Every word Mikel Arteta said on his new contract, Arsenal’s anthem and the game against Leeds

Team news ahead of Leeds?

Ben White is still in contention so he needs to train tomorrow to make sure that he’s available to play and for the rest, there’s no news, everybody should be okay.

Signing a new contract?

Well, I’m delighted because obviously from both sides we have shown a real commitment of what we want to do together in this beautiful journey and the plans and the vision that we share, that’s the reason why I’m doing it. I think the club is doing it because we share the same beliefs, the same passion and the same level of trust about each other and how we’re doing it and I’m really excited about what we can do together.

Facing Leeds?

It’s a lot to play for and obviously, the situation that they are in, they are going to show how much they want to get out of that zone as quickly as possible. For us, this is the defining moment of the season after everything we’ve done so we want to capitalise on what we’ve done in the last nine or 10 months.

Rangers reaching the Europa League final?

I’m so happy for them, especially with what happened in the last few days with Jimmy [Bell, Rangers kit man who died this week]. He was someone that I love so much and I have great memories and you just have to see the reaction everybody had towards him. So hopefully they can dedicate that obituary to him and go and lift the trophy now because I can’t imagine how Glasgow will be if they manage to win that trophy.

Improvements ahead of this weekend?

Hopefully, we can play better with the ball than what we did. It is true that as well we did a lot of good things in that game to earn the right to win it. The way we competed it, the way we managed the strength of West Ham and how much we limited them. Yeah, every game has different demands and against Leeds it will be a completely different game, the way they play, but really competitive as well.

The last game against Leeds showed progression?

It was, I think we started the game really, really strongly. It’s true that the context was different. They had a lot of Covid players at the time and they were struggling with numbers. We’re in a really strong position at the moment. It will be different. Now, the situation is different. They have a new manager, they have changed a few things in their organisation and never two games are the same.

Thoughts on Leeds’ style?

It’s a game that they change, especially their formation because they never played that before [facing Manchester City]. We are aware that they can do either of those. You look at the history of the coach and what he’s done. He’s always been very consistent, very defined way of playing and plays a really attractive, in my opinion, way to play football, so I’m expecting something similar.

How important do you think the fans have been to results on the pitch?

It is lifting us. That chemistry and that connection is growing every single week, and you can sense that the players certainly do it. They talk about the difference that it makes to play in the stadium, but even when we are away from home the incredible support that we get. That was something that we were missing in the last two years, we discussed that many, many times. In my opinion that is the game changer, it’s their energy and their emotions towards the team that is really contagious.

Louis Dunford’s song becoming a local anthem?

I have had thousands and thousands of requests from all of our supporters to go and do something about it. We want to listen to them, it’s great. Because they are bringing all of the initiatives now, we don’t have to do anything, it’s up to them. They feel it, they want to earn it. They do a lot of things around the stadium as well as we all notice. So, let’s give it a push you know, if that’s what we want to do, and that’s how we want to be seen and feel like. I think there’s no better way than to go ahead and do it when you feel it.

Is your starting XI untouchable?

Well, what we want to do is improve the team, the squad. Obviously we know that there is not a player that doesn’t have a margin to improve or evolve in his way of playing or career. So we want to retain our best players for sure, and we want to add into that more quality and depth to be more competitive.

Previous Arsenal teams had to sell star players – is it different this time around?

Well, what we have to be really prepared (for) is when we are going to do that and why are we going to do that. We can control those timings and we have the decision making on when is the right time to do it, and be prepared for that. So sometimes it is negative because you cannot offer the same competition level as they have been offered, or because you think it is the right moment to make a move. But in principle we want to maintain our best players and keep them and get better.

What was the timeline around your new contract?

The club was so decisive and committed to do it now and they wanted to bring clarities starting from ownership about what we were doing and show the stability and commitment to the project and don’t have to worry or something about any of that, whether we want to recruit players or keep the players that we want and they can see a clear path in the future and there is no question marks. From the moment that they questioned me about my feeling, I was very clear that I was ready to commit here, really happy here and in this job there is still a lot to do.

When did you tell the players?

They found out this morning. Some of them have been asking me for months because they have questions about their individual futures because they read some news as well and that is not something I want to be talking about, I want zero distraction about that so this afternoon that’s done. It’s clear for the future and now the focus is on Leeds.

How does it affect your summer plans?

So we can explain to the players so when you are discussing the possibility of prolonging their stay, or recruiting someone who’s playing for a different club, you have to explain how you are going to do it, and in detail so they know and expect clearly what they are going to believe in if they join our club. In order to do that, the club thought it was the best moment to do it.

Was the contract linked to European qualification?

The club offered me the contract when we lost three matches. That day I went like this ‘chapeau’. And that doesn’t happen in football. That’s a part of what they think, the conversations they have, the belief that they have in myself. The coaching and staff in what we are doing and the people that we have now at the football club and leading this football club and I haven’t ever seen it and I just got emotional when I see it and I said ‘you guys are serious and committed and I’d better push forward’.

Is the contract offer driving you forward?

Words and facts are very different things. And in football they can be extremely different in relation to the results and it’s not the case. So they meant something for many months, the conversations that we had and they put it in a piece of paper after that day and for me there’s not a better way to describe the people that we have at the club.

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