I think at this present moment in time these players are not officially signed [Tete has since been confirmed]. They are positioned in our players we are looking at but at this moment in time it’s not official.
Like anything really we’re looking to strengthen the squad and looking to strengthen certain positions so hopefully we can get those two over the line in the coming weeks really.
Tete, know much about quality?
“Yeah, look like I say, I’m conscious that the players have not officially signed. The players are not our players at this current moment in time. Two players that are owned by two other teams at this moment.”
What does Alphonse Areola signing mean for Rodak and Betinelli?
“Betinelli has gone on loan and he’s gone to play some football. Obviously I had a fortunate position last year where I had two very good keepers and then obviously regarding Areola coming in it brings competition which is needed in a league which is arguably one of the best leagues in the world.
So look I think what’s vital for me in my position and what’s vital for us to be successful this year is competition, healthy competition. We realise when you have that standard and come together there’s always someone pushing so of course, for me to make a judgement on that at this present moment in time I won’t do that but to give an answer to what you want but certainly signing this one.
“I think they’ll push each other really, I think we’ve got two very very good keepers here and that’s exactly what I need.”
Winning play-off final on August 4, playing first game on Saturday – it’s short turnaround. Have you had enough time?
“It’s got to be enough time because that’s the hand that we’ve been dealt. Of course it is very short, and other teams have obviously had a week – the teams what played a little bit longer in the season have had an extra week and I’m sure we would have liked that. But that’s not our situation, our situation is we play now.
“The players in the team and everyone have prepared as best we can, I feel we’re in a very very good place, we went further than most teams in the Premier League because our season carried on two weeks after that. Get some rest, freshen up the mind.
“Because of obviously we didn’t have as much off, so re-conditioning players was not as much of an issue and trying to get them up to speed has just been key and I feel like we’re in a very good place.”
Different this time to two years ago?
“The last time we were in this position we realised and we see the quality and see how good this division is and how good this league is and we’re under no illusions that that same quality and that same bits we know from the Premier League and how deadly it can be for us and we need to relish this challenge.
“It’s a challenge which – we spent last year trying our hardest to get out of the Championship first time of asking which we did. As a team we’re on a journey and I’ve seen us come together and we’ve done remarkably well to do that.
“We face the next challenge which is obviously going from majority of the weeks expecting to win and get promoted and win a lot football matches, we know go into a division where it’s going to be a lot difficult.
“It’s a challenge we have to embrace, it’s a challenge we have to take on and I’m sure that we are in a good place to do that. I think mentally we’re in that place, we all understand what we face and we’re looking forward to that to be honest with you.”
Seri and Anguissa back from loans. Will they be involved?
“Again at this moment these boys have literally just come back into the building, and everyone’s part of this squad and the thing with the transfer window and it drags on and you obviously go into the season which isn’t ideal.
“We’ll have played four games before this window shuts so of course the uncertainty on certain players I understand.
Everyone’s got an opportunity to impress and work hard and hopefully be part of this team.”
Mitrovic. Is your fate in his hands?
“Not really, no. I think like anything we understand the quality we have in Mitro but next year the way that we survive the way that we’re going to do well is going to be with a group of men that understand what’s in front of them and what sticks together.
“Of course individual talent comes into that with any team, and Mitro’s a big part of that, and no doubt he’s going to be a big part of that this season. But it would be really unfair of me.
“I see as a group and as a collective everyone’s going to have a say this year in terms of how successful we are.”
Concerned about a whole Premier League season without fans?
“There’s always that in the back of your mind and the world that we live in at the moment is very unpredictable and I think we’ve all come to learn that we need to be adaptable and we need to understand the current world and what we’re living in.
“Of course as disappointing as that may be and the ifs and buts what lie around that.
“I do understand, I think every single person in my position certainly at most clubs wants the fans back into our stadiums because that’s what makes our game so great but in saying that also we also understand the current climate and where it is and when it’s safe to do so I’m sure we’ll do that and obviously when that time comes we’ll roll with it.”
Mikel Arteta wants to make an impact, just won two cups within a month – how much of a force could they be?
“I think they could be a big force. I think we’ve seen that in a short space of time, there’s no denying the quality what Arsenal has, the players what Arsenal has.
“Obviously Mikel has done a fantastic job in short space of time with his team so of course I think this year is a big year for Arsenal and like I say the quality in their ranks is vast and we’ve seen that in the last three, four months when they’ve won the cup as well.
“So It’s a big season for them, it’s a big season for us as well.”
What lessons are you going to learn as a group from previous experience?
“Well I think wiser, we’re obviously wiser, I spent that season here and understand the dynamics a little bit. Will I change drastically on our philosophy and what we believe in? No not at all.
“We understand the qualities of this league, we understand the difference between the premier League and the Championship and the qualities that the Premier League has the quality that the players possess as well.
“Obviously a big one for me is the mentality among the group and a real cohesion among the group I think it’s clear and being honest we understand that we will come up against teams with players vastly better than us in that sense and in terms of that quality we’re going to have to match them somewhere else and that’s from a desire and from a real togetherness.
“There isn’t ever going to be outing one individual who’s going to win us the game and that maybe is sometimes different for other teams. They have maybe two or three players at any given moment in the game who are going to win it.
“That’s probably not going to be the case with us and certainly what we’re going to need is a real togetherness, and 11 men everytime. 22 men in the squad or whatever it may be sticking together and really fighting through for each other.
