Q: Can we clarify the team news?
A: “Sagna, is out with a knee problem. Everybody else [from the Bayern game] should be alright.”
Q: Put the Villa game into context, it’s the calm before the storm almost?
A: “There is no calm. It is a game in the Premiership, and in the Premiership we are on quite a good run so we have not to forget that and take advantage of the fact that we play at home. We know we are in a position where we cannot afford to drop points. We will go into the game with of course a huge desire to get out the disappointments we recently had and especially to focus on getting points in the Premiership.”
Q: Can the crowd a play a positive role?
A: “The crowd play a big part. Especially after Tuesday night. It is important that we are all focused on this game, but let us have the needed attitude to get the crowd behind us. You know we go in the final part of the season, and now it’s for us important not to drop points any more, then the crowd will be behind us.”
Q: Aston Villa have shown some form in recent weeks, so you know you’re up for a battle.
A: “Always against Villa, it’s always a battle. They have recently made some good results. They came out with a draw at Everton, 3-3. We know what we want, they know as well certainly because they fight to avoid relegation. Very difficult Premier League games where today there is no easy game for anybody, and we have to prepare ourselves for a battle.”
Q: What’s the atmosphere been like inside the club?
A: “On the inside, disappointment, because we lost a big home game. Every time when you lose a big game, of course there’s a massive disappointment.”
Q: Have the troubles of the club been over-exaggerated in some quarters?
A: “What is exaggerated or not exaggerated today is difficult to say. We live in a world of emotion, of excess. It’s down to people who have responsibilities to put that into perspective, and keep solid and keep guiding the club into the right way.”
Q: Has the scrutiny of your position been unfair, baring in mind what you’ve achieved in this country?
A: “It’s not down to me to judge that, my responsibility is to keep the guidelines and guide the team and the club into what I think is right.”
Q: Do you feel it’s been unfair though?
A: “I will not come out with my feelings, because that’s not my job as well. I feel what is important for me is to focus on the next game and try to give my best like all the players.”
Q: Were there positive signs for you in the board meeting yesterday? Was the tone different with Kroenke there?
A: “No. No, in the board meeting speaks about many things. It’s about commercial, about ticket prices, about anything, about the long-term plans, and I make my report as well on the technical side. It was the usual thing. Of course we have no euphoria, because we have gone through a difficult disappointment on Tuesday night, but apart from that they are responsible people who know what it is to fight.”
Q: What help do you need to get the team back to the top of English and European football?
A: “What we need is just to be united and strong, and not to be too much always destabilised by people who have strong opinions after one game. I believe that what is important, is the club goes always with the guidelines we have inside the club and keep them and do not change direction every time that we lose a big game, because that would lead to a disaster. Bad period in the club is as well a good opportunity to show how united and strong you are, and we have a good history of that Arsenal.”
Q: How would you sum this week in your 16 years here?
A: “I think how I would sum it up is focus on the next game, and forget what happened behind. We are here to win football games and when we don’t of course it’s a huge disappointment. We lost 2 home games, I don’t know how many times it happened in my 16 years, but we have to get over that and focus on the next game. It’s not feeling sorry for ourself that we change the situation. We come back from a win at Sunderland, it’s important we get another three points tomorrow.”
Q: How are you feeling yourself? Have you calmed down since your Press Conference last week?
A: “I have calmed down, yes. I explained why I was angry. But I am calmed down, you have calmed me well down.”
Q: At any point have you thought about throwing in the towel?
Q: No one second?
A: “Not one second.”
Q: What do you make of Benteke?
A: “Well he’s their striker who’s strong in the air, strong force, great physique. I think he has been a success there.”
Q: What sort of obstacles do you think Villa will throw at you?
A: “It’s a very important game for both teams.”
Q: Is it more important for you given your week, or for them given their position?
