Every word Mikel Arteta said on Sheffield United, Nicolas Pepe and Arsenal’s confidence levels


What are you hoping for in terms of a reaction from these last two games when you face Sheffield United on Sunday?

“I wanted to see a reaction yesterday and I definitely saw that. I think we made much more than the result that we got, but at the end it is what it is and we have to show even more determination, because we have to go to Prague and score goals to win the game, so it is not a hard mindset.

“It is very clear what we have to do.”

Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka were back in the team last night. How much of a boost does that give you?

“Yeah I think they were both really good. Obviously they haven’t played much football in recent weeks and they struggled, both of them, to finish the game, but overall I think they had a good game.

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One win in eight for Sheffield United, but what do you expect from them?

“What they do every week, a team with a big compromise, a big commitment and they are fighting every single game, which is not easy for the opponent and we are going to face a difficult game again.

“We have no time to prepare or recover, but we know what we are going to be facing.”

Nicolas Pepe provided the spark last night. How important is he going to be in the final few matches for you?

“Yes, he has been really effective when he has come on as a sub. We started him against Liverpool as well.

“He needs to be at that consistent level, we know that he is a threat and he has got more goal instincts perhaps than any other winger we have and that is a big plus for us.”

There is a nine point gap between you and Chelsea in fifth. At this point, what constitutes a good season for you?

“At this moment, win the next game against Sheffield United. That is the only focus for us at this moment.

“It is nine points with eight games to play, there is still plenty to play for, mathematically it is still possible, but we have to put a run together.”

Mikel Arteta during a training session

In football, do we need to think about substitutes in a different way? In rugby they are seen as finishers, but in football, it is a squad game, but if we think someone is on the bench, it is seen as a big issue. Do you see it differently?

“Certainly when you have five substitutions to make it is a different game.

“In rugby, obviously, the roles are different in when to use them than in football, but it is true we can find some similarities and there are players in certain games after certain minutes who can have a huge impact depending on the result and who can change the game.”

I want to ask you about confidence levels. Arsene Wenger used to say it could change very quickly, he used to say you go up by the stairs, but down in the lift. As a manager yourself now, can you see that?

“I have been a player and confidence is probably the biggest thing a player needs when he steps on the field to help make decisions, he knows exactly what to do and how to execute that, because he knows that things are going to go well for him.

“The surroundings for the individual themselves is important as well, where the collective is transmitting and bringing to the individual and that’s what the collective is for.

“Confidence, you can sense it and it is important for any successful team.”

As a manager, what can you do to inject confidence in individuals?

“It is the way we talk to them, the way we train them and the way we transmit the messages to them.

“But then it is the individual and every individual is different in how he approaches positives or negatives, criticism, when they give the ball away or make an error, and how they react is down to the individual. We need to understand what individuals need in each moment.”

Last night was another example of playing well and creating chances, but not getting the win. Can you put your finger on why?

“It is clear why but it is about preventing it from happening, that’s a different story.

“In a pretty big amount of games, we haven’t managed to do that for different reasons.

“Last night was a clear example, we created four or five really big chances and we have to put them in the net, and then you have some margin for what happened in the 94th minute when you concede from a set piece.

“That can happen, but what cannot happen is the way we managed the last four or five minutes.”

Granit [Xhaka] was frustrated by the goal conceded, I am sure you all were. Is it important to try and keep a clean sheet, because there haven’t been too many of those?

“Yes, last night’s game it was crucial not to concede and we did from a set piece at the end of the match.

“The amount of chances we are conceding and the way we conceded the goal is pretty clear and is the biggest part that we have to improve defensively.”

Were you pleased with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s reaction when he came on. He made a difference having not started?

“Yes, we talked before the Europa League that everybody has contributed in different ways, the whole squad has been involved.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in Arsenal’s clash against West Ham

“Yesterday, the role for him was to start on the bench and to make an impact, and he made an impact, he assisted Nico [Pepe] for his goal and he should have scored with his left foot, and that’s what players have to do when they come in.”

When you hear people saying that Aubameyang, with his new contract, might be another Ozil situation, what do you feel when you hear that?

“I am always positive about the future and don’t want to think about things that happened in the past, or compare different situations or different personalities.”

But he is as committed as ever to helping Arsenal win something?

“Yes, absolutely.”

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Do you think Sheffield United are just playing for pride now, with relegation seeming pretty certain?

“The way I see them every game, competing every game, is to win football matches, and I don’t see any difference from the Sheffield United from a few weeks ago under Chris [Wilder].

“We know we are going to go there to face a tough opponent and we don’t have time to prepare the match, but we will go there to win it.”





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