Every word Mikel Arteta said on Thomas Partey fitness, Emile Smith Rowe and Arsenal vs Tottenham

The Gunners boss has spoken to the press ahead of Saturday's North London Derby with Spurs at the Emirates Stadium in the Premier League

How’s the team looking?

We just finished the last training session, we had many players arriving yesterday so we had a short period to prepare the match but the boys look in good condition.

Thomas Frank said he believes you’re ready to challenge for the title. How confident is the squad feeling?

The mentality doesn’t change, we have to go game by game. We need to look to get better and improve in many areas we need to get better at and to be humble, but at the same time ambitious. That’s our way forward to achieve what we want.

What do you make of Spurs’ start to the season?

Not only the start, the journey they’ve had since Antonio joined and how things have changed and the team that he’s building, and the very clear identity they have in their way of playing. Obviously we know that both teams expect a tough match tomorrow.

Will you be using the game from last season in May as motivation for this weekend?

As you said it’s all about emotion and willingness to get to that moment and have enjoyment. It’s the nicest game of the season by a mile for what it means to our supporters, for the history of it and for now as well looking at the table and where we want to be it becomes an important match. I think the word is excitement.

Have you told the players about your derby experiences?

Will Partey, Zinchenko and Tierney be in the squad tomorrow?

They are part of the team.

Was the way Kieran Tierney was handled over the international break the way you want to handle things with all players who go on the international break?

I think what we all want is the best for the player. Protect the welfare of the players for sure, have them in the right mindset, have them ready physically to play for the club and the best to do it is with good communication and honesty and transparency. With Scotland that’s the case for sure.

Is there a risk to playing players not fully fit in this game given the packed fixture list?

You have to go game by game and then form, performances and how players are physically and mentally will dictate how we use them. For sure we’re gonna need everybody. The schedule is hectic and demanding and we need to think very carefully about how we’re going to use and load the players.

What have you said to Jesus about missing out on the Brazil squad while Richarlison scored?

First of all understand how they’re feeling, how they’re taking the news, how it’s hit them, how can we use it to help them in their benefit? Just put his head down, take it on the chin and the only thing he can do is play at the level he’s been playing, or better, and make things more difficult for the national team.

What makes this derby so special?

Many things. I think you have to feel attached and belonging to the club. When you have that feeling and you understand the history and how both teams were historically created and what has happened over the years it makes it special. It’s a very special city, a really special country and it’s a great atmosphere to play in.

Will you be taking the team talk this time or will it be a member of your staff like last time?

Depends on the moment. We have so many people that have been here much longer than us and have even deeper feelings than us. I felt in that moment that it was the right thing to do, for someone that is with us every day and knows the players and how they feel, to express how they feel about it.

Is there a positive in Smith Rowe’s injury in knowing you’ll have him back after the World Cup?

Hopefully yes. We had to make a decision and we could not continue with that uncertainty. Do we have him do we not have him? Do we have him or do we have him under certain conditions? We made that decision. The player was the first one demanding that he wanted an end decision and we supported that and now we have to prepare him to get back to where he was.

How long do you expect Smith Rowe to be out for?

After a surgery it’s very difficult to give a timeline. The first process, how his bones heal, how is his first reaction, is he in pain, is he not, how is he adapting? We need to go step by step. We know before the World Cup he’s not going to be involved and then we have a break and we have to use it in the right way.

What did you say to make Jesus come to Arsenal rather than Spurs?

We, the first one Edu, had a talk with him to explain the project, what the club is about, what his role would be. I also spoke to him so it was a team effort. He understood what we wanted to do. Of course the relationships that we already had helped a lot with that and then there was that trust and connection already and then it’s up to the player to decide.

Were you convinced you’d get the player from those discussion?

We were really hopeful and his immediate reaction was positive, but after that there are a lot of steps that have to go in the right direction to finalise and get that player to the club, but to be fair Gabi made it very easy for us.

Antonio Conte said you’re a much better team than last season. Do you agree?

First of all thankyou. Hopefully we are, but the next few months will unveil that. We want to get better than where we are today as well.

Do you have any doubts on Saliba in his first derby?

No this is football and Willy has shown what he’s capable of in the past few months. That doesn’t mean that the line up is always going to be in the same direction, but he’s been so good from my side I have no doubts.

Jesus is one yellow away from a suspension. Are you worried about that at all?

It’s a thin balance. It’s in his nature, he gets a lot of contact and puts his foot and his body on the line in every situation. He’s a been a bit unlucky with the number of yellow cards that he had. Some of them we could not prevent because they were a little bit disciplinary, but yeah we want to avoid that for sure.

Last year the game was almost a Champions League decider. With the likes of Zinchenko and Jesus is your side better prepared for a game like this now?

It’s a different context. We go to that game as well with many different circumstances in terms of players that we had available and not available to play that game. What happened in that. You take the lessons, you learn from it and you move on

Have your squad learned from that?


Conte was very critical about the game being moved last year. Did it work against you in the end?

I have no idea.

There was so much on it and that wouldn’t have been the case in January

I think if you want to play in the CL you have to get through moments when the pressure is on and the circumstances are what they were in that situation. That day we didn’t do it from our side and obviously from decisions that were made in that game

What do you want to see from the ref this time?

Let him do his job. That’s it

Spurs have had a lot of penalties in the last few meetings. Will your team have to be careful around the box?

They will be looking at all of those things. We have to focus on what we can do and let the referee run the game.

Was surgery the initial plan with Smith Rowe or was that the next best solution?

We put all the alternatives on the table. We have tried some other (solutions) during the last few months and they haven’t really worked to the point where the player was comfortable and consistently available at his best to perform. Then we decided to take that route. We all thought it was the best decision and we’ll stick to it and move on.