Every word Mikel Arteta said on Bukayo Saka, summer transfers and what’s gone wrong at Liverpool.
What’s the early situation in terms of team news?
There are still a lot that I haven’t seen yet. We will see them this afternoon and assess the squad tomorrow, see how everybody is feeling and make some decisions. But so far, no.
What’s the latest with Bukayo Saka?
He hasn’t trained with the team yet. He’s been doing some individual work. We had to pull him out of the England squad, unfortunately. But he’s feeling better, but he hasn’t trained with the team yet.
Have you had a chance to look at what’s been going well and not so well?
Yes. Obviously we analyse periods during the season and we’ve done that now because we’ve had some time to think, to reflect and see a lot of the things that we are doing and as well, look at the direction we want to take for the future. Of course.
What are the main areas that you need to rectify to improve that record?
One of them is related to the attention and focus that you need during the whole game. For example, the way we conceded the second goal against West Ham, where we turned our backs on a free-kick close to our box, is something that we cannot do. Because it just gives a goal to the opponent. And there’s also the other face, that we really like, the way the team played and the way they reacted, the character we showed and the quality that we provided on the day to come back against a really good opponent from three goals behind.
Despite their struggles Liverpool are still potent going forward?
Absolutely. Against these types of teams, with the quality that they have, they are going to punish you for every error that you do. Even when you don’t make errors and you do everything perfectly, they are still able to break your lines, to create an individual action and to score a goal. Obviously, it is a team where nothing has to be given to them.
Do you take something from the fact that you’re not too far away from Liverpool in the league?
I prefer to look at ourselves. What they have done in recent years has been incredible. Obviously the competition that they were facing with Manchester City made both teams better and I think they’ve been pushing each other to a different level, one that we probably haven’t seen in the Premier League. That’s the level that we have to reach to compete with them. This season is so different, in particular they have had a lot of issues internally with big injuries. But they’re still amazing with what they’ve done.
Any news on Emile Smith Rowe who didn’t play in the U21s match?
He has some discomfort in his hip and that’s why they decided to keep him out. I don’t know – we will see today how he comes here, we will speak with the doctors and the physios and see if he is available for training tomorrow.
Given where you are in the league does the Slavia Prague game take priority?
The immediate priority is Liverpool. We know that if we want to climb the table and have a chance to be in Europe next season through the Premier League, we need some consistency now in the last nine games. We need to get on a run of winning matches and the only way to do it is to start against Liverpool. We don’t have any margin and we have to win that game.
What’s gone wrong for Liverpool?
I don’t know, I’m not the one to analyse what has gone wrong for them. I can talk about what they’ve done – I’ve seen a lot of games and what they’re still producing and the stats will support that. They are, if not the best, the second best team in every department that we coaches have to analyse. But then this is football, the ball has to be in that net and the final action has to provide a moment to win a football match. And then you have some individuals that dictate the quality of your team. Sometimes you cannot predict those things, so I think it’s a lot of things.
What’s your response to Sergio Aguero’s announcement?
First of all, I think anybody that has been close to Sergio would say the same thing. I think he’s been probably the main face, or one of the main three faces, that has lifted that project. You need some leadership, you need some quality and you need players to create moments when you start to build a project like they did. Sergio is probably the biggest face of that project. It’s not only the way he plays, it’s his personality, his charisma, the way he is loved by everybody at that club. It’s sad to see somebody leaving like him, but I think with what he’s done he will be there in their history.
Will he get a club at the top level?
For sure. Sergio has a unique quality to see spaces that nobody else can see and to score goals in a really easy way so I’m sure that he will find the right next chapter for him.
Will you be picking up the phone to him and see if he wants a move to London?
No, no. We will see what happens with him in the future.
Would you agree Thierry Henry is better than Sergio Aguero?
Well, he [Aguero] is one of the best for sure. The consistency that he’s shown at this level and this league, I think it puts him right there with the best. We can discuss within the best, but for me, he’s one of the best.