“We’ve seen that over the course of seasons now. Sheffield United, no disrespect to them and Chris Wilder. They’ve done an absolutely fantastic job. They are the teams that we need to look. They had a fantastic year last year and Chris will be the first to say what he demands from his players and to sometimes get the results is what I’m talking about really.
“Other than tactics, which we obviously understand, there is a bigger dynamic which is a squad that is together, a squad that is united and that understands this league and what we have to give every single time. With that we have a chance of being successful.”
How much has shorter pre-season challenged you as a coach? Will it have an impact later in the season?
“It’s in the back of your mind, of course. It was a long season last year, a lot of games in a short space of time and then there’s obviously a short turnaround now. We’re always trying to work out how to be ahead of the curve and be some steps ahead. That’s the world we’re in. You’re trying to keep looking in advance, whether you can see things.
“It’s something we’re very conscious of, something we need to manage throughout the year. Tiredness, freshness – if we can manage that we will to best suit us and the players to stay on a level. You need big squads for that as well.”
What have you focused on in preparations?
“The key principles have been getting the squad back and seeing where they are physically and try to manage that. In a short space of time, three weeks. And then nail some key principles of how we want to play.
“When you’ve been in the job for a little while and the players are used to how we work and understand the game model, it’s always easier. We’re not laying new foundations or ripping up everything. We’ve got a clear philosophy and the players have been working within it for 18 months.
“Certainly when you’re trying to change things, which we will do to evolve as a team and give ourselves a chance to survive, you have to do that. Continuity too – we’ve worked with them for a little bit. The game model is what it is. The changes are not going to be drastic really.
“It’s a combination of working out how fit the boys are, getting them up to speed very quick, and the tactical side of what we need to do this year.
What is the target for this season?
“The target is to stay in this league. We’ve seen over the course of time, teams that are established in this league are very good sides. That’s the battle we face and we understand it. Also that’s the chalenge we face, which we need to relish. It’s a different challenge from last year when we needed to win every week, keep ourselves in the hunt. Keep winning football matches.
“This year the challenge is different. Last year we were never the underdog, always the favourite. Always the element and pressure of being the favourite. This year we’re the underog. People obviously see us as one of the favourites to be relegted and see we’re going to have some struggles.
“We understand that but we also see a real challenge that we’ll embrace. These are the challenges we love to prove people wrong, prove we can stay in the league and we have quality. I firmly believe we can stand up to that challenge and be successful this year.”
Can you get at Arsenal’s defence on Saturday?
“They are a quality team with an array of talent. Mikel has done a fantastic job in a short space of time and have players all over the pitch that can hurt us. But like always, like last year, we’ll prepare to try and get a result and hurt them where we feel we can punish them. We understand their threats and where they can hurt us but we’ll try to counteract that and limit them. We understand where every team’s weaknesses are. Arsenal, Man City’s are rare but ones we want to exploit when we can.”
Could this first game shape your season?
“I don’t think it’s that drastic. It’s the first game. A positive result gives us a platform but it’s a long one, 38 games, and with the right mindset and understanding along the way. The ups and downs will be there, you just need to make sure the downs don’t hit you and knock you out. You need to make sure they are jabs on the nose and you get your guard back up again and start punching. That’s what you need to realise when you’re a team like us. Of course we’re going into the game, we’d like to get a result but we understand it’s a tough team to face.”
Different for you being manager in the Premier League at the start of a season?
“It’s very different. The last time I was in this position with the team, we were where we were. We had no ideas that we wanted to set out and wanted the players to believe, eat, sleep and drink every day is different. It’s confined and also brings the baggage of what we’ve gone through.
“We understand what we’re about as a team now, what’s acceptable and not. Winning and being promoted ups the stakes even more. As much as the challenges we’re going to face this year, obviously this is a team that’s been together for a year and that will be beneficial for us really.”
One of the big issues last time was a number of changes to the squad. Were you keen to keep as many of the players that took you back up?
“It’s important because they understand what we’re doing. The players that have already been here can set the examples and the standards for the new players coming in who may see it as a bit of a shock.
“As a squad and a club, if you go up to this division you need to evolve. You need to improve and you need healthy competition. Everyone brought up the issue of the money we spent last time. Are we going to spend £100million this time? No, for sure.
“I don’t think that’s the issue – the issue is bringing the right people to the football club who understand what’s needed and understand what we’re going into. That’s what’s key for us. Can they improve us, enhance us and make us better? They are the ones we want coming in.
“At the same time there’s a real balancing act of improving as a team, evolving as a football club and getting better while not losing sight of the people who understand and drive the culture and environment.”
How does recruitment work now? How much input do you have?
“There’s a process. Every club has a process. Do I have the final say in players coming to the football club? 100%. There is a process in place, a scouting and data model, but ultimately through the process there are different avenues and people. We collaborate to a point where we all agree these are the right people for the football club. Of course there are debates and one department may see it as a ‘yes’ or other times ‘not sure’.
“You have a conversation and come out with what you see is the best decision. That ultimately comes down to me as I’m the one who works with the players every day. It would be crazy to invest a huge amount of money in a player that a manager doesn’t want. That would be silly, a waste of money if the manager isn’t using him.
“It’s a data system, so a smaller pool of players but that’s the model you have to work with and I understand that.”