How different is this game to Brentford?
It is different. Everything that happened before that game was pretty strange and unique. The preparation, the pre-season that we had, different contexts. We are really excited, looking forward to the new season and will try to start in the best way and this is how we do our preparation.
Does this feel like it’s fully your team for the first time?
It’s always been my team because they’ve always been our players and we’ve always tried to get the best out of them. It’s true that we have tried to streamline the squad and change the squad massively in the last two windows especially. You feel now that the players we have are more specific and better to the way we want to play obviously.
Is the expectation on Jesus huge?
When you bring top players from top clubs and they’ve been extremely successful over the years. The role that Gabi has here is going to be very different to the role that Gabi had in his previous club. That needs some adaptation and time and we are all surprised with how quickly he’s done it, but we have to share that responsibility. He’s a tremendous talent with an mentality that is so contagious and he’s going to give us a lot, but it’s a team at the end of the day.
What do you make of Crystal Palace particularly after the game at Selhurst Park last year?
They showed last season how difficult they are to beat and how consistent they are at home especially against the big teams they [had] some great results. They had that result against us. Hopefully we learned some lessons from that day because 30 minutes that we had that day were nowhere near the standards that we needed and we paid the price for it.
How excited are you and how happy are you with the players you brought in?
We are all enthusiastic. We had the pre-season we wanted, it was well organised, we had good results, good preparation good performances, but now the ball starts to roll tomorrow evening in a completely different context and against a Premier League team and we know what to expect there. It’s true we have a high level of energy and ambition to have a successful season and we have to show that on the pitch tomorrow night.
Are you expecting any players to come in or leave?
We are really active as you can see with ins and outs. Everything is still open, it’s a long window. A lot has happened. It’s incredible how much business the club has already done across the Premier League and it shows how competitive this is. It’s not gonna stop that. Players are going to have to leave, some others to move and everything is open still.
Has the Amazon doc been a distraction?
No. The distraction was having them here every day last year. We tried to work together, tried to make sure that whatever is produced is the reality of how this football club is run, the passion of it’s people and the aims and responsibilities that we all have to make it work and how much we care and love the club and how much we want to bring joy to our people.
Do you have an update on Tierney, Tomiyasu, Vieira and Smith Rowe’s fitness?
Three out of four of those are probably gonna be training this afternoon and if everything goes well hopefully they are going to be available for selection in the squad. Hopefully they are going to recover because they have been missing a lot of minutes and time in preseason and they are really important players for us
Captains have decided to reduce how much they are taking the knee this season. What do you make of that?
That hopefully it is still as productive and we can still show that as a team we want to express that equality is a massive thing for us and everybody is welcome in our football club and industry hopefully. We need to maintain to be strong on that message.
Lots of people are saying Arsenal are gonna finish top 4?
It’s great that people are excited but I think there’s a big excitement across the Premier League because a lot of clubs have done a lot of business and the competition is really big. We’re focusing on what we can do, what we want to do and how we can be high in that table.
This season looks like it’s going to be a lot more normal after COVID. Does that increase pressure on you?
Watching the pressure that I had after one game I don’t think it’s going to be bigger than that. At the end of the day people don’t want to look at the context, they just want to look at the result and what happened and how we started. At the end of the day we’re going to be judged on whether we win or not and that’s it.
Why have you chosen Odegaard as captain?
This season we had the opportunity to do it in the way that I believe could work. We chose a player in Martin who has been with us for 18 months who in my opinion represents the values of the club in the perfect way. He’s well respected by everyone around the team, he’s admired by the staff, he has experience even if he’s only 23 because he’s done it with the national team. Then he’s got that drive, the passion about this game that promotes every single day he’s around the team and around the place. I’m happy to have someone like him, he’s enjoying the responsibility but he’s going to need some support. For sure it’s a huge thing for him as well.
Is there still a leadership group?
Does the heart surgery you had as a youngster put into perspective the pressure you’re under?
Sometimes you forget the cameras are there and you open up. What is pressure? Compared to what? Sometimes people are making decisions that are deciding whether someone will get to keep their life or go to another place. What we do is try to win football matches, try to bring enjoyment and fun to our people and play a game that is beautiful and so unpredictable. Sometimes you need to look at things with a bit of perspective as well.
Is this the most excited that you’ve been as a manager?
You try every day to be more excited and love your players more and feel more privileged to be where you are. When you share that feeling with the club like we do at the end it becomes more of a common thing. It’s not about me it’s about how we’re all feeling, feeling an integral part of it, especially our supporters and if we do that I always say it’s very powerful.
When you called Pep to ask for Jesus and Zinchenko, what did he say?
It wasn’t exactly like that. I can’t tell you exactly how it was. What I can tell you is that this works both ways and both parties have to do that and we discussed. He was telling me especially it’s two phenomenal people that he’s losing and giving away. I know them, I know how privileged we are to have them and I’m really grateful.
Can you tell us what happened with Bernd Leno?
With Bernd at the end it way just a professional relationship that was difficult to sustain because he’s a player that’s been used to starting in the last 11 years. I spoke to him last night and it’s a man who will be remembered here and it’s been privilege to work with him. In football you have to make decisions to play the way you want to play. Bernd has found a move he’s really happy with, his family are happy with and we at the club wish him all the best.
Have you set a target of zero red cards this year?
I told you last year that it’s better to not talk about it.
Which of the four isn’t training?
Good question. You will find out tomorrow.
Tierney and Tomiyasu have had persistent injury problems. Do you have any concerns about their long term fitness?
Hopefully not. The reason they got persistent injuries are for different reasons. The squad didn’t enable them to recover and not play when necessary or when they were too tired, or weren’t fully recovered. Sometimes we had to rush them. It was a combination. Those two players are so pushy and willing to contribute with the team and that is what we done. We know with those two fit and performing at their best, we are much stronger as a team.