A: “I don’t know. For us I can tell you it’s a very important game. But for them, they consider their interest. We consider our interests. For us, of course, it’s something that is vital, because we play at home and we want to come back in a strong position in the Championship. I feel it’s very open apart from Man United for all the other positions, it’s very open. It’s just down to us now to continue to be consistent like we have been. We had recently a good form in the Premier League, and we have to focus on continuing to get the points, because we cannot drop points.
Q: Have you had to put your arm round any of the players this week?
A: “These players care. They of course were very down after the game.”
Q: So what did you say to them?
A: “To show our strengths, and look at what is in front of us.!
Q: When you get up in the morning, what motivates you to keep going after all this time?
A: “The love for the game, and the love to win.”
Q: Is that always enough? It’s been 15/16 years, what keeps that spark?
A: “I don’t think that spark has nothing to do with the length of your life. It’s just that’s how you are. You motivated by how much you want to win and how much you are a winner. If I go out now and play with you one against one, you will see that I will beat you. At least if I don’t manage to beat you, I will want to beat you. So that will not change as long as I can move. ”
Q: Can we film that?
A: “We can organise that if you want.”
Q: The knee’s not what it was..
A: “Don’t make excuses before the game.”
Q: What was I going to say?… Did you see this period coming with the move to the Emirates? That you’d have to pay a heavy price on the pitch for everything off it?
A: “I prepared myself for some suffering when we moved into the Emirates, yes, because we were on restricted resources for a while, and the main target was of course to be in the Champions League because we had to pay back our stadium. But did I expect to go out against Blackburn and to lose against Bayern? Honestly, no.”
Q: With a player you try to tie them down with at least a year left, what about yourself with your contract running down?
A: “No, you see I have a contract until the end of 2014. At the moment we are on short-term plan. For two reasons, one is because I am here for a long time, and as well I have to consider what I want to do, but that will be decided in 2014, not before.”
Q: You were angry on Monday, is it sometimes the right response? Is it better to take the situation by the scruff of the neck?
A: “You can do both.”
Q: With everything that’s happened has it shaken your faith in your ability and the ability of your team?
A: “Because, every incident will not change completely your mind on people you trust. There is no possibility in any club to change direction every time you lose a football game. Or you don’t go anywhere. I think football is made of short-term and long-term, but long-term plan is vital. I know today in society it’s very difficult to push that through, but people who are responsible have to do that.”
Q: You talk about the long-term plan. How important will it be to qualify for the Champions League again? You can cope without doing it financial though can’t you? And still actively move the club forward?
A: “Yes of course, but we want to be in the Champions League. Financially, we can live with it. But on the sporting front, no. And the sporting front is the priority.”
Q: What’s your reading of Bacary Sagna’s situation and future?
A: “I haven’t had any contact with anybody. He’s not free in the summer, so he can only leave if we let him go.”
Q: His contract expires the following year?
A: “Yes, but the following year is not in the summer?”
Q: He’s been a great servant to the club, it would be a great shame if he left?
A: “Yes, but our desire is to keep Bacary Sagna, and he knows that.”
Q: Will there come a point where you have to sit down with him, maybe in the summer?
A: “Yes, of course. We will sit down with him. We did already sit down with his agent. And we didn’t get that vibe out.”
Q: Is there an offer on the table?
Q: Your team’s been criticised for a lack of leadership, who do you feel your leaders are?
A: “No, I feel that we lack a little bit belief and confidence. You could see that when you look at the numbers. We are 12th in the league in the first half, and top of the league in the second half. That shows we have not a problem of quality, we have a problem of belief, and confidence, and that is noticed especially in the first half, again against Bayern Munich, we were 2-0 down and that happened a few times this year. After, it’s difficult, but I believe we have the basic quality. We lack a little bit what you call that kind of charisma that Bayern had, because they had basically not lost a game the whole season. People forget as well we played against a team who played two Champions League finals in the last three years. We didn’t play against a poor side, and overall it was a top quality game, the intensity of the game was unbelievable.”