The Gunners boss has spoken to the press ahead of his side’s North London Derby clash at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the Premier League on Sunday
How are these North London Derby weeks for you and how big a game is this?
I just love it. That’s why we’re here to play these games. It’s one of the biggest games of the season for us. We know how much it means for us on the table and how much it means for our people as well. But we’re gonna have to focus on playing well and doing what we have to do to win the game.
How much does the May defeat linger?
That was the result that was the performance that was the context of what happened in that game. There are a lot of things to learn from, a lot of things to take from there. We haven’t won there so that’s the challenge that we have ahead of us.
How much better prepared are you for an atmosphere like that now?
We’re in a different place but we’ll have to show that playing the way we want to play.
With the spotlight on your side’s behavior over the last few weeks are they going to have to err on the side of caution on Sunday?
I prefer not to comment on that.
Will you be having a conversation with your players about that?
Anything we can do to improve, we will always have conversations with our players and staff to see what we can do better (and if) we have to change any behavior.
What’s the latest on Mudryk?
*Smiles* You know we cannot talk about any other players. There are some interests in what we’d like to do to improve the team because we’re short in certain areas and with injuries that picked. We are trying and as a club, We are trying to improve in every window.
What did you think of him on social media this morning?
I will tell you how good I am with the phone.
How is Jesus coming along?
He’s progressing really well, he’s working really hear, and he’s in the right place in terms of the time that we set for him, but he’s still a bit far.
Do you hope to see him back before the end of the season at least?
I’d like to see him very quickly but I don’t think it’s gonna happen. We’re gonna have to be patient with that one. But let’s see. It’s a complicated surgery, in any surgery, there are always a lot of things where you have to be cautious He’s a player that’s going to push to be really fast on the pitch.
How was Emile Smith Rowe’s return?
It was great to have him back. It’s his first minute after four months. He worked so hard to be in the position that he’s in today and now we need to give him more minutes in the team because he’s a very important player for us.
What are your memories of the North London Derby?
Emotional. Very passionate. An incredible feeling when you’re on that pitch and you feel the tension, the support, and the atmosphere around it. When you win it doesn’t get much better.
How would you compare this North London Derby to the last one at the Emirates?
That’s the challenge that we have. We have to beat them at their place. That’s the way we have prepared the game.
What are you expecting from Spurs at home?
I don’t know. Sometimes they approach games in different ways. Sometimes they allow you to make the game and they have a lot of tools to use to make different problems. Let’s see, we have to allow the game to develop. We will prepare for the game in every possible way and then it will be up to the players to do what they have to do on the pitch.
Do you prepare the team differently away from home? Does the approach vary?
We prepare every game differently because every game brings challenges and opportunities and in every game, teams are in different moments. Obviously, we have a way of playing, but within that, we talk and discuss different things in relation to the opponent that we face.
Can you appreciate the drama of it?
In the preparation probably not because we have to focus on what we do and we want to put attention and detail into that. Once you are there you realize the moment and it’s, in my opinion, one of the best things to do. To realize how lucky we are to be in the position that we are in and have the possibility to affect the game.
Spoken to players about the cauldron atmosphere?
We prepare every game in a different way and we talk about things that in our opinion are relevant to how the game could develop.
So that came up?
They are things we discuss every week.
What sort of message would a win send?
I don’t know. We didn’t think about sending messages, we think about performance and playing well, and earning the right to win the game. That’s what we have to do and the best way to do it is by focusing on that. The rest we cannot control. I don’t know the perception of the rest of us, the way they analyze us, I don’t know, we have to focus on what we can do.
How do you take pressure off the players?
We just face the challenge and the opportunity ahead of us and we know where we are. At Arsenal, you don’t expect anything that is not winning football matches every three days. That is the demand we have as a club and everybody individually and every member of the staff knows that. The challenge weekly, daily, is to be better and to win the game. It doesn’t matter who you play against.
I think he will be OK.
Do players like Saka need protecting?
It’s something that we’ve discussed many, many times. I think the referees have a duty to protect the game in general and they do their best to try to do that.
Players always crowded around the ref – so does Arsenal’s charge surprise you?
I prefer not to comment on that aspect.
Conte’s comments last season – do you think you have changed since then?
I don’t know. I try to be myself all the time, try to be honest and what other people have to say, they are entitled to have an opinion. Like I have my own opinion
The next few weeks are pivotal for the season.
In this league, every week is so challenging and so difficult and you see that every week when you don’t expect certain results. So looking too far in the calendar or making games more difficult than others, doesn’t work in this league.
Changing your ‘game by game’ approach?
I have changed it. Now it’s trained by train. Instead of the games, it’s [about] the next training session.
Are players feeling the pressure?
I think the players are in a good emotional state. They are excited, they are enjoying playing together and obviously, we are in a good position. We have to now improve a lot of things and maintain a lot of the good things that have taken us this far.
An awful record at Spurs – what would a win do mentally
Well, we’ve had a few in the last few years. There have been places that we haven’t won in 15, 17, or 20 years. We would have liked to do it all at once, but we haven’t been able to do that. So we have a great opportunity on Sunday to get that one done.