Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta sat down with Marca today to answer some very popular questions as Arsenal face one of the biggest summer transfer windows in the clubs history.
The Arsenal boss speaks on missing out on the title last season, Declan Rice, the summer window, PSG rumours and more…
Here is a transcript of his answers.
It was an exhausting season – what does the Arsenal manager do when on holiday?
Above all, it’s about taking a break to disconnect from work and connect with our families. It’s the only time of the year we can be with them for real: my three children, my wife, parents, friends… although my children are crazy about football and in my house the ball is always rolling around.
Have you watched any football?
I have watched some international football and I have enjoyed the national team’s title, but we have also looked at ourselves. Looking at our games, situations, trying to pick out things we need to keep and things we need to improve on, including myself.
How have you rediscovered Arsenal’s winning spirit in the three and a half seasons you’ve been there?
It started three years ago. I was Pep’s assistant at City, we were playing Arsenal and I could see that the soul of the club had been lost. There was no enjoyment, no feeling. I knew there was the option of, soon after, being in the other dugout and I knew that this club is so big that we had to connect the team with the fans.
It has been hard to do and undo… but now I feel happy. We have a clear identity, there is unity and we are full of energy. That’s the greatest thing. From top to bottom, everyone is pushing in the same direction. We give the fans something to dream about and be proud of. And now, we have to win more.
The Wenger era was very long, and that created triumphs, but also entrenched defects. Were you able to detect what was wrong?
It was very clear to me. I drew a tree and its roots, and I said that it was our problem. We had to cure all that, and cure it with people who were involved. Without that, there would be no fun for the audience.
Let’s go back to last season, was it an achievement to beat City in the Premiership or was it an achievement just to win it?
The achievement was to win it. This is Arsenal and the standards are high. To this day, it still hurts me deep inside not to have won the Premiership after 10 months of fighting with City. But that’s sport. Having said that, what we achieved with such a young team [Arsenal had the youngest squad in the Premiership] is to be applauded. That’s clear to me as well.
What was missing to win?
A lot of things. We were penalized by those three draws we had in a row [Liverpool, West Ham and Southampton], and all the misfortunes that happened [two comebacks from two goals down]. There were three or four injuries to important players and from then on, everything got complicated. When we had the full team, we were consistent. As soon as problems came, it wasn’t enough for us. And then our opponent was the best team in the world; the best squad in the world; the best coach in the world…. We had no choice but to accept it and shake hands with the champion.
In the Premiership every game is a battle. Do you see yourself coaching for another 20 years?
I don’t know what will happen, but I enjoy my day to day coaching. I love my players and the environment we have created at the club. I get up very early every day and I swear I have in my stomach the desire to go to work. We have made a great group and we know what direction to go in.
Did you see yourself winning the Premiership at some point?
In many moments. The team gave me arguments and we had a connection with the people. People believed in it. But when we started to get injuries, I felt it was going to cost us. The level of demand could not be maintained. If you want to win the Premiership against City, you have to get to April-May with all players available and at their best. And we, because of injuries, didn’t get there.
The Academy ‘jewel’ is Saka. If he were on the market, would he cost more than 100 million?
I have no idea. There are the little machines where you put in all the data and variables… and they give you the price. Saka is very good and very consistent. His performance and numbers at the age of 21 are crazy. He is very hungry, he wants to improve and he has an ideal environment to do it. If I had to pick one thing it would be his ability to win games, and not many have that. Also with Martinelli, Gabriel [Jesus] or Odegaard.
How did you make Odegaard a star?
I think that is his merit. His self-motivation is brutal, he understands everything very well and learns quickly. We helped him by giving him responsibility and confidence by making him captain. I explained it to him: ‘With this will come more demand and your ability to transmit will be the key. Be you,’ I told him. Martin is very reserved, but when he speaks, you listen to him. He does everything that is required: he takes care of himself; he cares and improves others; he has education, love for the game, commitment.
And he believes he has to play closer to the penalty area: play less and get there more. His numbers are very good: the inside player with the most goals in the history of the Premier League along with Lampard. And he can still improve at the age of 24.
Is Declan Rice so good that Arsenal are considering buying him for more than 100 million euros?
I can’t talk about players who are not at the club. I prefer not to say anything.
So, the signing of Havertz is out of the question?
Talent has a price and, at Arsenal, we are always interested in young players with experience. I repeat, I am not talking about players from other clubs, but, in the case of Kai, he has already shown a lot, including a Champions League. He is a talented, versatile player and he is only 24 years old.
This summer there will also be money to invest. That is key.
We have already regenerated the squad, with a very young average that will generate performance and value. We have owners who are aligned with us: to build a winning team that can be sustained over time, without too much investment. But the demands are increasing and we have to go to the market to find what we don’t have to keep improving.
Is it possible to win the 23-24 Premiership?
If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be sitting here. That is our ambition. We know the difficulty: it’s the best league in the world and next season is going to be the toughest league in Premiership history. Why? It already was last year. I’ve been here for 22 years and I’ve never seen a competitive level like that. So much quality, so much organization, so many resources, so many good coaches… and now Pochettino and Iraola are coming. That’s the level and to win the Premiership you have to be the best. That’s why you have to strengthen.
Are you still surprised that the stadium chants your name?
We all like to be praised and to be recognised for what we do. Above all, I want the Gunners fans to enjoy themselves and play every ball with us, to feel like they are part of the goal of winning.
Were you offered PSG this summer? This newspaper knows for a fact that you were.
I can only say that I am happy at Arsenal. I feel loved, valued by our owners, Stan and Josh [the two Kroenkes], and I have a lot to do here at this club. I am happy and tremendously grateful to be at Arsenal.
One last question: Do you think you can now recognise that you are a better coach than you were as a player?
Uff, that’s a tough one. I’ve only been at this for four years and my goal is to be the best in the world, but not just on a personal level, but to be the best manager in the world for Arsenal, to help these players and this club to be the best. To play better than anyone else… and to be able to win.