“I think we have started the season strong in terms of results. As well, when we analyse the teams we have already played it was a big challenge, we played Liverpool in the last eight weeks so to come out of that – in the situation we are in at the moment – is really good. Now the most difficult thing is to find the consistency every three days to keep performing and try keeping the results as good as possible. We are on that trail at the moment.”
Unbeaten in 10 home games. How crucial is keeping up that home form?
“I think we can create, the Emirates, a furnace for us. I think it’s going to be crucial for the future at the end of the season. Not just the results but as well the performance, where we can inspire and transmit that form and play with that confidence at home that we have to be really resilient and dominate games and impose ourselves in those games. I think the game on Sunday is a really difficult one. I watched the Sheffield [United] games already any they merit much more from those games. The way they played is tricky so I’m expecting a very difficult game.”
What have you made of Sheffield United’s season so far?
“The margins between winning, drawing and losing are really small but they have generated big chances in every game and have been really unlucky in my opinion not to get anything out of those games. We have experience of playing them both in the Premier League and the cup and we know how difficult it is to play against them. The season they had, the way they have evolved the team since they’ve joined the Premier League has been unbelievable, what their manager has done with the coaching staff, with the resources they have, I think it’s remarkable. So we need to be really alert and have to play at our best again.”
They took four points off Arsenal last season. Will it be different this time?
“I hope we can go on Sunday and grab three points because it’s going to be really important for us before the international break. The difference is, in both teams you will notice some changes in structure and players. It’s a different game but we know what they try to do and we know how difficult it will be. They have the necessity for points as well and that will make the team even more ready for that.”
Great week for Bukayo Saka. Pushing to start against Sheffield United?
“Bukayo is always pushing. Pushing in every training [session], pushing every game, he’s pushing the way he conducts himself. First of all I am delighted for him, I think he completely deserves the chance to represent his country. He just needs to keep doing what he’s doing and he will keep evolving.”
Arsenal fans are desperate for updates on Houssem Aouar. How confident are you a deal can be done?
“I am very confident with what we are trying to do internally. The clarity and support that I am finding from everybody at the club to try to improve the team as we can, but most importantly, to get the right balance in the squad for now and the way we want to evolve the squad in the future. So, we are all very much aligned. I’m afraid I cannot give you any updates or news.”
Any updates about Lucas Torreira?
“I will give you an update with any player the moment I have an update to give you. At the moment, unfortunately there is nothing concrete.”
Would you consider loaning Saliba back out considering what has been happening?
“Last night I explained the difficult year the player had and the plan we had for him, for that transition year that we could not achieve. We are looking at different options to try to protect our intentions with William for the future. To both be aligned and make the best decisions for now and for the future.”
How important are the next few days in the transfer window for the club?
“I think it’s a crucial moment because it defines the people, the players, the balance and the quality that you’re going to have for the rest of the season. We need to make some decisions in the next three days, everything has been delayed so much, it’s not only us but every team because of the context that we have at the moment, but we will try to make the best possible decisions. Whatever we have, we go for it fully convinced and prepared to have a good season.”
If you don’t sell will you have unhappy players because they won’t play?
“I don’t know. The way we try to manage the squad, communicate to the players, we just try to tell everybody their role that we expect from them. The players have really good communication with myself, the coaching staff and the club as well to put on the table their feelings, how they see themselves, what they are looking [for] in their careers. We just try to assess everything individually but also in a collective way and a player that doesn’t play is never happy and I don’t want them to be happy. What I want is for them to try to earn their place, try to change it. We have a lot of examples since I joined where players that weren’t featuring too much, they weren’t playing a lot and now they are playing regularly so… I don’t like the excuse saying, ‘There’s a lot of competition, I don’t get the chances.’ Take it the other way around and work hard, be involved and when you have the chance instead of talking off the pitch, just do it on the pitch, which is the best way, the most efficient way to talk.”
What did you make of the job Chris Wilder done last season?
“Incredible. I start to analyse his team two years to understand some of the things he was doing and I think him and the coaching staff have done a really, really good job. Not just for the way the play because it is a very clear style, but for the culture they created around the club and this feeling that you can sense around the team and how they compete. I think it is remarkable what they have done.”
