With your team in such good form how much are you looking forward to getting back into Premier League action this week?
Yes, there’s a lot of games coming up now, some important ones as well. We need to get our home form established, we’ve had some issues there and now it’s time to get some wins. We’ve got two at home right now that are going to be key for the future of our season in the Premier League and the team is in great spirits. Obviously, after four wins everything looks better and we’re looking forward to the games.
How much has Emile Smith Rowe impressed you in that number 10 role and do you think his performances sending a message to the more senior players?
I’ve been impressed with his performances and the capacity that he’s shown to do it in consecutive games, which normally with young players is not something that is very common. The other day he came into the game when we needed a different energy and a threat in the box he did exactly what we expected and he scored the goal, which is something that we’ve been talking to him about.
But there is no message to any senior players. Here is a squad of players with different profiles and everybody has to be pushing each other and trying to make each other better. Everybody contributes in a different way because every player is different in the squad.
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Crystal Palace are coming to you with just the one win in their last six so what are you expect?
They are a really dangerous side and they have shown that against big teams. They are a really compact and organised team and you know what you’re going to expect. They have players with a big individual talent that just need moments to win games, to create actions that can unbalance the game so we have to be very careful with that.
Then, we have to play to be dominant again in the game. We go from the first minute to try to win the game, to attack them and be cautious as well of the strengths that they have and try to control them as much as possible.
How important is it for Arsenal to beat Palace just to further add some distance between those teams, like Palace that are further below them in the table?
Yes, again, we want to keep that consistency and having the belief that we can go into every game having the feeling that we are going to win it. The more games we are able to win in a truck, the better that feeling is going to be. Obviously, to start thinking more about the table in a different direction. If you are able to win these matches, obviously your mind starts to look in a much more positive way.
Gabriel Martinelli, how bad is that ankle?
Well, we don’t know how bad it is. He’s getting a scan this morning. We didn’t look after the game because he was in a lot of pain. But yesterday he tested a little bit better. So let’s hope, we have a scan today, that it’s not serious and we can have him back soon. But we will know more tomorrow certainly.
Martinelli left the pitch in tears after suffering an injury in the warm-up (Image: Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images)
Gabriel and ThomasParteyas well?
Well, Gabi he had a training session the other day. He tested positive. He had very mild symptoms so he’s missed a few weeks of training because he had to be isolated. It’s better now, we expect him to be training with us and couple of days and we will make an assessment whether we can have him or not on Thursday. And Thomas now he’s been in full training for four or five days, he’s completely asymptomatic. It was a little bit rushed to try and play him for Newcastle but I think he will be ready for Thursday.
We saw a lot of celebrations despite the new Premier League COVID protocols. How hard is it to change that as a player? And are you one of the players who find it very hard morally to carry on given what we’re experiencing and hearing from hospitals?
Well, first of all, to control the emotions when you’re going 200 miles an hour in the game full of things happening around you is very difficult. We’re asking our players in corners, for example, to be man-marking people, to be pushing people around and then we cannot say hello to anybody. It gets a little bit controversial and difficult to understand.
Morally, with the situation we have in the county, with the situation we have worldwide, to keep doing what we are doing is a little bit of a strange feeling. But we know as well what we can bring to society if we are able to do it in a safe way, then there are a lot of positives to take. It’s just that balance. When this starts to get damaging and worrying and it starts to exploit people. And when we can do it and it’s still safe and we can add something positive to this difficult context.
Fenerbahce are suggesting Ozil could be joining imminently. He said we could know more about his future in a Q and A What’s your understanding of the latest situation Mikel?
My understanding is that nothing has changed from the last press conference. That Edu and the club are having some conversations about the near future and the long-term future. And when we know something we will announce it.
Ozil could leave through the exit door this month (Image: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Will you be tuning into his live Q and A to find out more?
I’m sorry but I don’t have Twitter. I don’t follow Twitter
Have you any idea what might be said in that?
No. He’s done it in the past. It’s something that he does to engage with his fans and try to keep everybody informed, so I’m not surprised.
EddieNketiahhas been linked with a move away. Do you expect him to move on inJanuary?
Football is a relief for everyone in lockdown but, as you say, as long as it’s safe, because there’s not very much for everyone to do stuck in their houses.
No, but that’s why all the protocols and guidance and everything that we are told to do to keep the industry going is really helpful. I think so far, until the last week or so, we did brilliantly and we were able to control that.
If that’s the case and the government and the people are happy to do that again because they believe that it’s something positive and something to look at and keep people entertained then it’s great that we can help in that sense. If not, it’ll be them that are the ones making the decision that there’s no sense in keeping this going.
Is Martinelli an injury prone player or is this just a bit of bad luck?
Well he had really bad luck with the three injuries that you’re talking there all really different ones. It was a contact, the other one is something that can happen to anyone. But you have to be really unlucky. We’re gonna scan him today. Hopfully it’s not bad and we can have Gabi back. But yeah I was gutted for him because he was in pain and he was gutted.
Has Rob Holding signed a new contract?
