Every word Mikel Arteta said on Arsenal’s COVID situation, Aubameyang and Wilshere – Football.London

Have there been any COVID scares in the squad?

We are good. We are waiting for more tests which we’ll have this afternoon. This is the only thing we can do, wait and see.

Fitness-wise is everybody good to go?

Yeah. We had a couple of issues on the weekend. We will train today and see how everybody is feeling today.

Half the Premier League games this weekend have been postponed. How concerning is this situation health-wise and in terms of fixture build up?

Well health-wise, I hope we’re doing everything we can to protect everybody. The vaccine protocols are in place, everybody is trying to do their best and I’m sure with everything we are doing we can do our best to maintain everybody healthy. In terms of the competition – two things.

One, we need more clarity on why those games are not being played and what you need to not play a game so we all play in the same league, because at the end of the day we all play in the same league. Because at the end the most important thing is that we are able to maintain, within this context, the fairness of the competition. For me this is a big thing now.

Are you sticking with the leadership group for the time being?

Yes. As I mentioned yesterday, it’s been going for months and I’m really happy with that.

Do you think it’s unusual to have two players in a squad who are former captains, and does that reduce the responsibilities that a traditional club captain has?

I always believed, and in a lot of teams that I was in, we had a group of players that was responsible to make that decision and communicate with the coaching staff, with the club and transmit it to our supporters. At the end of the day that decision was transmitted by one person, which was the captain, but the decision wasn’t made by one person.

Do you feel with the results you’ve had recently that you’re close to where you want to be with this squad of players?

Well the last two performances have been really good in terms of what we want to achieve in matches, the results we have got and the way we have dominated games. But we need to be consistent on that throughout 10 months if we want to achieve our goals which is to be the best. We’re not there yet.

For the last round of tests was everybody negative for COVID?

Yes, but this is changing every day. That’s the uncertainty that we all have. Hopefully we don’t have any cases but we have to wait and see because we’ve seen what is happening in the league and with many other clubs. That’s why many games are not happening this weekend.

Any cases around the training ground among the staff?

We have issues in the last few weeks like everybody has. We are not an exception. We are trying to manage that as good as possible and that’s all we are trying to do.

Do you think the Premier League should pause to deal with the latest surge in Covid cases? Have your say

Would you rather play the games if you’re able to?

We always want to play when we have the right conditions to do so, 100%. But we’ve been here on the other side of the table, where we’ve had all the arguments in the warm up to a football match and we ended up playing it. That’s why we need clarity because then the fairness of the competition can be altered and that wouldn’t be fair.

Do you feel the reasoning why some teams are playing and other teams aren’t is a bit unclear?

Yes.

Emma Hayes said the fear of COVID is affecting her players mental health. Are you concerned by that?

We’ve done a lot of work and we try to educate our players and everybody that is involved in the club. But I think this is a social thing. Everybody has been going through something that is unprecedent and we are all learning from it. We are starting to normalise a situation that we’ve never been through. That’s what we are trying to do, trying to help everybody as well as we can and trying to live in the context that we have to do today. We have to live with this virus and probably for longer than we all expected.

Thomas Frank has called for a circuit break this weekend. Would you be a supporter of that?

I think there are people that know much more than I do to try to find out what the best solution is for this. Whether the best solution is to carry on playing like this, or to stop, I don’t know. It’s not something I want to give an opinion on because, I’m not a scientist I’m not a specialist. I think we have to rely on the government and Premier League to make the right decision.

Because of your personal experience with COVID have you been extra strong about encouraging your players to get vaccinated?

We’ve been trying to explain what the risks are, how we can get it, what we have to do if we do. But we all have relatives who have been through that in many different ways. I think everybody’s awareness is pretty good. The thing is it’s really difficult to control when everything outside is open. Those bubbles that we were able to create before they are impossible to do.

Is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang available for selection?

No, he’s not available for selection.



Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been stripped of the Arsenal captaincy. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been stripped of the Arsenal captaincy. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Does he have a future at the club?

For this game, he’s not available for selection.

Jurgen Klopp said he’d like more transparency on whether it’s players or staff who are testing positive for COVID at clubs. Do you agree with that?

Well, this is what I’m saying that we need clarity. At the end of the regulators will make a decision about whether a game is going to be played or not, but to play under the same rules I think we all have to understand the reasons behind it.

Do you think if the games are all called off this weekend that we’d struggle to get them going again?

I don’t know. We’re going to have to find a way and we knew that when we started this season that this could be a possibility, and I’m sure that there was a plan A, B and C because this can happen. We have the African Cup of Nations in the middle of all this and we have the World Cup that is coming in and the dates of that.

I think we need a flexible calendar now because this world is not the world that we used to live in a few years ago, and we all have to be prepared. We all prepare with different protocols every single day for training sessions, you have to cancel training sessions, you have six players out, you have 20 members of the staff out. So I’m sure that the league has a very flexible calendar and options to fit it in because this is what we’re living in.

Could this affect the form of your players?

No hopefully not, but we need to make a lot of remarks on that, because once we get to the competition we have to be fully focused to do that, and not use any excuses about what is happening in the environment. We know what we expect. We don’t know what it’s going to happen in three days, six or twelve. We can suspect it’s going to go one way, but we don’t know, and we have to be prepared for that.

