You said you’ll make sure the players will understand what Sunday’s game means. How are you going to do that?
I will do it in the dressing room, the way I normally do things that are a little bit more private.
Will there be anything different in the way you address them though?
Well there are things. In every game we have to try and find something to relate to the game, to relate to the momentum we are in. Whether it’s a motivational thing, or something we want to reinforce or to pinch players. We have to find that little part.
How do you close the gap to the big six when other teams already ahead of you are making improvements?
Well first of all understanding what the context is. So where the rivals are, what they’ve done to achieve what they’ve done and what we have to do to get there. And then just focusing on your process and what you can control because the rest is out of your hands.
But you have to be realistic that if the gap is this big, there are things that have to be there to (reduce) this gap. There is not any other possibility because we don’t expect anybody to bring the level down. I think the opposite. I think they will try to increase the level even more.
Martin Odegaard scored in the derby in March. Is that sort of big game moment why you brought him in?
Well first of all because he’s a very consistent player, because we really like the qualities that he brings to the team, how he is around the place. And then because I think he can decide football matches and big football matches. He did that last year.
Do you see a bit of yourself in him, in that he’s young and has a lot of responsibility?
I don’t think he would like that comparison. He’s Martin. He’s an exceptional footballer. He’s still young, he’s got a big gap to develop parts of his game, his leadership attributes as well. We are on the way to help him as much as possible to fulfil his potential which I think is really big.
What turns a young player into a player that can make a difference in big games?
First of all he needs consistency. He needs trust, and he needs work behind the scenes, and he needs to protected. Once that happens he needs to start to be hungry enough to keep developing even when people say he is doing great.
And then don’t treat himself, never as a young player or even as a development player, he needs to be treated like any other player and has to perform on that pitch and sustain that level. Within the context of the pressure he’s going to be facing the better and better he becomes. And if he does that he becomes a top player. If he doesn’t he won’t.
Do you see those attributes in all the guys you signed over the summer?
Yes. But that’s why I mentioned first consistency because they need minutes to do that. We have to find the space around our squad to provide that in the right manner without losing the balance that any squad or any starting XI needs to compete or win football matches.
How difficult is it for players on the pitch to stay calm during a derby?
Sometimes it happens that you just try to go in the same gear when you have the ball and when you don’t have the ball. Then everything becomes rushed. That’s in the first few minutes normally they are a little bit like that. After you have to pause and calm the game down and get control and try to manage the gears in a different way throughout the game because you cannot play at that level.
You’re saying you want to rev the players up before the game but then not to get too carried away. Is that a difficult thing to control?
No. One part is the emotional part and what is at stake and what you have to try to do to win these football matches. There are basic principles that you have to apply. Then it’s individual, the quality that you have, the presence to develop in that game and to do what you need to do. And try to play the game that we have to play to win against Spurs.
Are you concerned about Granit Xhaka’s ability to stay calm in these sorts of matches given his disciplinary record?
Well obviously if we do what we did last year and we play four or five games with 10 players we are going to suffer in this league. So it’s something that we want to eradicate. When it’s 11 players on that pitch it’s 100% sure that we have to play with cool minds and understand what are the limits in the game and what you can and what you cannot do.
Did you talk to Granit after the Man City game?
Did he apologise?
I don’t think it’s something really to discuss because it was clear what happened and we were all in the same boat. We know the outcome of what happened and move on.
Will you tell your players that this is their chance to become an Arsenal legend?
Well it’s a fixture that always goes down in history and when you are able to win and have a big impact on that win our supporters are never going to forget it, so it’s a beautiful thing to be part of.