Mikel Arteta confident Premier League can handle Covid 2nd wave

Mikel Arteta is confident the Premier League can continue to maintain its own bubble as second waves sweep the globe and players get ready to jet off on international duty.

Arsenal's Spanish manager Mikel Arteta watches his players from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on September 28, 2020. (Photo by JASON CAIRNDUFF / POOL / AFP)
Arsenal’s Spanish manager Mikel Arteta watches his players from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on September 28, 2020. (Photo by JASON CAIRNDUFF / POOL / AFP)

Speaking after Arsenal’s defeat to Liverpool on Monday night, Arteta was asked about the 10 Premier League players who have tested positive and what impact that might have on his squad.

“Well, I think all the managers at all the clubs are really aware that this situation can come on and you can’t pick positives,” Arteta said. “I think the Premier League and the clubs have done some really good work to create a really safe environment to manage the positives in really low numbers up until now.

“We have to keep doing that and we have to keep talking to players and staff to maintain the level of alert because we can’t ease off on any of the rules that we have at the moment. Hopefully we can maintain control.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28: A member of staff wearing personal protective equipment is seen following the Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on September 28, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Jason Cairnduff - Pool/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 28: A member of staff wearing personal protective equipment is seen following the Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on September 28, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Jason Cairnduff – Pool/Getty Images)

We are, as you might have noticed, in a far different position than we found ourselves in March. Back then, when Arteta tested positive the league was shut down. Now, we plough on as global deaths pass 1 million.

Arteta has already spoken about his concern when players head off on international duty after this weekend’s games.

Will the national federations be as careful? Will players when they are away from their clubs? I guess we won’t have to wait long to find out.

Mikel Arteta’s press conference post-Liverpool

on the performance…
Obviously it’s a really tough place to come. They are a really good side. We stayed in the game for almost the whole match. Having the lead, I think we should have handled that situation a little bit better.

We conceded that goal too early straight after that but we competed throughout the game, knowing the difficult moments that you’re going to have when you come to Anfield. We really believed we could get something out of the game and when we had the clear chances to make it 2-2, we didn’t score. Obviously if you want to get something out of the game here, you have to do that.

on what he learned from tonight’s defeat…
We are in a different journey to Liverpool. They’ve been together for five years and they weren’t able to do what they’ve done tonight two or three years ago, that’s for sure. They have a lot of good work, a lot of belief in the way they play, great recruitment and they’ve improved the players that they have.

This is what we have to try to do. They set the bar and they’re probably the best standard that the Premier League has seen in many years. This is where we have to get and obviously we’re still a long way from getting there.

on the confidence he takes from seeing our resilience…
Honestly, that’s what I told them. I applaud that with all the problems we can have, the issues or things in some processes throughout the game, mostly when we had the ball in difficult areas to pick the right pass, to make the right decision, to read the game moments much better.

But still, the belief that the players had, even at half-time – I could see that they still believed that they could get something out of the game. We tried to put them under as much pressure as we could and we were really aggressive trying the high press in many moments, but Van Dijk plays a 60-yard pass to Salah’s chest and they are out. Then you have to travel about 50 metres and this is real quality. That’s why they’ve spent the money they have done, so credit to them.

on Lacazette looking distraught after coming off…
They want to win and this is what I like. The mindset of the team is that they want to go to any ground and they want to win. The boys were really disappointed to lose the game because they really believed that they could come here and do it. For large periods of the game we were there. Obviously he had the best chance in the game to make it 2-2, and then again put us in a really strong position, but he had a great game. He put in another incredible performance and I’m pleased with him.

on whether Aouar is a player we’d like to sign…
We don’t have any news on new players. It’s a week to go and I think it’s going to be really busy for the clubs because not much business has been done. Let’s see what happens.

on whether it will be really busy for us…
I think it will be really busy for the Premier League. I don’t know for us how it’s going to happen.

on what changes he’ll make for Thursday considering we have another game on Sunday…
Well, we will see how the boys are and how they recover. Obviously today was physically a really demanding match. We will see the players that we have available and try to come here to win again.

on whether there is more belief in the team this season…
I don’t know, I wasn’t here at the time [when we played Liverpool away last season], but what I can tell you is the belief I sense from the players and the disappointment they have today in the dressing room, but they have to face the reality that any team when they come here, it’s the hardest ground to come here and do that and you can see how big teams are knocked out here.

