people. We want to show our gratitude and receive the incredible energy that they have given us throughout the season, and start to build for the next season. We have to wrap it up in the best possible way. It’s been some journey, full of emotions, and really looking forward [to something] that in the end we haven’t achieved. But I think looking at it with a bit of perspective, there are a lot of things – not only on the field – that have happened at the club that deserves a lot of credit from a lot of people.
on needing to ‘nail’ the transfer window:
We have to nail everything that we do and we have to seek excellence in everything that we touch and participate in, to have a big impact at the club. I think the competition is going to be even harder than this season. In my opinion, it’s been the hardest of the 22 years that I’ve been in this league. In order to do that, we have a really promising plan. We may have to reflect a little bit, take a step back, make sure this is the right one and go again with more determination and hunger in the tummies to do even better.
on the synergy between the club and the supporters:
It’s very close to the dream I had. Two days before I sat down in the managerial position I was on the other bench, looking at that picture that I wasn’t really happy with. I had a very similar position in my head of some of the experiences we’ve had this year. Something important is missing – lifting the cup with everybody together. That’s what we have to try to do now.
on the feeling going into the last game of the season compared to last year:
There are some similarities when you don’t reach what you want at the end. There is still something that doesn’t allow you to be as happy as you want to be, but it is different obviously. I think we have made some huge steps as a football club and I think we have made huge steps as a team. The way we are competing, the way we are transmitting – there are a lot of positives. But we are Arsenal. Arsenal have to win, Arsenal have to be the best and we haven’t been able to deliver that to the club.
on describing the season in one word:
Connection. I think the team has connected, I think the club has connected. The departments at the clubs have connected with each other in a really powerful way. The crowd has connected with the team, the club, the ownership and the rest of the world. And I think we have connected again with our DNA: who we are, our way of doing things, and we have to move forward.
on whether there will be end-of-season celebrations:
No celebrations, obviously. First of all, from our side, we’ll show gratitude for everything the players and the staff have done – the work they have put in, the energy, the passion. We had dinner last week, all together. I imagine that moment in the stadium [on Sunday] when we have our family and everybody there, will be a good moment to wrap the season up, look at each other and go again.
on his impression of Julen Lopetegui:
He’s done a great job, again. I think he got the club in a really difficult position in the middle of the season and straightaway, he transformed performances and resources to make sure Wolves were safe much earlier than anybody could expect, probably, and he did it in a really difficult environment.
on who’s looking after Win the dog in the summer:
I think we have three or 400 candidates who want to look after her so that won’t be an issue! She will be very well looked after.
on whether we’ll start our dealings early in the upcoming transfer window:
That certainly contributed to the team getting the right foundation, building the right chemistry and reaching the right level of comfort and security with the new players to give them a little bit of time to adapt to a new life in a new country and a new team. That happened in a natural way. We had some great players, but also some really good characters who grew into the team so quickly. We generated from the beginning while we want it and results help, which is crucial. Then we started to have good momentum.
on the status of Granit Xhaka:
I cannot talk and I won’t talk about the future of any player. We have to wrap up the season and then we will plan the following season.
on whether Takehiro Tomiyasu will return for pre-season:
I think he’s really close. Hopefully, he will be around for pre-season like Willy [Saliba] to be in a good place. They have been working so hard and it’s been a really difficult year for him with some of the issues he’s had. He’s a tremendous person and a top professional and we just want him to be available because when he’s available he’s really helpful for the team.
on what Mikel has done day-to-day to help our progress this season:
We are reflecting on that and there are a lot of things that have been done really well across the club, across the first team, staff and around the players. But in this league, it is not enough, we have to look and dig in really deeply. What can we do better? What the players are going to need, what the club is going to need next season so we can provide the best possible chance for those players to get the best out of them for 10-and-a-half-months in a really exciting season. That is the thought process, and we have to go again and nail it.
on how he will try to get the most out of all our players:
First of all, I have to be critical of myself. My job is to get the best out of 24 players we have available and I haven’t been able to do that. There are three or four I would say that still have huge potential but for different reasons, they haven’t been able to do that [this season]. Whether it’s injuries or game time or whether it’s because I haven’t had the opportunity or I have decided not to play them enough. We have to look for those margins because those margins are within us and the players that we already have, and our job is to make them better.
on whether he watched Man City lift the title last Sunday:
Not the whole match. I watch part of that game, and then I watched part of the celebrations, but I didn’t sit there for eight hours watching it.
on what went through his mind:
That’s what I want. If they won it, it’s for a reason. We have to do a lot of things right – almost perfect – in this league, and they have managed to do that.
on our selling point is when we try to attract top players in the summer:
Explaining who we are, how we do things, what we want from them, how we think they are going to fit in in our culture, in our club, and then trying to do the right thing as a club. Buying the right profile for the right amount of money that is going to fit what we are going to do, and in the end players and staff are going to make our car faster and more reliable to have a great season.
on whether the World Cup had an impact on the players later in the season:
I’m sure it had, but I think we used that part of the season really well with what happened here. We had some issues in terms of injuries that had a big impact on the team, but we could not control that. It was something that we had to adapt to, and the staff did an incredible job to plan in the way we wanted to maximise it, but there are some things that are unpredictable and happen unfortunately, and it was difficult.
on whether it will affect how much rest they get this summer:
For some of them, you want to give them more rest but they have duties with their national teams. Some of them have personal duties they have to respond to, and others are injured. We probably have more than we have in the last few years in terms of long-term injuries and unfortunately, those players have to keep working through the summer. Psychologically it will be difficult as well because the building is empty and they have been rehabbing with a lot of demands throughout the season. We want them fresh and we have to make sure they are fresh in the mind at the start of pre-season to go again, and have the willingness to come here first day with new toys and go again.
how he supports them through that:
With the staff and myself being close to them. We have to understand how they’re feeling, what they need and what is best for them, and whether what they think is best for them and the club as well. We have to find that balance, and the way to do it is by communicating. That is the best way.
on whether Bukayo signing a new deal shows we now no longer need to lose our best players:
That’s part of the plan, and at the moment we are in a strong position to be able to do that. We decided that he’s one of the marquee players that we have at the club at the moment and we wanted to secure his future with us. We’ve been able to do that and he’s extremely happy, the club is too and that’s a good relationship to have.
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