What do you feel are the key things you need from the squad at this stage of the season?
First of all that we maintain the togetherness that we have among the group, that everyone feels important and valued. Then obviously raise the level individually because that is going to improve every position and when that happens we will have good performances, and the better we play, the better results we will have.
How do you maintain the energy around the squad right now?
Trying to keep everyone engaged, feeling important and that they are going to be key for our success in the last few months.
The contribution you can have whether you play a minute, whether you are on the bench or whether you start the game for me are equally important because in the last few months, when fatigue comes in, substitutions are key and rotation is key and when you have the opportunity you cannot demand, ‘I need four or five games now to perform’, you need to immediately and you have to maximise the minutes you get on that pitch.
What can we expect from Burnley on Saturday?
A really tough match. I think it’s remarkable what the club, Sean [Dyche] and the coaching staff have done in recent years with the resources that they have, the style of play they have implemented and how well they execute it, how efficient they are. It is always really tough to play against them.
At home it was a tricky game because we played with 10 men and we ended up losing on a set piece, which is a big part of the game, so hopefully we can have a very different result.
There are eight points between you and the top four. Is that the aim for this season?
Well the aim is to go and beat Burnley. We have been chasing that [a top-four place] for a while but it is not in our hands, the only thing we can control is our own results and performances. We are fully determined to do that better than what we have done in the past eight months.
Are there any injury updates including on Emile Smith Rowe?
Emile had a scan yesterday. It doesn’t look a significant injury, but he was in discomfort. For the rest hopefully everybody will be ok.
Are we starting to see performances as well as results now?
Yes we have seen that more consistently now since Boxing Day, even though we have lost some games we probably should not lose, but it’s part of football. I think the way the team is playing, there are a lot of improvements, but again there are so many things that can still get better.
Even at Leicester, having total control of the game but we still gave them two big chances. One they scored and one where we gave the ball to [Jamie] Vardy almost to score. When you make it 2-0 in this league, you make it so hard for yourself and it’s true that the team had a great reaction, they played well and we deserved to win the game. But there are so many things still to get better at.
There’s a lot of attacking talent you’re having to leave on the bench right now. Is keeping everybody happy still a side of your management that is developing?
Yeah, that is key obviously. You need a large squad when you play in a lot of competitions, when you play in Europe and you need quality players. Some of them that we already have, some that we are developing. Those players need competition but at the same time they need opportunities, but they need to deserve those opportunities.
I think in recent months you have seen a lot of individuals increase their levels of performance and it is exactly what we want. That’s the problems, as managers, that we want.
Is there some talk about the top four among the players?
Of course there is because that’s the aim and that is where we want to take the club back to. We’ve been out of it for the last few seasons. Our aim is always there. It’s true that it doesn’t depend on us and when that happens we have to rely on other people and that’s never good.
So we’ve got enough relying on ourselves and what we have to do first, then, I’m sure if we do what we have to do, we’ll be in a much better position to see where we are with the last four or five games.
Are you expecting to have a big turnaround in the summer with quite a few players going out and a few coming in?
We will see. We are planning what is going to happen in the summer. It will depend where we finish and how we finish in some cases. I think what we had to do in December is unprecedented for a club of this stature. To do the amount of transactions we had to make [In January] I think tells you where we are. But I think it was very much needed.
If you want to improve you want to do that. It’s whether you think you have things in house with which you can improve, or if not externally acquiring players to go to the next level. Everything is planned so let’s see what the market can bring and what the last few months can bring as well to the club.
If you don’t win the Europa League at the moment is there a realpossibilitythat Arsenal could not be in European competition at all next season?
Yes. At the moment, it’s not a possibility it’s our reality. We have to be judged on that and I think it’s a fair judgement as well when people want to do it.
But the option to be in Europe is still available through two different paths and we have to maximise that as much as possible because the club’s history is not just related to the Europa League in recent years but to the Champions League and obviously anything that is not at that level is disappointing.
Is it important that Arsenal are back in Europe for when fans return next season?
It’s important because we want to experience this game playing with fans. It’s the whole purpose of it. For me personally, having the joy and how lucky I feel to be the manager of this football club, I want to feel the fans in our stadium. I have to have that feeling, that chemistry that we can create with them and play for them and the team transmit it to the fans and the fans transmit to our team the passion that they have for this club.
At the moment, that is missing. I’m missing it personally a lot and I’m sure the players are doing the same. Hopefully, everything will be back to normal next season if everything goes in the right direction. Obviously, as you mentioned, financially, it’s going to be a huge plus as well.
AlexandreLacazettewas captain against Leicester but it looks like he’s going to be leaving in the summer?
He’s got a contract with us. He played really well the other week. It’s exactly what we demand him to do. I am really happy with him and the discussions about his contract will happen soon and we’ll see what happens.
