Mikel Arteta held his pre-RC Lens press conference at London Colney on Tuesday afternoon.
The boss was quizzed on the latest team news, the importance of Bukayo Saka – who made his Arsenal debut five years ago on Wednesday – the impact of Leandro Trossard and more.
Here is everything he had to say on the following subjects:
on Fabio Vieira’s fitness:
Yeah, we’ve got a problem with him. He’s been having some discomfort and we tried to have alternative treatment with him, and he wasn’t improving so we’ve sent him to see a specialist and that was to get an operation done in his groin, and we did that yesterday. We’re expecting him to be out for weeks now.
on when he will be available:
We don’t expect him to do that [be back this side of the break], so let’s see how he evolves and obviously, the operation was done yesterday so we’re going to have to wait and see, but we will take it as it comes.
on Ben White’s fitness:
Yes, and he trained the day before the Brentford game, and he was feeling good, and I think he’ll be available. That’s very good news for us.
on possibly winning the group with a game to spare:
Yeah, we do want to win the game, that’s for sure. We want to be top of the group and the opportunity is there for us tomorrow, against a team that causes problems, and that we’ve already experienced against them, so we have the right motivation to do that tomorrow.
on how important it is to win:
We have to win at home, and we have to win the group if we can tomorrow. That’s the mentality of the team, that’s for sure.
on Bukayo being targeted in Lens:
Well, he’s targeted because he’s one of our most dangerous players and the teams know that, and they try to stop our strengths, that’s for sure. What he’s done in those five years [since his debut] is remarkable at his age, when you look at his stats, and how consistent he’s been, it’s very rare to see that at his age, especially in those positions at top clubs. It’s a big compliment for him.
on whether Bukayo Saka is world class:
Well, he played at the World Cup, he plays in the national team, so I don’t know what world class means, but he’s a top, top player, that’s for sure.
on how integral he is for club and country:
He’s a huge part of both teams, that’s for sure, and you have to see the impact he has in games, he’s crucial for us, and we know what we want him to be, and Bukayo needs to be a main part of that.
on whether Saka can maintain his form over next five or ten years:
Well, getting to the top is one thing, but maintaining is something else. He’s done it for five years, and as well you can see that the way he’s improving, he’s really steady, but really fast as well. He’s got the right mentality because he’s got the right family, the right people around him, and he’s still so humble. He has the right advice around him and that’s what makes him special, because he wants more and there is much more to come.
on whether Trossard was best value for money from his signings:
I don’t know about the financial side, I’m not an economist at the club! I think he’s a tremendous player, that has great talent and especially great intelligence to play the way we want to play, so he’s a really good fit for us
on how important his versatility is:
That was one of the main reasons why we signed him; he’s got experience in the league, he’s done what he’s done in the league already, and we had a lot of issues in January in our frontline, and he could cover those necessities in a really efficient way, and he’s proven that he can do all that.
on whether the achievement of qualifying is over-looked:
No, 100% no. You have to sweat and dig in a lot and play well and deserve a lot in games to win them. We played against really top opponents, against PSV, they won all the games in the league, and they only lost against us. Then you go to Sevilla, a really difficult place to go. Tomorrow is going to be a really difficult game, but hopefully we can be better than them.
on how Arteta is enjoying the Champions League:
I am enjoying it, it’s a great feeling. It makes you proud, it makes me feel that this is the level the club should be at, and we’ve been competing really well, so let’s continue to do so.
on whether he has anything to prove in Europe:
For sure. We have to prove (ourselves). We have to come back to Europe being the club we want to be and have that presence and those results that tell you that we are back in a strong way. We haven’t done that yet, that has to be done.
on how he deals against teams defending deeply:
By practising, like everything. Obviously when there is less space and more density, it’s more difficult to score a goal. I think we attacked much better than we have done in other moments when a team defended with that block. There are certain things that we are insisting a lot to do, to create more issues for opponents. The more we practice, the better we will be. Sometimes we don’t want to provoke that but we will because the team wants to do it. It’s about finding the right key to unlock the doors in relation to what the team wants to do.
on reducing the openness of games compared to last season:
Game stage is a big thing. Last year we scored a lot of goals in the first minutes of the games, and then the game becomes different. The opponent becomes more open, the opponent has to do many other things and we haven’t been able to do that that often. So when you compare the time we’ve had in winning moments last year to this year, it’s different. But the league is different, expectations are different and the players are different. The important thing is we keep winning.
on where Trossard ranks in terms of two-footedness compared to Cazorla:
I have to see Leo take a corner with his left foot. When he does that then maybe! He’s so good but Santi was something special.
on Arsenal’s defensive record:
The satisfaction is where we are. We have to find a way to be where we want to be, and this is exactly where we want to be. It’s not going to be as fluent, it’s not going to be as hectic, because there is no space to run. When you are sitting in traffic, you want to go 100mph, but I have three busses and 55 taxis around me, so it’s tricky. We need to get where we want to get to and in order to do that we have to be really solid and I think we’ve been really solid so far.
on whether it is possible to have the best of both worlds:
I think game state is a big definer of that, and you see that time and time again. In the league and in Europe, because in the Champions League what happened? Against PSV we were really exciting, because we scored early. Against Sevilla it was the same. That’s a big thing.
on whether Smith Rowe and Partey can come back before the January break:
It is a possibility but it will depend on how they evolve. Emile has been already on the pitch doing some jogging, so I don’t know how long it’s going to take. Normally he is a quick healer, and Thomas is the same. We have to make sure that when they come back they are at their best as well. We don’t want to rush them, but at the same time the team needs them because at the moment we are missing some key, key players.
on his midfield options:
Yes but it is what it is, and we’ve been unlucky with some of the injuries. Some others, they happen to any other club. We are not the only club with injuries. Where they happened, it’s a bit critical. The one with Jurrien as well because we are really light in the defensive line. So that was a huge blow, but the team needs to find ways to adapt and to keep performing and winning games.
on whether Zinchenko can play in midfield:
He does play in that role, coming from a different position in the attacking phase. He doesn’t play there in defensive positions because we believe we have other players to do that. But it is a possibility, it’s a good question, because he is on it and it’s a possibility.
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