Another crazy game. How do you summarise that one?
I think you defined it. The first half an hour really disappointing we weren’t at the races. We conceded a goal that it’s their quality, they have the quality and the ability to do that perfect. But then we didn’t win enough challenges, enough duels, we were too stretched as a team, not enough urgency and we showed that in the other two goals that we conceded which are completely unacceptable.
So we showed a face that we still have that is that face. And after that for the next 60 minutes probably we played the best that I have seen us play against very tough conditions. When any team could collapse and start to blame each other and have bad body language, and concede four, five or six we did completely the opposite.
We reunited, we started to do what we had to do, and we got better and better and it’s a shame because I think looking at the chances we should have scored six or seven.
Does it feel like sometimes you have two different teams – a good Arsenal and then a really bad Arsenal?
Yeah. This is my responsibility because before we could not play at that level. Now we can. So, we cannot go from here to there. We have to be all the time here. This is where we are heading and we have to stop giving the opponents anything because the last shot they had when they hit the post is again a throw in where we are free, we give them the ball and they are through and it’s too simple.
For the rest, I’m incredibly proud of the team, the way we played the courage that we showed, how much belief we had that we could still go and win the game. I sensed that at half time again which is not easy. That shows me as well how far we have come together.
Odegaard seemed to run the game in the second half. Can you talk about the impact he’s made?
Yeah I think he had an incredible performance. I think he was very intelligent the way he read the game, the way he affected the game and again he showed how much he wanted to win. When everyone was a little trembling he gave us that stability and that composure on the ball and he created chance after chance.
You mentioned giving the opponents something to hang on to. Is that disappointing that it keeps happening or is that just part of the process?
That’s what keeps me awake, because it has happened too many times too often. At that level you cannot do that because the opponents are so good and the margins are not that big. The other one, the positive one, is the level that we played afterwards of course.
What’s the next step now?
Well the next step is that they go to the international break, then I want to watch the game and analyse it and start to focus on Liverpool and the Europa League to start to prepare those games so when everybody’s back we are ready to go. In the meantime we have some players still here that we have to train them and do it the best possible way and go to the next match.
Martin has been here six or seven weeks but has he already showed that he’s a leader in this team?
Well, he’s showing that I think from week one. The way he steps on the pitch, he always wants the ball, the way he commands the pressing. He’s been really influential. I think we’ve all been a bit surprised because he looks really shy and humble, but when he steps on that pitch he’s a real character and he loves to play football.
We know ThomasPartey’snot going on the international break with Ghana. Is Aubameyang going with Gabon or is he staying at Arsenal?
We believe that he is going to be ok to go. We have still a few other issues with some players that finished with some issues. So I don’t know. Unless some rules change with some countries going into the red zone. I don’t know at the minute how the situation is.
Would you rather Auba was staying with you because he needs something to change?
Well, you never know sometimes if they play the game and he scores and he gets out of the environment and then comes back sometimes it’s good. It’s great to have him here obviously we can train more specifically with him some things that will be important. It’s not in our hands. If he’s allowed to go, he will go. If he’s not he will stay.
Even when he’s not playing well do you feel you have to pick him every time because you never know when he might score?
It’s not about that. Everybody has to earn his place on the team. It’s about performance and training, not who you are.
Is the inconsistency about changing the culture around the team over a period of time and is that your most difficult challenge?
Probably. Now I’m not worried about the culture because we’ve come so far on that. I’ve seen so many positive things to be confident with what I’m saying. Today was one of those again because I’ve seen completely different reactions with each other as a team, the belief the energy. I’m not worried with that. I’m worried with the levels that we can show within a game. And that’s where I think we’re still far from the top teams.
Is that a physical thing to do with the schedule?
No. I don’t like excuses honestly. If somebody’s not fit to play Thursday to Sunday he needs to say before the game I’m not fit because on minute one, two, ten I’ve been there and you cannot just put the blame on that. After sixty seventy eighty I understand because we are human beings. If that were to happen at the end, I would be more close to it being an excuse, but to happen at the start of the game? No.
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Is Odegaard the kind of player you feel the team was missing in the first half of the season and the kind of player you would like to have in your time as manager?
Well, I love talented and creative players that all the time are willing to take the ball and make that happen, that they are mobile and as well hard working. He’s one of them. We have some others with different qualities. It’s true that Martin is giving us now a level in certain things that we didn’t have.