After beating Wolves 2-0 to see us 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 saw us overtake our rivals during the 44-day gap without Premier League football, and Arteta spoke about whether the gap will affect us on the restart, as well as a number of other topics surrounding the meeting with Molyneux.
Here’s what he had to say in his post-match press conference:
On whether it matters to be five points clear after 14 games:
It’s great to be where we are. We enjoy the moment and we have a great rest. We have to reflect on what we are doing and be very prepared for what is going to happen after the World Cup. But, our goal is to play better as a team every day. Having better tools to do what we want to do on that pitch. I can say that working with these players and staff has been fantastic.
On whether he’s disappointed that we’ve broken up now with so much momentum:
When a team is in that moment, you obviously want to play but can’t. We have to make the most of the time now, as the players who are not participating in the World Cup will get some rest that they fully deserve. And the rest [will] Fulfill every child’s dream when they get a chance to represent their national team in a World Cup tournament. It doesn’t get any better than that.
On the resume, whether Odegaard not going to the World Cup will make a big difference:
I have no clue. Obviously, he is going to commit himself with the national team as he has already got two international caps. After that, we try to prepare him in the best way. But we don’t know; When you’re in rhythm and you’re competing, sometimes it’s better. So the players here have to compete and be fit enough to be able to play the right way against West Ham. We try to make 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 wonderful person, he is a wonderful footballer, what he does at his age is not easy. We are really happy to have him.
Odegaard adding goals to his game this season:
That’s what you want, your attacking midfielders to win games and not just assist them but score goals. He’s changed that mentality, he’s been practicing a lot and he wants to be at his best, it’s like a lot of other kids we have, we don’t know what his limit is. That’s what we want, to embrace the good times and support them when they’re not so good.
On Granite Shaka
He was fine, he didn’t feel well, Granit raised his hand and said: ‘I want to come.’ He didn’t feel well at all. We had a few guys with stomach problems and obviously we can’t change three or four guys in the first half, but I’m happy that we adapted to those situations and managed to win the game.
Reflecting on our season so far:
I need about a week to do it. Obviously, nobody expected where we are now and the amount of games we managed to win, but I focus more on the way we play and the way we live together, the atmosphere in this dressing room. And what we’ve generated around Colney and with our supporters in our stadium and the connection between every member of the club and that’s so much more powerful, my job is to focus then to play better every game.
On whether his own expectations of what could be done with this team have been exceeded:
Yeah, but I take it day by day, not even game by game. We do things better on a daily basis and I understand that if we commit to doing those things better every day, each person will contribute to making the team better and that’s what I want.
Regarding whether there is a sickness bug around the group hotel:
Not overnight. I think it was after the pre-match meal, but I didn’t even know about that. And the doctor tried to adjust some position because it was not good for them.
On whether he and the team watched the Manchester City game:
Yes. We were on the bus. We usually watch it along with many other sports.
On the team’s reaction when Toni scored against Manchester City:
As you can imagine.
On whether thinking about other groups can sometimes distract you:
That’s how you live this league, that’s the beauty and you start to do it in the second game of the season because the competition is so big, you really look at the other opponents and I think that’s something every team does. . When I was in other groups, we did it all the time. As a player or as a coach, it’s natural.
But then you have to focus on your own thing, your own talent and winning the game. This week, I think it was very tricky because there were a lot of things and some people around the World Cup, but the boys did what they had to do.
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