It’s something that we will announce as quick as we can. But it looks like it.
Arsenal fans are calling Emile Smith Rowe ‘the Croydon De Bruyne.’ What are your thoughts on that?
Call him Emile. Let’s keep it simple. It’s just a start, there’s a lot to do.
Smith Rowe fired into the bottom corner to break the deadlock (Image: Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Crystal Palace are in bad form but they’re still hard to beat. There is a lot of pressure on Roy and maybe they’re not the team that has come to the Emirates in the past couple of season and caused Arsenal problems.
Yes because they are a team, as I said before, that don’t need much. They have very specific players in certain positions, that reinforces that way of playing. Roy always makes it difficult. They lost some games, some that they lost for big margins like against Liverpool. But for me it’s not a consequence of what they are as a team.
Listen, every game in the Premier League is tough. It will be tough against them when a team is in the moment that they are in, because we weren’t that far a few weeks ago, I know what the spirit in that dressing room and the willingness to put things right is. So we have to be there really, really ready to go and win that match again.
How well do you think Ozil has handled the last six to nine months?
Well it’s always difficult to handle this situation when you are left out of the squad. It’s been difficult for everybody. To have players in that squad, it wasn’t only him, because you need them motivated, you need them training well, you need them to be part of what we’re trying to do. And when they don’t feel like they can contribute to that it’s always tricky. We have tried to manage that the best possible way.
Is top six back on as a realistic aim?
I think the next two games are crucial to see the direction that we are taking. To reinforce all the things that we have improved on. The results that we are having recently. And I think we will know much more in the next two games.
Lucas Torreira in action for Atletico Madrid. (Image: Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
What’s happening with Lucas Torreira?
Well, I had some conversations with Lucas. He started the loan period really well, now he’s lacking game time. It can happen. The team is doing exceptionally well, they are first in the Spanish La Liga. So when a team is winning it’s difficult to get into the line up. It’s a long season. I know Lucas’ character. He’s going to try to keep going and pushing so let’s see what’s going to happen with him.
And Emi Buendia you’ve been linked with quite a bit. And Diego Costa you’ve been linked with do you see him as atraditionalArsenal number nine?
Yeah we get linked with players that we haven’t even discussed, so as you can imagine I cannot go name by name.
Diego Costa has been linked with a move back to London (Image: Getty Images)
You must be keen for the Mesut Ozil situation to come to an end?
No it’s that we can resolve the situation one way or the other. It’s always good to know what we are going to do, what is going to happen. I knew when I made the decision the consequences that we could have. We still have to try to find the right solution for the player and the club. We are trying to do that and let’s see what we get.
Has he had an impact on the likes of Smith Rowe, Saka and Willock and will his experience be missed if he does move on?
Well I think a player’s contribution comes in different ways. When you look at people who has won everything and the stories about why those things happened, the experiences that they had. The status that brings into football players, the confidence that it brings, it’s great to have people around like this for young talent.
After you have to experience it yourself and you have to look at players that you can see that can give you something for your career. But certainly having that sort of player is always helpful.
Zaha was one of the standout performers for Crystal Palace vs Sheffield United
Would you have enjoyed working with a player of Wilfried Zaha’s talent?
Well, undoubtedly he’s a player that has done exceptionally well in the Premier League. He has created a big name, because what he’s been able to do, sometimes just on his own, some individual actions that’s what people highlight all the time. But yeah he’s a player that’s playing for Palace at the moment and I have nothing to comment.
Matt Macey has left does that mean the club will look to bring in a goalkeeper in January?
We are assessing the situation in the three positions in the goalkeeping area, and we will find a different solution probably in this winter.
I read this morning that Alex Runarsson could leave on loan is there anything in that?
There’s nothing yet.
Is Runarsson something that is being discussed in the goalkeeping situation?
We are assessing what is going to happen with the three positions. The discussion that we had in the summer with Edu and the club were a little bit different to what actually happened because of the transfer window because of the situation that developed with Emi at the end of the day. And we didn’t have much time to do what we really wanted to do and we decided to assess the situation in this window which is what we are trying to do and we will make a decision here how we want to move forward in those three positions.
You’re the youngest manager in the Premier League, Roy Hodgson started managing before you were even born. Would you like to be a manager for that many years?
Well if I could do that it would be exceptional. And that is the word I would use to describe what Roy has done in the game and the way he’s done it. I think his charisma, his personality, the way he approaches people, how he is as a person and then what he achieved as a coach I think it’s just exceptional. And in these days I’ve been doing that for a short period, but just to imagine doing it for that long, it’s an incredible achievement. So my hat’s off, because you should have something really special, and really special people around you as well I believe.
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Do you think it will be harder for modern managers like yourself to have such a long career?
Probably we will see what happens. I heard a lot of coaches when they started say ‘I’m only going to do that for five, six years maximum.’ It’s been 15, 20 years and they are still there. So, it’s a difficult drug to take out from your system and I think once you’re on it you have to carry on doing it.
So it’s a very addictive job is it?
It is yes.