Is it realistic for Emile to dream about breaking into the England squad?
I think it’s possible. I think if he shows the same determination as Bukayo, be as humble as he is, and play with personality that he’s done I think he’s got a great chance. Emile has got all the attributes and all the qualities, in my opinion, that you need to play for the national team.
After that it is about finding the consistency required obviously because that level is as good as it gets. I think he showed that in moments this season what he can do, but now it’s about doing it for longer periods, adding more assists, more goals and working as hard as he’s been doing because I think he’s been phenomenal for us.
Bukayohas been playing in that wing back role so far for England but do you think he’s shown that he’s got the ability to challenge Sterling, Foden and Rashford rather than just as a full back?
I don’t know. That’s a decision for the manager to decide his best position. The good thing about Bukayo is his versatility and he adapts very good with every position because he’s a really intelligent player. So they can use him and I’m sure that he will be happy as long as he’s in the team.
Next year will be Sean Dyche’s 10thyear in charge of Burnley. Can you see yourself managing one club for 10 years?
Of course I can. If you are happy where you are and most importantly they are happy with the job you are doing I think it’s a really strong relationship. I think what he’s done is remarkable and the way he’s kept the team in the Premier League. But in this job I think you have to go almost day by.
At Everton andArsenalyou played for managers who had been there a very long time. What kind of advantages do you think that gives the manager?
To have stability in football is really complicated. But when you have stability, good leadership, a very clear ownership to take the club where they want and you generate some trust between the big decision makers at the club, I think anything is possible. Because through difficult moments if you are clear that ‘ok this is the route we’re taking and we’re not going to hesitate because of one or two results’ I think at the end really nice things can come out.
So, for me that’s main advantage, players and the staff and everybody knows that we are where we are and we believe in what we do, and things are not gonna be shaky every time something happens, I think that brings a lot of safety and stability to a football club.
When do you think you’ll be at that point with Arsenal or has it already happened?
I don’t know, but my aim is not to be there, my aim is to challenge myself every day and I think I need that. I think about tomorrow and how can I do today, to affect tomorrow and be in a better position tomorrow and day by day. The good thing in this profession is that weeks and months go so fast you know.
A year ago if you would have told me everything that happened I would have said ‘what are you talking about’ but it’s the reality that a lot has happened so let’s go game by game.
How close is the team to being what you visualised as a Mikel Arteta team?
Very far. Very, very far. There’s still a lot to improve, a lot of quality to add, much more efficient in decision making, much quicker to open up situations when the advantages are there, many more situations to finish when advantages are obtained, more control of games, more defensive actions in the opponents half, less give aways in our own half, it’s a lot to do, more goals, more creativity, it’s a lot to do.
Are you getting there?
Yes, I think I am. When you look at the previous game you played against a team a few months ago and you look where the team is now I think it’s always a good way of seeing the progression and I’ve seen that.
Do you think the fact that UEFA have flipped Spurs’ Europa League fixtures gives them an edge?
It does. But unfortunately we’re not going to change that. We can raise our voices and we should do that, because we want to have at least two teams that are in equal conditions.
But the decision has been made and that’s it. I don’t want to use one bit of an excuse going towards that game saying ‘ah they have an advantage’. So, no probably I will use that to take it into our advantage that’s it.
It’s a year since COVID started to bring things to a halt. Has it made it harder not having fans in the stadium?
For me I only see negatives. Not having fans around, not having that passion, that energy that is provided by having people supporting and watching your home games and away games, and having that link and that relation, for me it’s all negative.
Why we do that is to give joy and happiness to people and the best way to do it is when you are able to provide something and look in somebody’s eyes, just the body language in somebody and that creates something inside you that is beautiful.
And if they have to show disappointment, ok you want to see why they are disappointed, because from TV I think everything looks a little bit different. As well the players need really them back and to play for them, which is really what we do.
Burnley at home maybe felt like your lowest point this season. How do you think fans would have reacted if they’d been there in greater numbers?
That game was very strange. I was looking back on it yesterday and the number of chances that we created. But yeah we went down to ten men, we conceded from a set piece and then it’s a disaster. But these games are like that. When you play four times with ten men with the amount of games that we play, you’re gonna put yourself in a really difficult position, and probably they won’t accept that.
But that’s good and they set the standards of the football club and the demands that they have are because there is a history related and they have some expectations. We are here to fulfil them.
Your expectations are higher than where you are in the table aren’t they?
Absolutely. When you look at the league table it’s not acceptable where we are. We are Arsenal football club and we should be nowhere near here, and if somebody’s happy with that I think they’re at the wrong place.
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What does David Luiz give you as a leader and a character within the dressing room? He seems to have been a really positive influence in the last two weeks.
He is. Extremely positive. The professional he is, how he looks after himself, but also how he looks after his teammates. He’s always willing to help, he’s always really positive around it. He’s got huge experience of how to win things, but as well how to manage difficult moments and you need that.
And then he gives a lot of composure to the team both with and without the ball. He’s a presence, he’s a leader and someone that is playing really well at the moment. What I want is that he keeps playing like that until the end of the season and we’ll make that decision together.