What do you think about the statues outside grounds?
I don’t know. I think when a club wants to have a gesture of recognition to somebody that has changed their history, I think it’s a really nice touch. Obviously, you cannot have the stadium full of statues but I think it’s a really nice thing to do if it’s the right one.
Is beating Liverpool the ideal way to get confidence ahead of Slavia Prague?
Absolutely. To get the moral right, to get the confidence right, to get some momentum right. The more games that we win, the team is going to be in a better state to compete in other competitions. That’s why my only focus is on Liverpool now.
Is winning Europa League the best route to get into Europe?
That’s the other way. We don’t know what the first way will be. It will depend on our results and our performances and we need to go game by game and try to maximise every chance that we have in each of those games.
Are you surprised how poorly England’s under-21s played?
I think the way the focus is at that age on development, they need results, of course, but it’s true that they have fed the England first-team squad tremendously well. That’s when to reflect on some players needing time to adapt to that environment, to start to compete the right way like other players that were there a few months ago were doing. The coach has to get everything right and that takes time but I’m not worried about that. I think the way England is evolving as a nation in football and how much they have progressed over the years is remarkable.
Are you confident you can look to play your own way against Liverpool?
I think the game dictates that. I think sometimes you have to adapt to the opponent because they’re just better than you and sometimes you can make the opponent adapt. Well see, depending on what they are able to do and what we are able to do as well. Obviously the intention and the game we want to propose is different to the one that we played last year. When you play against top-quality sides, sometimes you have to be able to adapt your game to get the results that you need.
Are you confident can build a similar team to what Klopp has at Liverpool?
I don’t like to compare different projects. I think what they’ve done is remarkable. It’s been really intelligent. The way they managed resources and the way they have maximised resources has been exceptional. They’ve done it really, really well and now it is about sustaining that. We are in different phases of that project right now but we know exactly where we are and where we want to be and in the first one of two phases. We had some priorities that we had to address to be in a position to now evolve the squad, evolve the team and start to compete on a different level and this is where we are.
Will you be trying to raise funds to bring in players this summer?
Yeah obviously we need support from everybody to try to do what we’ve done and so far we’ve had it. The commitment and the vision that we all share is unquestionable and we had a lot of meetings about that and we’re all on the same page. We know where we are and we are very realistic about what we are. The things that we have done have consequences because it generates some instability that is necessary to make changes, but we need some stability now to grow and evolve in the way we want to do it. That time frame is the tricky thing because we need to win immediately.
Will some of the loan players be sold on?
That will be the thing that we have to address at the end of the season. We loaned them out because we wanted to obviously give them some game time and see the level that they can perform at away from here, try to develop them and then bring them back here to try to use them. That’s the first idea. After, we will evaluate what they’ve done, the level that they’ve shown and how much they can accomplish with the way that we want to play and the squad that we have in our hands.
Are you happy with the way the loan moves are going?
I am more happy with some than others. You want to see your players play regularly and with some that has not been the case.
Is it a boost to you how good Lacazette is playing?
I think he’s been really good. I think he’s been in really good form for months now. I think he’s sustaining that level. He’s scoring goals and he’s providing the team with something different as well. His work rate has been phenomenal and it’s what we want. We need those types of players hitting the best level and we want to have the chance to do that. Over the course of the season we have been missing goals, we’ve been missing that creativity in the final third and we need those players to step in and make that difference for the team.
People have been speculating about Lacazette’s future?
I am always happy when people talk about our players and speculate on that. It means they are doing well and getting attention from other clubs. The situation with Laca will get addressed in the summer. I will speak to him and just propose a future that we want and that’s it. Now I just want players focused and only focused on performing and getting the best out of them for the team.
How much would the financial aspect be with regards to Laca’s contract and also leaving a path for the youngsters to come through?
Everything is related. At the end of the day, everything is related to where we are, how much we win and where we are playing next season. There are no exceptions and we all need to be clear with that and the context that we have around our industry.