Mikel Arteta exclusive: ‘The moment I leave this door at Arsenal one day, I’ll look back and say we had good times’

The vista varies depending on who is framing Arsenal’s season. Would it be failure to have been perched on the Premier League summit for 248 days only to cede the title to Manchester City?

Or is it a triumph of process that a team who widely weren’t tipped for the top four forced Pep Guardiola’s machine into an unseen gear, marmalizing all before them?

Perspective is a rare commodity in football, but Mikel Arteta has it in spades.

Saturday 20th May 5:00pm

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“I think everybody would describe the situation in different words,” Arsenal’s manager tells Sky Sports News from the club’s London Colney base.

“But probably the same people who thought that we were going to finish sixth or seventh in the season are now saying that finishing second would be a failure. You have all the answers in that.”

Arteta has been measured, accepting that Arsenal carved an extraordinary opportunity for themselves to thwart City’s monopoly of the league while acknowledging his team are further along in their development than anticipated.

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Gary Neville assesses why Arsenal have fallen behind Manchester City in the Premier League title race.

They only dropped seven points in their opening 19 Premier League matches this campaign, but have dropped 20 in their subsequent 17 fixtures.

In a wide-ranging sit-down with Sky SportsArteta reflects on the giddiness and the gutting nature of that reality.

What are your immediate thoughts?

It’s been a long season and obviously a lot has happened because it’s 10-and-a-half months or 11 months of preparation because there is a World Cup in between that. It’s been very emotional around it because how far we’ve come and the position that we are still in today. It’s been really exciting, but it’s been really demanding in terms of energy and work for sure.

How have you dealt with that, the demands of it, from a personal perspective?

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says his players can be proud of all they have achieved this season but must not lose focus with two games to go given they can still be Premier League champions if results go their way

When things are going well, it is always much easier. We have an incredible group of people and players, so it is a joy to be part of this team and I have really enjoyed it.

There are difficult moments, of course they are; there’s a lot of hours, a lot of demands, and we are all perfectionists. I want to get the best out of every single situation and that’s complicated. But overall, I think it’s very satisfying.

You say when it’s going well, it’s easy. It’s been a difficult few weeks, is the hardest thing trying to lift spirits again and offer that reminder of how far this team has come when there is that feeling of despondency and disappointment?

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Speaking on Monday Night Football, Jamie Carragher analyzes where it’s gone wrong for Arsenal at the back and takes a closer look at William Saliba’s impact on the side.

Probably yes. I think that is the thing that I struggled with the most: when you feel that you have disappointed someone, you know, when you have created certain expectations and you’re not good enough to deliver those.

But then we have to put some perspective as well of where we are, the team that we are competing with, and where we are with two games to go. So, it’s a lot of things still there. And at the end of the season, probably we can assess what we’ve done better.

How do you make sure that the players are not listening to the external voices, that they’re focusing on what you and your backroom staff have to say?

Impossible, I would say because they have phones, they have TV, they have a radio, and at the end they’re getting fed constantly.

They get fed as well by their families so at the end it’s trying to find that balance and make sure the messages that we want to get across or the messages that we believe are right for them have more weight than the others..

When you were a player, were you able to drop out the external noise?

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta explains why he has brought a Chocolate Labrador called Win into the training ground and says she has the ability to change the mood to a positive one in an instant

A hundred percent? No, I think it’s very, very difficult because you have too many sources of information around you. But staying away from these things, I was quite disciplined to that. yes

I want to talk about processes because I think people get so bogged down and fascinated by the end result that they don’t see all the steps involved before that. Talk to me through this journey that you’ve taken Arsenal on.

First of all it’s a very unified vision of what we want to achieve, what the objectives are, and then really define how you’re going to do it. And then you need discipline.

You need a lot of people starting from ownership or sporting director, the coaching staff to keep reminding yourself of what you said because you can get very confused.

The competition is huge, the pressure is huge, and you want to take shortcuts in many moments that sometimes you can do. Sometimes you can really put what you are trying to do into a very difficult scenario and we haven’t done that.

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Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta apologized for his side’s second-half performance after they were beaten by Brighton and said his team did not have the answers to the Seagulls

I think we’ve been really disciplined. We have a lot of clarity of how we wanted to do it. We have adapted the plan when it was needed to speed it up, then slowed down in certain moments.

I think communication is key. I think the club has done really, really well about how to communicate what we’re trying to do, be open, be transparent.

That has helped to connect with our people again and create a real sense of a club, pushing in the right direction with our supporters, staff, people across the club and and then you get momentum. You need great players that’s for sure to be successful and, and we are trying to improve in every area to become better.

You speak about great players and trying to improve. A lot of young talent are committing their futures to Arsenal.

You will have to say a few goodbyes that will be hard but necessary, Granit Xhaka for example, and strengthen the squad further. Has the planning for next season already started in that regard?

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Brighton’s stunning win at Arsenal in the Premier League

Yeah, and the first plan is to look in the mirror at me first and ask what can I do better? What can I do differently? How can I stimulate the players again to deliver what is needed.

And then go through the squad: are we getting the best out of each of them? We got some really good things. Is it the best that we can get out of them? In Europe there isn’t any other players like [Bukayo] saka, [Gabriel] Martinelli, Martin [Odegaard]… That doesn’t mean that it’s the ceiling.

I don’t know where the ceiling is. Do they have things to improve? yes So we need to seek for that. And then if we don’t reach in certain area with certain things, whatever is not in that page that is needed to win, has to be recruited. It’s as simple as that.

Arsenal have taken nine points from a possible 21
Arsenal have taken nine points from a possible 21

You spoke about looking in the mirror there, how have you felt the season has changed you or evolved you and helped you grow as a manager?

I will look at that when I’ve finished the season. I haven’t had time to do that already, but I will do that exercise deeply after the emotions and a little bit of the fatigue is out of my system with more clarity and go again.

Do you already feel any sort of change though within you?

Arsenal's defensive record before and after the World Cup
Arsenal’s defensive record before and after the World Cup

There are changes yes, you have to evolve. First personally because I have a family and my kids and my wife demand different things to a year ago, two years ago.

And then because I think this club; these players, these people need a different evolution of a coach. I don’t know if it’s Mikel 4.3 or 5.7, but next season I have to improve, need to update, I need to really have a sense of what is needed and try to get there to give the best for them.

You more than anyone will know what Arsenal have come up against the season. You were part of that Manchester City machine… How proud are you of your players, of the club behind the scenes in pushing them for this long?

I cannot be too open about that because obviously I was there four years and I know the level there, but inside I know what we’ve done and what we are facing, that’s for sure. But I leave it to other people to make that judgment because coming from me is not too relevant.

What aspects of the season have you enjoyed the most from your players and what they’ve delivered?

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The daily basics with them, living with them, experiencing beautiful things together. Going through difficult times together. Coming in this building and having the people around me with, with good energy and smiling and feeling proud to work with us every single day.

That’s the thing. The moment I leave this door one day and I look back and I come here, I will say we had good times. You know, it was, it was enjoyment working here. It was enjoyment, it was challenging, it was inspiring, and it was worth all the sacrifices that we make in our lives to put everything that we can to improve the club. That’s for me what it’s about.

So would you say then, the thing you feel you’ve done the best here so far is to change the culture and the environment and the standards to make it a place of enjoyment but also of substance?

Having that part with a lot of clarity that we are here to win. Yeah, to play really well and win and make our people really proud. That’s it.

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