It’s the eve of the semi final, how are you and the squad? How does everyone feel
Extremely excited to travel today and play the game tomorrow knowing that this tie is going to take us to the final if we do the right things and we earn it. We have a tough opponent in front of us but we want to be there.
Have you got any team news for us?
They are all in contention all of them.
Including Aubameyang, including Laca, including Kieran. They are all in contention for the game.
That’s excellent news for you isn’t it?
What did you make of the statement from your board last night that they’re not going to sell? Have you spoken to them?
Yes, we spoke to them and I think it was very clear. They showed their commitment to the football club and they showed their ambition for the football club because we all want a successful team on the pitch. I think it was very clear and it took any doubt out of the situation I think.
Is it going to be a distraction for the players?
A lot of talks and a lot speculation has been surrounding the situation in the last week or so. Our fans raised their voices during the match against Everton but now we have a very clear statement from the owners. So, I think that is gone when they say what they said last night and show the commitment and desire to take the team where we all want. I think it’s very clear where we are moving forward.
So theKroenkesare the right people to lead Arsenal back to the good times for you?
I said from the beginning what my perception was, everything that I sense, all the communications that I have with them. They are fully excited and committed to this project and they really want to push everybody to do what we want to do.
Did you ever speak much to Unai Emery in your career and are you looking to facing up against him tomorrow?
I spoke a few times because we had people in common and then I spoke with him before I took the club. He was really helpful. A very, very experienced and successful manager in the Europa League especially with what he’s done. So, I think there is no doubt that he’s got the tools and the knowledge to manage at the top level.
So you spoke to Unai Emery talk
Yes I did. He offered me that opportunity which is sometimes very unusual. He was very sincere and open and I was very grateful for that.
There is talk that Daniel Ek is preparing a bid with some club legends. Are you concerned that that might cause division at the club?
Listen I cannot control the speculation and what’s going on. What I like to know and talk is about the reality and the reality is that we have owners who are really committed. They want a successful team on the pitch and they are going to do everything they can to achieve that. This is what we have and I feel fully supported with them.
Are you concerned we could see protests like the one on Friday on a regular basis?
Again, that is nothing I can control. They have the freedom and the possibility to express themselves. If you ask me as a manager what I want for the team obviously I want stability in all sectors around the club because I know it’s the best for the players and it’s the best for the performances of the team. The players need their supporters fully committed behind the team. The moment we have them inside our stadium I’m sure that will be the case
Can you explain what the situation is with Folarin Balogun now?
It’s done. We are really happy about it. Flo is really excited about it. It took a while because we had to undo a really complicated situation that was developing. I think the club made a big effort, I think Edu made a great job and then we all with Flo and his agent found the right agreement for him to stay.
When you spoke to theKroenkeswas developing the team and the funds that will be available to do that part of the discussion?
It’s always been part of the discussion amongst other things. What I can tell you is that they want to do their best in their capacity to support what we want to do and have a really successful Arsenal on the pitch.
It wasn’t long ago you were saying Tierney was out for the season and now you’re saying he’s in contention for this game. He must have made a miracle recovery.
Well, he didn’t need the surgery that at the beginning we were afraid of. Then he’s been working like a beast every single day. I don’t know if he’s going to make it tomorrow but certainly he wants to be as close as possible to that football pitch to give himself the best possible chance.
Are you willing to risk players like Kieran and Pierre because this game is so important?
We do need them, because we know that we have some players that are in contention at the moment that are the ones can make a difference in a big tie like this. But the word risk I don’t like it. I want to put players on the pitch that they feel they can perform and they can feel secure that they can perform. If it’s a risk or we’re going to take a gamble I don’t think it’s the right game to do it.
Everyone will build this as Unai Emery trying to get revenge on Arsenal. How much will you have to put that to one side when talking to the players?
Again I cannot control that. That relationship existed and we cannot go against it. Unai knows the club really, really well. We know Unai as well, what he did before he joined here and what he did at the football club and that’s it.
Do you think the Kroenkes statement will be a popular one among the supporters?
I don’t know, but I think it closes a lot of the speculation regarding what could happen because they moved straight away and they made very clear lines of where they are standing and what they want to do with the football club. One thing doesn’t take away the other and the fans want to express their opinion which is very normal.
Do you feel Stan Kroenke should talk to the fans?
Well I don’t know if that will be the case. If we all feel that that is necessary and that will be helpful, I’m sure they will do anything it takes to bring the fans closer to them. If they get the opportunity to know them, I think most of them will be surprised.
If that’s the case I think it will benefit everybody at the football club, it will benefit the fans and it will bring a lot of clarity. So if there’s a way to do that and it’s going to be helpful, let’s do it if that’s what is necessary.
What needs to change for the fans to come back onside with the ownership and the players?
It’s a queestion that I’ve been thinking about a lot, but there are a lot of factors that are difficult to control and still moving pieces there. I am positive that in the next few weeks, months we’re going to be in a much better position.
The only thing we can do to help that situation is to win football matches and win trophies. That always helps in football to bring stability and excitement. Then each party has to do a little bit to try to reunite everybody because at the end it’s in the benefit of the football club and what we can achieve.
Dani Ceballos said that La Liga is a better fit for his playing style than the Premier League. Have you made a decision on his future? What’s the latest there?
No we mentioned to you guys and at the end of the season we have a lot to play for yet and I don’t want any distractions. We will sit with them, we’re always in contact and communication and the players to know what their feelings is. At the end we have to make a common decision for what’s best for the club and the player.
What do you make of Villarreal?
In terms of the club in the last 10 or 15 years they’ve had spectacular progression with various different coaches and guises, but they always have a clear idea of how they want to play. Unai’s brought them a lot of experience in this competition, they have a very clear identity in terms of their playing style.
Obviously it’s a two legged affair. There’s always a bit of uncertainty in the first leg, who’s going to have more dominance, who’s going to take more risks, but we’ll see that tomorrow.
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What’s your biggest worry about Villarreal?
I would say that the main thing is the clarity of ideas that they have both with and without the ball. In transition and in set pieces they have very clear ideas and some great connections with the players. They have some fantastic individual players, in the final third they can decide the game at any time.
They will compete throughout the game. They also have an ability to change system using either the same players or with different players in the game. That makes them a very different team to read