Are you hoping he will stay?
I hope that the players who are with contract are going to continue with us. After every case is going to be different and we will continue to assess that and we will make decisions relating to that.
Manchester City are honing in on a record of winning 25 matches in a row. What’s the better record, that or the Invincibles?
I don’t think we need to compare. I think what City are doing under Pep [Guardiola] is phenomenal, not just this season but every season they’ve been together. To sustain that level of perfection, to sustain that hunger and the way they play football is a joy to watch.
We have to be grateful that in this country we have the joy of experiencing something like that. It’s not about the way they play, it’s the character that the team shows, the spirit it shows, the hunger, and not just with the ball. The best example is that these players, with the ability they have, chase the ball down when they lose it. That’s remarkable and Pep has done that at every club. I think it’s a joy to watch that team play.
Do you think this Man City team is possibly the Premier League’s best ever?
No. With the maturity that they’ve shown and the way the team has evolved in recent years, I would say that in this moment it’s the best. To say they’re the best ever means they have to win everything like that team did a few years ago when they won the four domestic competitions. If you add to that the Champions League, then there is no question because nobody’s done it.
Why does everyone hate playing Burnley?
I don’t hate it. I quite enjoy it because it’s what the Premier League is about, going into those grounds and making it happen, being able to compete against a style that is very defined and executed to perfection. That’s a big credit. There’s not one or two ways to play football, there are many ways to do it. They did it within the rules and there’s nothing that is outside the rules and they do it really well.
From my side, they merit much more credit for what they do than what they sometimes do. It’s admiration as a coach that he’s able to get the best out of that group of players, the resources that they have as a club, to create the atmosphere that they do at that stadium. It’s all credit to them because they believe in what they do. I think that’s really nice for the English Premier League.
What’s your reaction to talk you could be the next Barcelona manager?
There is always going to speculation when there are elections in Barcelona. It’s a huge team. Obviously, I was raised there as a player and they’re always going to be linked. But I’m fully focused on the job that I have to do here, and we have a lot to do. I’m really enjoying it.
So one day but not today or tomorrow?
Today and tomorrow, I am the manager of Arsenal Football Club, and I’m really enjoying it. I want to do much better than what we’ve done.
Have you started contract negotiations with the club at all?
Is that something you’d like to do in the summer because you’ll have just two years left?
We’re in the middle of the season. We have a lot to play for and at the moment it’s not a priority I think. That’s OK. I still have a contract here and I am happy here. I don’t think that’s something urgent.
EddieNketiahstayed put in January but hasn’t played much. Will he be moved on in the summer?
When we were talking about management this is one of the hardest decisions for me to leave someone like Eddie out of the squad. At the moment everybody is fit and we have so many options up front. It hurts as well because of how Eddie behaves, how Eddie trains every day, and because he’s a player from our academy. He will have his chance, he needs to be patient. He is showing no signs of lacking attitude or something like that it’s completely the opposite. He is a joy to work with and he deserves minutes, and if he doesn’t get it it’s just my fault.
Is there a worry this could damage his prospects?
Yeah there is because he needs to play. We wanted to use him a bit more in some occasions and we didn’t. To be fair when he’s played he’s played well, but at his age and for what he’s done in the last two or three seasons he needs more minutes. It’s something that we have to talk about openly and make the right decision.
Would you prefer to be in charge of a club like Arsenal where you have more of a say in things or be at a club like Real Madrid where you are at the mercy of presidents and owners?
I don’t know, but what I can tell you is that I feel privileged to manage this football club and I’m extremely happy.
Are you keeping touch with Mavropanos and Saliba and how much are they a part of future plans?
We are having meetings very often to assess what they are doing. Obviously, we are getting all the information and watching their games because I want to keep a very close eye on what they are doing. We were talking yesterday with our loans manager Ben Knapper, who is in charge of monitoring everything that we are doing.
We are in contact with the players and let’s see. It’s good news that they’re playing and good news that they have the possibility to have a lot of minutes, because that’s going to give us a much better perception of where they are and how we can use them.
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Is there any update on Folarin Balogun at all?
I wouldn’t say so. I am pretty positive about it. Every time I spoke to him he mentioned the same thing that he’s determined to stay here that he wants to stay here. We had some really positive conversations with his agent as well.
Edu is in charge of that. He’s been spending a lot of time and energy to try and make that deal happen because it’s important for us to keep our talent in the house. What I can guarantee is that we’re doing everything we can to keep him.
Gareth Southgate was saying nice things aboutBukayoSaka and Emile Smith Rowe. Has he been on to you about the progress of those players?
No, not directly him, but obviously we know the staff and we know how they are looking at them. I am extremely happy and proud that they can be used with England because that means we can provide some talent that has come through our academy and I think there is nothing better for us than that.