Mikel Arteta and Alex Zinchenko had just landed in New York from Washington and addressed the media in a pre-game press conference at MetLife Stadium.
As we prepare for Saturday’s game against Manchester United, the pair have been asked questions by local and international reporters.
But there was also a lot to discuss away from the United game. The manager spoke about transfer plans, Thomas Partey’s future and ambitions for next season while Zinchenko was asked if he would like to play for Arteta and also spoke passionately about his home country’s ongoing war with Russia. Here’s a full transcript.
About Leandro Trossard:
MA: He’s fine, he trained this morning and will be available tomorrow.
Whether the MLS All-Stars Game was a test:
MA: Of course every game is a test. Although we got a very good result, there are things that we can handle much better than in the game. We took positives from it, mainly because we won it. Tomorrow’s test will be something completely different against a side who are used to playing together and are a big rival for us in the Premier League. It’s going to be great, in this stadium, with a full house, incredible atmosphere and it’s going to be a really big test to see where we’re at.
When he realized the title race was over last season:
MA: When it was mathematically impossible. Up to this point we have always believed that we had the chance to do so. Obviously there were moments when we had it in our hands and then we lost it. But there were still games to play and to the point where it wasn’t mathematically possible, you should never give up because this is football.
On the question of whether Thomas Partey is still in his plans:
MA: Thomas Partey is a super important player for us and for me and we definitely want him in the team, that’s for sure.
On the future of Nicolas Pepe:
MA: Right now he’s recovering from an injury so he’s not here. He was on loan for a while and obviously we wanted to achieve a lot more than we got from that loan. We have to wait and see when we come back, understand the plans and make the right decision for him.
As to whether there will be further transfers:
MA: I don’t know. Obviously there will continue to be movements. There will be pros and cons. It’s still very early, the market seems to have been a little quieter for the last week. If we can improve the team, we will try to do that, but we are not weakening, so we have to be very careful there too.
On whether Kylian Mbappe is a realistic goal:
MA: You know I never talk about players who don’t play for our club, sorry.
About William Saliba:
MA: Let me ask my assistant. What do you think of Willy?
MA: He’s doing really well. Obviously he’s a big player for us. We know what he brings to the team. He looks good physically, I think he’s in a good moment. He’s happy, apparently he’s renewed his contract and everything seems fine.
On dissatisfaction with second place:
OZ: I’ve said many times in the past that even seeing Arsenal from where I was before, I felt and could smell Arsenal’s time coming. Of course we have a young team, but it already has a lot of experience. Unfortunately we didn’t achieve what we wanted at the end of last season, but we learned a lot of good lessons over the course of the season and that will certainly help us next season. I’m totally confident, so let’s see what will happen.
Whether Thomas Partey and Declan Rice can play together:
MA: Yes, they can play together and that was in my plans. If you want to improve the squad and have more quality, we need players who can play together, but we need players in the same position who have to fight for their places. That’s something we haven’t had in the last few years and we wanted to improve on that and that’s why we brought Declan with us as well.
How the boss wants to work on different systems for the team:
MA: Yes, our plan A1, A2 and A3, that’s how you want to see it. So yeah, we look at options, train different options and you have to understand that sometimes you have to let the players see them. Because when you watch them train, when you see them interacting, they give you a lot of information, which doesn’t always have to be the case. They probably think they are giving you a lot of information and that they need to absorb that information.
On what it’s like to play with Mikel Arteta again and the new signings who have joined the club since last summer:
OZ: Well it’s no secret that I’ve known Mikel since City for a while. I told myself that if one day I left City and stayed in the Premier League it would only be under one manager and that is Mikel Arteta. The way he sees football, his decision [making]He’s a winner and he has an unlovable mentality [enough]. It’s a dream for every football player around the world to be in a team like this and you can see how we enjoy every single day and how hard we all work, probably last season. I can’t remember a day when the staff wasn’t at the training ground. That’s the right way of working, if you want to achieve something big, that’s how you have to behave.