How much are the young players likes Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe becoming men in terms of football?

Well, they are contributing immensely, to the performance and results of the team, that is true. But it’s because they earn it, and it’s because they have other senior players around that have been really supportive and helpful. The club has believed in them, and they have been given those opportunities and they have taken those opportunities. So, credit to them.

In terms of the fairness of the competition do you think it would be fair if all the Premier League games were cancelled this weekend?

I don’t know what the best solution is. I understand that it’s a really complicated matter to make the decision right now. What I’m saying is let’s make a decision based on what is best for the competition and the health of everyone involved in the industry and society. After we stick to that with clear rules on what is a yes and what is a no.

How important do you feel the vaccination has been in the lack of positives you’ve got right now in the squad?

The vaccination is really, really important. First of all, just in case you catch it, and to prevent getting really ill. We have seen hat obviously that’s been a massive help. Also, you see many other cases where they have been vaccinated, but they still caught COVID – so you don’t know.

Are you comfortable with the amount of vaccinated players you have in the squad right now?

Yes, we try to do the right thing. It’s a really personal matter obviously, but we try to educate. I think the doctor has done a really good job to try to explain to everyone – because culturally as well there are a lot of thoughts around it. We just try to educate them to try to encourage them to make the decision, but first of all they have to believe in that.

How big a test has this last week been for you as a manager in terms of your career?

Well every time that you are sitting here you have some challenges. You have some brilliant moments, and some moments where you have to make decisions. I’m sitting here to try to make the right decisions every day. My only intention is to get the club in the best possible condition, to defend our players, and to get the best performance and results on the pitch as we can. It’s been challenging because those decisions are tough, and are not pleasant, but you have to do what you feel is right.

What does Aubameyang have to do now to become available for selection again?

Well, he’s not available for the Leeds game and that’s the situation right now.

Does the Aubameyang situation have any impact on Lacazette’s contract situation?

Alex’s performances, involvement and commitment is without question. It’s not related to his contract situation. I discussed it in the summer with him, what the situation was, and we are both clear on that. Auba’s situation is something separate to that.



Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gives Alexandre Lacazette the captain's armband after being replaced by him during Arsenal's Premier League clash with Newcastle. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gives Alexandre Lacazette the captain’s armband after being replaced by him during Arsenal’s Premier League clash with Newcastle. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Laca seems to be coming extremely important to the squad right now

He’s always been a really important player, and since we’ve been together he’s played a lot under me. I have always been really pleased with him.

Martin Odegaard has really improved in recent weeks. How pleased are you with his progression?

He’s very, very young but he’s already had a lot of experience in different clubs, in international football. I agree that in the last few weeks he’s getting very close to his best level. The ceiling for him, I don’t know where it is, because of the talent that he has, the desire that he has, how much he wants to always improve and get better. We’ve got a tremendous player there.

Will he be part of your leadership group going forward?

He is a natural leader. If you look for the perfect professional he wouldn’t be very far from that.

Monday marks two years since you were appointed Arsenal manager. Have you got any celebrations planned?

I don’t think the world is right for too many celebrations. I just feel proud and grateful for the opportunity I was given almost two years ago now.

How do you reflect on how you’ve changed and the things you’ve learnt?

I could write a few books with everything that has happened. Not only to me, but around the football club, around the world in the last two years. I don’t know, probably one day I need to stop and think carefully about what happened and the experience that you take, but it’s been a lot.

Have you or the club started to hold any discussions about extending your contract?

No, we haven’t discussed anything like it. I think we have many other priorities at the moment that are far more important than that one I think.

Will that be something for the end of the season?

I don’t know, really, I’m not thinking about that. I’m just trying to get the best out of the team, trying to cope with all the situations that we are facing at the moment. Things will happen naturally.

Against West Ham you brought on Eddie Nketiah over Nicolas Pepe. Why has Pepe fallen down the pecking order at the moment?

It’s with all the players that they are not having enough minutes. Obviously with the amount of games we have are having, there’s not enough room for all those players. With Nico’s situation it’s something similar. I’ve highlighted on many occasions it’s because of what I see every day. That’s with Nico as well. But he needs more opportunities to show what he can do and in the last few games, he hasn’t had them.

Can you understand the focus on it given that a player who is running of contract is getting picked over him?

I understand that. Again, I have to try to make that decision on what I see every single day. And to be fair, Nico is really willing and really willing to help the team. The reality is that the position he is playinh, Bukayo has been playing regularly there and he’s been fantastic. So it’s not been easy for him to find that time.

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It’s coming up to the end of Jack Wilshere’s time at Arsenal potentially with the January window coming up. Have you been impressed with the standard that he’s shown?

Listen first of all it’s great to have him around. He is this type of character who adds special feeling to the club. He comes in every day with a smile on his face, trying to do his best. His talent is unquestionable. When you see him in training, I think you have some players say he is the best in training. So he’s got that. Now he is doing his coaching badges and it is completely up to him what the next step in his career will be and what decision he will make. We are here to support that.

Could he play at Premier League level?

100%. I’ve seen that, and if he has any doubts I can tell him that he has.

At Arsenal?

That’s a different story.

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