After seeing us beat Wolves 2-0 to go five points clear at the top of the table, Mikel Arteta faced the media for the last time before the World Cup break.
Martin Odegaard’s brace enabled us to beat our opponents and maintain our momentum in the 44-day gap without Premier League football, and Arteta spoke about whether the gap will affect us after the restart, as well as a number of other topics related to the clash with Molineux.
Here’s what he said at the press conference after the match:
on whether having a five point advantage after 14 games is significant:
It’s great to be where we are. We enjoy that moment, and we also have a big break. We have to think about what we are doing and be ready for what will come after the World Cup. But our goal is to play better as a team every day; to have better tools for what we want in that field. I can say that it was phenomenal to work with these players and the staff.
on whether he’s frustrated that we’re breaking up now with so much momentum:
When the team is at that point, you obviously want to keep playing, but that’s not possible. We have to use the time now in the best possible way so that the players who are not participating in the World Cup can have some rest, which they fully deserve. Etc [will] just fulfill the dream that every child had, when he had the opportunity to represent his national team at the World Cup. It can’t get any better than that.
on whether Odegaard not going to the World Cup will make a big difference comes again:
I have no idea. Obviously, he received two internationals before that, so he will devote himself to the national team. After that, we will try to prepare it in the best possible way. But we don’t know; when you’re in rhythm and competing, sometimes it’s much better. So the players who are here will have to compete and be fit enough to perform properly against West Ham. We will try to prepare them that way.
on the decision to make Odegaard captain:
It is [a big decision], he is a leader in his own way, with his character, he is a fantastic person, he is a fantastic footballer and what he does at his age is not easy. We are really lucky to have him.
on Odegaard adding goals to his game this season:
That’s what you want, for your attacking midfielders to win games and not only assist them, but also score goals. He changed that mentality, he practices a lot and wants to do his best, for which we don’t know what his limit is like with most of the other children we have. That’s what we want, embrace the good times and support them when they’re not so good.
at the exit of Granit Xhaka:
He is fine, he was not feeling well and Granit raised his hand and said: ‘I have to take off my clothes’. He didn’t feel well at all. We had a few boys with stomach problems and obviously we can’t change three or four in the first half, but I’m glad we adapted to those circumstances and managed to win the game.
looking back on the season so far:
It takes me a week or two to do it. Obviously nobody expected us to be where we are now and how many games we’ve managed to win, but I’m more focused on the way we play and the way we live together, the atmosphere we have in this dressing room and around Colney and what we’ve created with our fans in our stadium and the relationship between every member of the club and that is much stronger, and my job is to focus on playing better every game after that.
on whether he’s exceeded his own expectations of what’s possible with this team:
Yes, but I take it one day at a time, not even one game at a time. I understand that the better we do the everyday things and commit to doing those things better every day, each individual will contribute to making the team better, and that’s what I want.
on whether there was illness around the hotel team:
Not overnight. I think it was after the pre-game meal, but I didn’t even know about that. And the doctor was trying to find a place because they were not feeling well.
on whether he and the team watched the Manchester City game:
That. We were on the bus. We all watched it together, as we usually do many other matches.
on the team’s reaction when Toney scored against Manchester City:
As you can imagine.
on whether thinking about other teams can sometimes make you lose focus:
That’s the way you live this league and that’s the beauty and you start doing that in the second game of the season because the competition is so big, you really look at other opponents and I think that’s something that every team does. When I was in other teams, we did it all the time. As a player or as a coach, it is also natural.
But then you have to focus on your own thing, your own performance and winning the game. This week, I think it was very difficult because there were too many things around the World Cup and certain individuals, but the guys did what they had to do.
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