I’m happy that we competed throughout the game and I think there are a lot of things that we can do better – and we will do better – and that’s going to help us so much in the process. I want to see my players upset and angry when they lose a game.

on whether he thought we’d get an equaliser before Liverpool’s third…
Yeah, I could see it coming and I had the sense that we were growing and we were going to have the moments. The substitutions helped, but it wasn’t meant to be.

on there being 10 new coronavirus cases in the Premier League and how it could impact his squad…
Well, I think all the managers at all the clubs are really aware that this situation can come on and you can’t pick positives. I think the Premier League and the clubs have done some really good work to create a really safe environment to manage the positives in really low numbers up until now.

We have to keep doing that and we have to keep talking to players and staff to maintain the level of alert because we can’t ease off on any of the rules that we have at the moment. Hopefully we can maintain control.

Jurgen Klopp’s press conference post-Arsenal

On the result and the performance of his team…
It was good. It was a really good game, I loved pretty much each second. I didn’t like the goal we conceded but the reaction afterwards immediately, I liked a lot. Against a top team in form playing like we did tonight is something, to be honest. It doesn’t help us for Thursday or help us for Sunday, but for tonight it was quite good,

I have to say. I really liked it: we were dominant, we played football, we were difficult to defend, the counter-press was top, attitude was great and played some really good stuff. Arsenal had not too many, but some, chances because they have real quality. I think most of the moments they had were offside, so good defending, but Ali made a save anyway. It was all good, a really good performance.

On Jota’s appearance and first goal for the club…
Mo played an absolutely exceptional game tonight; I would have wished for him that he could have scored. I don’t think Robbo’s goal was the reaction from the situation before [the Lacazette goal], the performance was the reaction and it was really good. The goal we scored was a cross from the right full-back and the left full-back finished it off, which is absolutely amazing.

I love it. Diogo came on, played naturally his football, tried to defend the way we defend. He is on 20 per cent of information on what we do exactly; we had meetings to talk about it and that will all take time. Today he had 60 or 70 minutes to watch how Sadio is doing and then he came on the pitch and did incredibly well. He scored a super goal, a nice first game at Anfield. He will never forget it, I will never forget it. A cool start.

On whether he was concerned by the early chances not being taken…
No, I was not worried. That’s the situation, that’s life as a manager. I would wish we would score the first chance, take the second one as well, the third one and the fourth and fifth, but it never happens! The direction of the game, I liked a lot; the way we played, I liked a lot. We looked pretty ruthless in these situations. We kept them like 25 metres in front of their goal, we were there with our centre-halves.

We looked really, really good, to be honest. It is so difficult because Arsenal defends in these moments with 10 men – or 11 with the goalie – but each ball you lose is a potential counter-attack and everybody knows the speed they have, so that makes it really tricky. It must be a proper mix between being brave, being flexible, being direct and being perfectly protected because otherwise you run into one counter after another. No, I was not worried [about missed chances]. As I said, I wish it would be different, but it is pretty much my life waiting for goals.

On whether he saw any ‘sloppiness’ in the Reds’ display…
I didn’t see us really being sloppy in defending. I saw us in one or two passing situations when we gave the ball too easy away, which is just then a problem because to outplay Arsenal you need a quite expansive formation. Losing the ball without any pressure on yourself, that doesn’t make too much sense, that can really hurt you. So in these moments yes, but our defending was really good, really good, because you cannot defend Arsenal for 90 minutes with the quality they have.

It’s completely normal that they have chances [and] you need a goalie for that, you need a block for that, you need all these kind of things. But in all other moments you need to be really creative because they defend well. They defend in a 5-4-1 until it develops and then in a 5-5 and that makes it really difficult. And you know, one ball at their feet and Aubameyang is on his bike and that’s then really difficult.

On whether his side’s impressive start to the season is a ‘statement’…
We don’t make statements, to be honest. In a press conference from time to time I have to do it because you ask me questions, but apart from that we just play football and want to win the games. Look, as I said, I liked the game tonight and I said as well that it doesn’t help a lot for Thursday because we have to play again like this, or better, so that’s how a season works.

Tonight I am really happy about what we did but now we have three days and then we play again and then we have two days and we play again so that’s quite intense. So it’s about consistency obviously, but when I saw the schedule before the season I thought as well, ‘Oh, that’s pretty tricky’. It was always clear, for ages clear, that Chelsea would be really strong, Arsenal won the FA Cup, so won the last English competition after lockdown and are flying since then, pretty much. They beat us in the Community Shield. Leeds, I said it before the game, is of all the [other] 19 teams, they would not have been in the top 10 what I want to play in the first game. It was difficult but we did it. So we have to improve, we have to become consistent. So far we played quite well but that’s all.