You’re late, Mikel. We’ll be keeping a dossier!
My fault. I will get something next time to pay the fine!
How’s training been this week?
It’s been really good. The boys have been training fantastically well. The weather conditions helped a lot. We had a busy week with some players leaving the club. There’s a lot of work to do, and we wish them all the best.
What are the fitness levels of Tomiyasu, Smith Rowe and Vieira?
They’ve been reintegrated into training this week, all of them. They are in different phases, but some of them will be in the squad tomorrow.
How fit is Tierney? Will he be able to start soon?
He played 15/20 mins last week and did really well. He’s been out for a long time after the knee injury. But he looks in perfect condition now and ready to go.
What happened to Reiss Nelson?
He felt something in training, we scanned him, and the doctor came with bad news. It’s a muscular injury; hopefully, he will be back soon.
Do you know how long he’ll be out?
Not yet. They need to do another test, and hopefully, next week, we’ll have more information.
How do you compare this Leicester side to last season’s?
I think it’s difficult to compare, they just played one match. They had some good games, including one against Sevilla (in pre-season). A really strong squad, a manager and coaching staff who have been doing a really good job, and you know every time it’s going to be really tough to face them.
It’s gonna hit 35 degrees at kick-off tomorrow. How much of a worry is that?
It’s the conditions of the game. We know we’re gonna have the water break and get the players in the best possible position to adapt to it and play the game we want to play.
You wouldn’t change the approach because of that?
We can. We have to adapt, and players will have to be mentally ready to play in those conditions because it’s not something we normally do. We have the five subs as well, which is very helpful. So it’s a combination of factors.
How important will the five subs be?
I think it’s really helpful. It gives the squad many more chances and hope to participate in football matches. I also think now it’s educating players that not playing 90 minutes is not an issue, especially when you have so many games in the season.
The documentary shows how concerned you were with the club’s culture this time a year ago. Are you now content with it?
I am really happy with where we are, the people we have at the club and what we’re building. I could not be happier with that.
Do you have any regrets about the handling of Aubameyang?
Listen, it’s a long time since that happened. I cannot go back each time there is a series. I have made my comments on that. I was really clear and honest with my opinion. What has been done has always been done to defend the club and put it in the best possible position, and be always as clear as, honest and consistent as we can.
Will Chelsea want the dossier that you kept on Auba?
Auba is an exceptional player. He did so much for us. He was our captain, and I think we have to be grateful, very grateful as well, for what he did for this club.
Do you think he’ll get a good reception at Emirates if he returns?
I hope he does because I think he deserves that. There are moments in life, there are moments in your career, and sometimes the trajectory or the objective of each individual is different to the clubs – and you have to respect that.
Pablo Mari left this week. Are there any more players going out before the window closes?
We had Bernd as well, we had Lucas Torreira. There were a few, and we had Flo Balogun on loan as well. We are still willing to finalise the squad in the way we want. Suppose we can add something great. But as well, there are a few players where we still have to find the right game time for them because, at the moment, I think it’s going to be difficult.
Kieran Tierney to City is not one you’ve heard about?
No, and you know that I’m not gonna be commenting on individual cases.
Have you had to change anything this week with it being so hot?
In this country, we never get it right! When it’s rainy and cloudy, it’s always too rainy and cloudy. When it’s hot, it’s always too hot! We have to say listen to 23 degrees, a little bit of shade, and then we are all happy. We just train. We have to adapt to the conditions, we knew it was going to be hot, and for Saturday, we had to maintain those conditions to get up to speed.
How different is the culture now, and why was it so different?
It was the club’s vision to completely change that and create and install (a culture) that makes people who are working at the club proud and accountable for their jobs. I think we have that, and I think you can see that level of commitment and passion transmitted to our supporters. That’s why there’s such unity at the club.
Is every player buying into it, and when you sign new players, do you explain the non-negotiables?
It’s the first thing we talk about is what we’re going to expect from them, what they’re going to expect from the club, what our values are how we want to behave and be perceived. It’s our passion, and it’s what we love doing, and to do that, we have to get on well. There are a lot of people, clubs are getting bigger and bigger every day, and you must first have that respect to enjoy ourselves together.
Who is the biggest influence on your team talks?
I think those moments are very personal and happen in the moment. How you are feeling at that time and how you sense the atmosphere around the dressing room, what the players need and the occasion. Obviously, you always have people that inspire you in your life that have educated you, and that helps.
It’s the 30-year anniversary of the Premier League on Monday. What’s your favourite Premier League memory?
That’s a big question! I think as a club, that Invincibles season was something that has been written in the history of this country and this league and will stay there forever. Hopefully, nobody – except for us, maybe we can touch it – (will get close).
Is it hard keeping Saliba’s feet on the ground with all the praise at the minute?
I think he has his feet on the ground. That is not going to be an issue. Obviously, we have talked about the expectation that he already created before joining the club when he was on loan. He is very aware of everything that was happening around him, and we have tried to manage that internally in a really quiet way. And I think it is better to stay like this for him because he is 21 years of age and he has played one Premier League match.
Will the dressing room keep him in check too?
Yes, the players really like him because he has come really determined, a focused and humble boy who wants to take the club forward. He is so willing to be talked through anything you want to talk about, be coached, and his aim is to get better and get the team better, and that is about it.
What does Emile Smith Rowe need to do to get his regular place back?
He needs to stay fit, train well and perform at the level he can perform at. When he does that, it’s really difficult not to pick him.
When he came back from his loan, how had he changed?
The first impression was really positive. His body language, his presence and the confidence he was acting with was very mature.
Are you keen to get his contract sorted out soon?
We will address all these issues as we always do. That is why the board and Edu will be preparing all the scenarios we can possibly face. We want players to be happy here and be valued, but we have just started the season.
Across the pitch, you have players who are slightly different profiles in the same position – Tierney and Zinchenko, for example. As a manager, how useful is it to have those slightly different options?
It gives us different threats and creates different problems for the opponent. Doing the same thing (with) very different qualities creates different scenarios for the opposition, and it gives us big flexibility with the same players who play in different ways.
In the documentary before the Norwich game last year, you said to give the players fewer instructions (ahead of and during the game). Is that something you’ve tried to do less – in terms of trying to control everything?
That’s the idea that they can decide by themselves, make decisions by themselves, and those decisions are right. In (terms of) execution, timing and purpose. That’s the direction we want to take.
Which position do you see Fabio Vieira ending up in?
I think that’s something that the player is going to tell us. We will try him, and we have tried him in training in different positions. He has played off the left, off the right, and as a false nine, attacking midfielder. It’s good. He doesn’t want to be locked into one position as well because he’s so used to it. That’s a really positive thing for us.
How long till we see the best of him?
I don’t know. That question mark is very difficult to respond to right now. It might take him no time, and he starts to get there. It depends on who he’s playing with, how the game goes, and how quickly he will adapt. I can tell you that he’s doing everything he can to make that process really short.