What made you do that?
“I was told by someone that we had to have a look at them, and I always like to see different trends, different ways of playing, formations, structures, patterns, and I was impressed with some of the things they were doing. It is always good to have this information.”
A quick thought on Manchester City in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals?
“I was enjoying winning a really difficult match and being at Anfield twice, and after five minutes we got the draw against Man City! We have had some tough opponents from day one, playing Leicester away as well, but you have to go through the competition and play the big teams. This time we are going to be at home, we know the challenge we face but we will be prepared.”
Cup form is exceptional, about taking that into the league?
“Then we would be competing with Liverpool and City! It is easy to say, the hardest thing is to get that consistency over 10 months, every three days and that is the level. That is what we have to get as quick as possible, and that is our aim.”
Arsenal fans are excited. Doing something right?
“Well I am glad to hear they are excited and hopefully they are proud of how the players and the club are trying to present the team every time we play. It doesn’t matter where. There is still a long way to go in my opinion, but we are on the right path and it is good that synergy between players, club and fans is back on track. Very time I get messages I get the feeling they are very much on board, they are desperate to come back to the Emirates and the players are as well, they are desperate to have our fans back and feel their support and connection again. That connection is vital for our success and hopefully we can have them back in the stadium again soon.”
I know you hate talking about transfers but will it be a drain financially if Mesut Ozil stays and doesn’t play?
“It’s not that I hate the transfer window, I think it is completely necessary, it is a big part of our industry and I think a lot of people love art because of trading players, I am a fan as well. You want to see a player in your team, there is excitement, I have my kids playing all the time [on computer games] so it is part of the industry and you have to pay attention to it because it is really important. We have to manage first of all those expectations, they have to be realistic for us, and then with the players and the squad I have, it is my job to manage it as good as possible and take the maximum performance out of them and have a stable team, emotionally and in terms of performance as well. Whoever is here, get the best out of him and the contribution that this player can make to the team.”
If the club didn’t sign anyone, would you be happy with your squad?
“I am very happy because the way we are acting and the way we are approaching and doing the processes around the market, around the squad and the communication link that we have at the moment between myself, Edu, the board and the ownership is really good and I’m really satisfied. And I know that we are all trying our best to improve the team and try to take the direction to achieve the goals that we want. After, to achieve it or not, sometimes in a deal a lot of things are happening and you have three or four parties that have to be involved in it, but we are trying our best and I am really happy with the way this link and communication is flowing at the moment.”
The blame wouldn’t lie with anyone?
“Then it’s because we can’t do more. We are trying our maximum, maximising our resources with full support from the owners for what we are trying to achieve. It’s just whether we can do it or not. Believe me, we will try our best and we will be trying to give our players the best possible environment, the best possible coaching and have them believing that we can achieve what we want to do. And if it will be with one more player, two more players or two players less, we will keep doing the same.”
Are Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Mohamed Elneny examples to players that aren’t in the team that they can be recognised?
“Absolutely. Obviously every individual player has a history at this football club. A player that is just coming through the academy, in the first year he is able to take certain decisions and the second year becomes a little bit harder and the third year is demanding more and more and more. But it’s always the balance of how much are you giving, how much are you willing to sacrifice and work in order to achieve if your dream is to play for Arsenal Football Club and I think we have some really good examples with what happened with Eddie, what happened with Ainsley, what’s happening with Joe, what happened with Bukayo, what happened with Dani Ceballos and what happened with Rob Holding. So it’s about that. When I see a player really willing and really trying and really making their only emphasis to be to contribute to the team and try to raise the performance of himself and the collective side, they’re going to have a chance.”
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Was making Granit Xhaka captain a hard decision? Did you talk to him?
“I didn’t talk [to Granit beforehand]. I have to evaluate what happened since I joined.
“Obviously, I cannot deny the history but I have to follow my gut feeling. He is a leader, it’s unquestionable. He does it every day in training. He does it with the way he behaves himself. He does it with the way he competes and for me it was a natural choice.”