Assuming Thomas Partey stays:
If there have been conversations about where Thomas is a priority:
MA: No, every time I spoke to him, every time I had conversations with him, he wanted to stay with us, so it doesn’t say anything at all.
Whether this season will make it harder or easier for us to challenge:
MA: Certainly more difficult because the level will rise, the teams will get bigger and the league will get stronger. It’s only going to get harder, but we know that and we’re preparing for it and we have to get better. We have to play better and do things better than last year and that’s what we’re working on at the moment.
Whether we’ll get a hangover from being so close last year:
MA: No, I think what happened last year was probably necessary to learn the lessons you need to learn to get better and be more successful at what you want to achieve. It’s part of the roles and the journey and we know the complexity of the league and the rivalries we have.
On the upcoming game for Ukraine:
OZ: My answer might be a bit long, so I’m sorry. We have to say that I have the opportunity to be here to say thank you to the US and the rest of the world who have been of great help to us during this difficult time. Of course this has been part of my life since the invasion, every single day I live with it all over my country and with the people who are there. My family and I try to help as much as we can and with the event taking place soon in London on August 5th I naturally feel that it is my mission to try to help as much as possible. My children will ask me when they are older: “Dad, what were you doing when this war was happening?”. I just want to look into my daughter’s eyes and just say, “Look, your mother and I tried to do our best to help people, to help our country.” Of course, I use football, the best sport in the world, to represent our country in the best possible way. Soon there will be such an event with all the ex-players and legends around the world. It’s so important not only to have the goal of raising funds to help rebuild parts of Ukraine, but it’s also our strong message to the rest of the world, especially to all Ukrainians who stay there and fight for their independence. We want to say that we stand behind them and make sure they are not alone. I know some people are exhausted from this war but we all need to fight for our freedom and independence because I couldn’t imagine something like this happening in the 2020s. Imagine the place where you were born and grew up and one day another country comes to you destroying everything killing children and doing a lot of scary things to achieve what? That is the question. So I’m talking to people who are a little tired because tomorrow it could be your country. That’s why we have to stick together and fight to the end.
On Shakhtar vs Tottenham and the power of football:
OZ: It’s so important. For me personally it is a shame to ask you for a donation and the like. I don’t say that and I don’t ask that because some people can’t because they have busy and big families and stuff like that but when I’m in London and just walking with my daughter I can see some cars and kids, like the other day I saw a family and I didn’t know where they came from, I couldn’t recognize the language but I saw the boy who was maybe 7 years old and he went shirtless and had a temporary tattoo of the Ukrainian flag on his shoulder. I was like, ‘Wow, these people stand with us’, so I’m not asking everyone to donate, but just putting a sticker on your car or something like that means a lot to us. It makes me so proud.
How he got into the game for Ukraine and if he speaks regularly to people at home:
OZ: A little over a month ago I was in Ukraine for the first time since the invasion, and Andriy Shevchenko and I went to the school that we are going to rebuild and talked to the children. I’m not going to tell you what we talked about because it’s scary things and things like that. But I’ve spoken to these kids and dealt with the guys who are on the front lines and taking risks every day. We played against MLS the other day and the show before kick-off was amazing. The F-16s were flying in the air right above us, four of them, and I know how important they were to us. I would like to take this opportunity to say to you again: we need these F-16s to give back our lands and territories. Like I said, if I have a mission and an opportunity to talk to you, I must take it.
How we will make sure we win the Premier League title next season:
MA: We have to get better and win every single game, that’s the goal. We have to play better and make sure they enjoy every minute here because in the end it’s about getting the best out of them and that’s crucial if you want to achieve that. In the end they have to believe that they can do it again (challenge), that they can do even better and they have to remember our standards and we will raise the level and see where we will be. That is the vision every day anew.
On meeting Mason Mount and whether we tried to sign him:
MA: We are so happy with the players we have signed and the players we have in our squad.
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