Every word Mikel Arteta said on Martinelli’s display, Arsenal’s COVID cases and racist abuse

You’ve spoken about how you want to time things right with Martinelli. Was the Olympics and the amount of football he’s played a part of that?

Well, we see the player every day and we know where the player has to be to be able to appear in the right frame, and then sustain that level into the season. We’ve started to use Gabi more and more when we thought that was the case. There’s no point exposing a player even when there’s a lot of opinions that it has to be done because it won’t be beneficial for the player.

And in the end we are here to protect the player and develop the players that we have in the best possible way. We judge every day with what we see and I’m really happy with him and the way he’s performing.

How has Martinelli’s game understanding developed?

He’s come a long, long way because his energy, his passion, his commitment, it doesn’t get much better than that ever, but there are other aspects in the game that he’s had to develop and maintain the ones that he’s exceptional at, like today, because when he has chances he puts them away. Again, he’s in the right direction.

Rob Holding spoke to the officials in the first half. Can you confirm if that was over allegations of racism?

Unfortunately I can confirm that and it was reported to the stadium manager and now the authorities will deal with that.

Is it correct that one of the substitutes heard that?

Yes, it was a player sitting on the bench. One of the players heard those comments.

Tomiyasu went off injured, was it an ankle injury?

No, it was more of a muscular injury. He’s got a big load on him because he’s played every single minute since he’s joined us and even this week he’s been struggling a little bit. We decided to take him off, he wasn’t 100% confident to continue in the game, and hopefully he’s not injured.

Can you clarify exactly why you had to close the training ground this week?

Pure precaution. We had some cases (of COVID-19) in the staff and we wanted to prevent any issues. Everybody that we’ve seen around us had a few cases and the cases have risen, so we wanted to protect our people and Gary [the club doctor] and the medical staff made the right call to close it for a day, make sure that all the tests from everybody was negative and make sure that when we’re back, everybody is safe.

Do any of your players other than Sambi have COVID?

We have another player as well, Pablo has Covid, so unfortunately they will be out.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has warned players that if they don’t get vaccinated then the season may not finish. What is your message to unvaccinated players?

I’ve already mentioned that we can suggest and guide players to get vaccinated, but it’s a really personal thing to do, and I don’t think that you can push any further than that. You have to educate them and try to give them the right information, try to understand the different cultures that we are involved in in football. After that we’ve done really well so far and hopefully, we can continue like that.

Was it Bukayo Saka who was the target of the racist abuse and secondly what is your overall reaction to the team performance today?

The first one: I don’t know exactly who it was that’s why they will have to be interviewed by the authorities. The second one: I’m very, very happy with the performance and the result, the week that we had and the direction the team is moving forward.

Are you happy with how clinically your team took advantage of Leeds injuries?

It’s always difficult to play against them. Obviously at the Etihad it was a different story, but when they played at Stamford Bridge or any opponent this season you know the game you’re going to face. It wasn’t different. They never gave up in the second half and it’s a team that I really, really like. I’m pleased because it’s not easy to play in the way we’ve done in this atmosphere and against this opponent. So I think it was a very strong statement from the team.

Would you rather have the points or the games in hand in the race for top 4?

The points now we have them, and the rest they have to have them. But we know that now we’re going to play like this for a few weeks now and it’s part of the league now.

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Do you feel you’ve put down a marker to your challengers in the race for the top 4 this week?

We are there now. There’s still a long, long season to go ahead with a lot of unpredictable things that are going to happen, but we are there. We want to continue that and we want to continue improving and getting better and better. Let’s see where we get.

You worked with David Silva. Do you see comparisons between him and Martin Odegaard.

That’s a big name. In my opinion that’s a player (Silva) who is best player I’ve seen ever play between the lines for the last 20 years. Martin has got a tremendous quality and a capacity to unlock situations, to put players through, to generate spaces in tight areas. I’m really happy, and he’s improving in his goal threat as well. So we have a big player there because he’s very willing to become one of the best but it’s still very early.