That was perfect, wasn’t it?
Yeah, apart from David’s injury that’s what we wanted. We wanted to keep the team fresh, players with the right attitude to play this game and being able to focus just on today. I think we had a really strong performance from the beginning. We dominated the game and we got the three points which we needed and it helps for Thursday as well.
Is the Luiz injury a season ender?
We don’t know. He felt something in his hamstring so it’s not good news. He’s put such a shift to be back with the team for the last few weeks after the knee surgery, and it’s real a shame.
Aubameyang, Elneny have made a case to start on Thursday?
Yeah, some of them had some strong performances. They’ve been preparing really well all the time. They deserve the chance and I will have to make sure everyone is fit on Thursday and make the right decision.
How important is it to have Aubameyang back and scoring ahead of Thursday?
Yeah, we thought he wasn’t going to manage it on Thursday, two days before he was struggling. He could only manage to play 10 or 15 minutes. The day after he started to feel better. It’s good to see he was fine today. He scored a goal, he played well so it’s a real boost.
Elneny scored his first Premier League goal. How good was that?
A good one, an important one. You could see the reaction of his teammates. He’s a really popular guy in the dressing room and he totally deserves everything he gets because he’s a fantastic player and person to work with.
How impressed were you with Martinelli?
I think they all played really well. Gabi’s improving every week. He’s taking his minutes in the right way. He’s developing in the way we all believe he can. Today he had an assist, some good moments on the left and trying to play him as no.9 as well.
Have you been trying to develop him into a central striker?
Just look at how much he’s played in the last two years. And then how much he’s played with me when he’s been available, and then we can discuss that. It’s what happens. This debate is always happening when you don’t win. If it’s not him, it would be someone else. If it’s not Gabi, it would be Lacazette, Willian or Pepe. It’s part of it.
Do you see him developing into a central striker? Is that your long-term goal with him?
Time will tell. But I would like to develop him in both positions because I think he’s got the potential to do both.
Are Tierney and Lacazette going to be unavailable for the Villarreal game?
They haven’t trained with the team yet so I think that’s unlikely to happen.
Was Martinelli’s connection with Aubameyang what you were looking for today?
Yeah, it’s a connection there. Having right behind him helps him because he’s more in the last line on the left. When he’s more comfortable with Kieran it’s different. Those are relationships we have to build. Any doubt guys, I love Gabi so much more than all of you together.
How are you assessing Reiss Nelson’s situation at the moment?
With Reiss I would like to give him more. He’s a boy who trains really hard, he wants to do extra all the time but it’s very difficult at the moment with the players that we have to fit him. I feel sorry that we don’t have other competitions to use him because he deserves more. If he doesn’t play more it’s my fault.
Is that the best preparation you could have hoped for?
Yeah because had a very strong and convincing performance. We scored two goals, kept a clean sheet, won the points with some individual performances that really stand up. The only downside to it is probably the one with David and I think we lost him today.
At 3pm today until 11:59pm on Monday, all sports channels across the entire Reach network, including football.london, will join the boycott of social media as part of the campaign against online hate.
So far this season players at all of the capital’s top-flight clubs have been subject to horrendous abuse – from Arsenal’s Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Willian to Tottenham’s Son Heung-min, Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham and Reece James to Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha.
No dressing room has been spared this disgusting plague. Enough is enough.
That is why the Premier League, FA, Kick It Out and Women’s Super League have been joined by clubs up and down the country as well as organisations from cricket, rugby, cycling and horse racing in staging the boycott. Above all they want the social media platforms to take more responsibility for keeping hate out of our sport.
As journalists this is not a decision we take lightly but we believe it is important that Reach titles add their voices to the calls for greater action against the epidemic of online hate and be a force for good in the communities we serve.
As the nation’s biggest sports publisher we will of course continue to create the outstanding sports content – from Premier League to local matches – for which we are famous. We just won’t be sharing this content on social over the weekend.
Our news accounts will also continue to share the biggest breaking news this weekend, including covering the impact of this boycott.
How important was it that you don’t just focus on this next game as the only thing that matters this season?
That was the biggest part of the preparation today. We were away in Spain because we believed it was the right way to prepare the game for today, to give them the right rest. And then mentally, to focus on today, I think the message got across pretty clear.
Would it still be possible to qualify for Europa via the Premier League?
I don’t know. Mathematically it’s possible but it’s out of our hands. We don’t have much to say other than winning football matches.