‘Support the players’ – Mikel Arteta issues plea to Arsenal fans after Villarreal loss

Do you need to get a message across to the players today and if so what emotion is that you want to convery to them?

No I already spoke with them last night. I know what they’ve been through all season and I feel proud to represent them. We have our difficulties, we know that, but to try the way they did last night, again, with a few players in the last week or so, I have to support them. They always have that from me and I will defend them all the time.

They tried to the last second with the ability that they have today, with our strengths, with our weaknesses, and they were gutted after that so they will have my full support all the time.

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Over the two legs people said the team lacked intensity. Do you agree with that?

No I don’t think we lacked intensity. I think we lacked clarity and capacity to execute with the ball what we wanted to do. That led to a game where we started to lose the ball in our own half in that phase when in two passes they are able to attack your goal and create insecurity. I think it was more a case of that than anything else. I don’t think they lacked any of that.

What lessons have you learned so far from the season and what has it taught you about yourself?

Well what I learned this season is that I thought that I was very privileged to be in this football club. Now I know that I could not be in any place better than here. After everything that we’ve been through together as a club, with all the staff from everybody with every single player, everybody who has put in their lives to be successful here, I could not be any prouder to be close to them.

In my job, I don’t know how many challenges and obstacles I have been through. We try to do it, or I try to do it in the best way all the time facing it, being honest, sticking to the values that I believe in and this club believes in. And then it’s about results. We are judged on that.

We can do a lot of good things, we have changed a lot of good things but in the end it’s about winning and we haven’t won enough this season. And the defining moment last night when it mattered, an inch decided those ties, and details decided those ties and we didn’t find a way to beat them.

Lee Dixon said it could take years for Arsenal to become title challengers. With no Europe and sitting mid-table is it hard to convince people that you have made progress this season?

Well, it has taken years because for five years now we haven’t been competing with the top clubs in this country. So it’s already years, it’s not that this process started six months ago it started five years ago when you can see this trend. So he’s right. It’s taken already years, it’s not that the year one is here.

But I think a project has its phases and when you arrive into a phase that, I’m telling you, we are in a much better position today to be where we want to be very soon if we do what we have to do. But we have to be ruthless because there is no time to waste and there is a lot to do.

Nicolas Pepe after the full time whistle in Arsenal's 0-0 draw with Villarreal at the Emirates which saw them eliminated from the Premier League (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Nicolas Pepe after the full time whistle in Arsenal’s 0-0 draw with Villarreal at the Emirates which saw them eliminated from the Premier League (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Will a lack of European football affect the process and make it tough to attract top players?

We don’t know. We have some really good examples in this league, in this country with teams who have been out of Europe and that was the defining moment in their project to after go and be much stronger. So we have those examples and we have to look to them to see how we can do it and if that’s the case, how can we make the most of it.

We cannot be crying and stuck on what we don’t have. We have to focus on what we do have and how we maximize it to get what we want.

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What is your message to the fans to convince them to stick behind the team not just this season but next season as well?

First of all, I want to share the pain that we are all feeling. They’ve been incredible with the team, they’ve been incredible with me since I arrived here and I have to show my appreciation first of all to that. I know the disappointment. We are here to give them joy, to give moments for them to feel proud of what we do. We were able to do that last season and we haven’t this season.

So we are the ones that have to give them something to cheer about. I don’t think it’s time to demand anything from them. If anything, just support the players. If you do that, they will value that, they will be better, they will play better and we will achieve better things, but I think it’s our moment now towards them.

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