Arsenal boss Arteta: A Big Weekend for the Club

Arsenal boss Arteta on 'massive' City clash, injury latest on Gabriel, Saka, Martinelli, on Ben White, Kai Havertz, Conti Cup and more

Arsenal boss Arteta: A Big Weekend for the Club

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has been speaking ahead of a 'big weekend for the club'

After three weeks without a game, the Premier League is back with a bang as we face our title rivals Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, and as usual Mikel Arteta met the media beforehand.

Journalists packed into the Sobha Realty Training Centre to hear his thoughts on numerous topics, including team news, our recent meetings with City, his friendship with Pep Guardiola and much more.

Here is everything the boss had to say ahead of the big game:

on whether Gabriel, Saka and Martinelli could feature:

There is a chance. They haven’t trained but tomorrow we have another session so there is a chance that they can be available.

on if the international break came at a bad time for our momentum:

You can’t do anything about it, that moment is gone. They had to go to their national teams and we have maximised as much as we possibly could during the time we had here with certain players. Now everybody's back and so positive about what is coming and looking forward to it.

on the belief we gained after beating City in October:

We had some clashes as well in the FA Cup and Community Shields and it's all great experiences. They have raised the bar in this league, and I think in football in general too, to a level that hasn’t been seen before. That's the beauty of sport, it makes you better and challenges you more. You have to keep up with that pace, and that's what we are trying to do.

on if things feel differently than when we last played at the Etihad Stadium:

It is different. Momentum is different, we had certain results and some big injuries in that moment but those experiences are there to learn from. Sometimes we have to clap the opponent when they are better than you and that was the case on the day, learn from it and challenge yourself to be better.

on if his relationship with Pep Guardiola has changed since he joined us:

It had to change, but my admiration and what I feel for him, certainly not. In my opinion, he is the best coach in the world by a mile and is one of the nicest people that I have met in football, certainly one of the ones that I have had more fun and a laugh working with, and that's going to stay there forever. Obviously our roles at the moment are what they are and you have to adapt to the situation. It is what it is, but that happens the same in relationships with players. I had some teammates here and then you become the coach and that relationship has to adapt. You cannot feel differently about the person but professionally you have to act differently.

on how Ben White is after not joining up with England:

I think he has received a lot of love and you just have to see what his teammates and everybody in football think of them, especially the ones that have been close to him. I think people have respected his decision and hopefully one day he is prepared to represent his country in the best possible way, but that's completely up to him.

on why Ben made himself unavailable:

That's a question for him and he's the one who has to reply.

on what he took from our last away game at City:

The level that we are facing and where we want to be. Certainly, that's where we want to be and you have to make strong steps to get there. I think we have made some big ones in the last two or three years and we're getting much closer and now it is about how you close that gap and actually try to be better than them.

on having beaten one of the best teams in the world this season:

That’s great, but it’s the competition and it’s the same with Liverpool. They have earned the right for everybody to look at them as an example because what they have done has been phenomenal. To do it in this league and to do it consistently like they have done, I think it’s helped raise our level and our demands, to try to be like them and beat them.

on being in another exciting title race:

I was just watching everybody walk into the building and I love the energy. I love the smiles, they were glad to be back, and they actually wanted to train yesterday. The way they communicate and relay with each other is phenomenal. We have to embrace the moment, we need to go day-by-day, train really well and prepare for every match and see where this can take us. We’ve done a lot already to be in the position that we are in and now we have to embrace and enjoy the moment and go for it.

on if this is the most confident he has been taking us to the Etihad Stadium:

I have full belief and trust in my players and what we are trying to do. It’s something that we have to show on the pitch, outside is very easy to talk.

on Gareth Southgate speaking about Ben White’s situation:

I don’t know. That’s something between them, I don’t know what the arrangements are and what they have agreed, that’s completely up to them.

on fighting for titles with Guardiola:

Probably I would prefer to do it against somebody else, so I don’t have those feelings! But it’s not the choice and it’s what it is, and that’s it. People want to win; we know each other very well and we’ll prepare the game to win it.

on if he got him anything for his birthday:

No, he didn’t.

on the scale of the weekend with the Conti Cup final on Sunday too:

It’s a big weekend for the club. We wish them all the best for the final, I think what they’re doing is incredible and I hope that they’re going to get a lot of support as well, so that’s great news. Let’s go for it.

on the way Guardiola has innovated the sport:

I know the passion that he lives the game, the intelligence, the way he handles his team and the club as well, and how demanding he is, and then he has an incredible work ethic. That’s something that people don’t see; it’s a lot of work behind the scenes and he’s managed to do it for three different clubs at the top league level every single season, and that’s a huge quality.

on if he hopes that Ben White will play for England again:

As his manager, I want the best for him personally and professionally, and he really needs to feel it. If one day he does, and that’s the case, I think that will be the best option for everybody, but you’ll have to respect that.

on the secret behind our good away form this season:

The secret I don’t know – it’s probably that we try to play the same way away that we do at home and have that belief and aggression in our play. You have to play every team twice and we know the fixtures that we have but I’m looking forward to it.

on how he’s convinced the players that they’re able to win away from home:

That belief comes as well by winning and starting to win at grounds you haven’t won at for many years. You do it somewhere else and that belief takes momentum. Now they approach away games very similarly to home games. You cannot replicate it, but at least mentally. The purpose they play with is very similar.

on if the momentum puts us in a better place to beat Man City than in previous seasons:

Let’s hope so. It is different actually than the previous game we did before this season and now we have to prove that on the pitch.

on if playing after the international break impacts the quality of the game:

A great question, I don’t know. Hopefully, from our side, no. Hopefully we can maintain what we’re doing and be at our best.

on the March international break and players withdrawing from international duty:

I think in general the whole calendar has to be looked at because there are a lot of games, but that’s a topic that we all know and it doesn’t look like we are going to affect it in the right way, but you’ve seen a lot of games and a lot of players with different circumstances throughout this international period.

on how clubs and countries co-operate over player availability:

We try to have the best possible communication with the national teams, but in the end, they have the capacity to select the players and use them how they feel. I always feel that they want to protect the players as well but it’s true that they have their own pressures. They have to deliver in their roles and I will never get into their position to tell them they can’t give their opinion and explain in the most open way how players are feeling and what we recommend but it’s entirely up to them.

on what we need to change to perform better towards the end of the season this year:

It’s a lot of details. There are specific moments, like you’re at Anfield 2-0 up and have the momentum to go on and win the game but you don’t, you end up drawing. The West Ham game in the same position, you can still win it and you miss the penalty. Those two games and the third one comes in with Southampton where we should’ve clearly won the game and there were many factors that didn’t allow us. We got the injuries, the Sporting game, there was a lot happening then and that momentum was shifted to a more negative momentum. We were struggling to keep up [with City] because they kept winning, they won 14 or 15 games in a row and they managed to do it.

on the importance of Sunday’s game in the context of the title race:

It’s a massive game for both teams, that’s for sure, because it will give us a huge push again if we go there and win it, but I still feel there is a long, long way after to make all the ground to win it.

on how important Kai Havertz is for this weekend:

He’s been in great form. His overall performances have been really complete both for his country and us, and then his goalscoring threat obviously. It’s a player who has been playing different positions and fulfilling those roles in a great way. We will see how we use him for this game.

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