Arteta to win, Saliba and our flexibility | press conference | News

Mikel Arteta was full of praise for our display of holding out against a strong opponent on the opening night of the Premier League.

On how excited he was to start the season with a win…

Yes really happy, to win. Three points, a clean sheet, against a really tough opponent and a really tough spot. They cheered the fans, and as we expected we had difficult periods in the match. We showed a great deal of resilience to get over it, and (it’s) a really positive way in the way we started. We started smart, really mobile, and really determined to play the way we wanted to. In general, positive.

On whether flexibility is what makes him happiest…

Yes because you don’t win here without it. We had that last season. We started in a very different way than we did last season here, but we build that mentality and find a way to move past those moments. Finding a way to keep clean sheets in this league will be vital to our success, we have been able to do that and hopefully this also builds some confidence in the team.

On Saliba’s performance in defense…

You don’t really see that. At the age of 21, he made his Premier League debut, against this opponent, against physical players – and resolved that situation the way he did. So calm, calm and present. Too much credit for the boy.

On whether he would like to see the team score the second goal sooner…

Yes, much sooner, and be a lot tougher in front of goal – because we had the position to finish them better, even in the second half as well. But this is something that has to come. We scored a lot of goals – and today we lacked that. We didn’t catch the last ball, we didn’t finish enough moves, and then they have some transitional moments and that’s what they like to do. So there were parts of the game that we should do better.

On the first goal, and whether it’s off the training ground…

I think all teams practice routines and ways to hurt the opponent in different ways. Whether it’s open play or set pieces, we’re obviously working on that as well.

On whether there has been a deliberate focus on being more offensive this season…

Well, you need the players. Last year the shortfall in the last third we had was not good enough. For the number of poses we’ve created, where those poses end up, it just wasn’t good enough. He wasn’t close to the top teams, we have to improve on that and we still have to do it better. But you still feel threatened in the last third when we’re there. This is something that will happen, and it will create fear for the opponents.

Gabriel Jesus should contribute to this…

He was electric, really mobile, really determined and he really wanted to hurt the opponent and he sent that. He creates uncertainty and spaces, he creates movement for his teammates and it’s great to have him.

On whether he said anything to Saliba before the match…

I wanted to let him play and let him play, that’s how we tried to develop this player. Signing him at the age of 19 and bringing him back two years later is extraordinary and he was very determined and ready to come here and now proves he is ready. Now we are showing the player in a really challenging environment where he can navigate, enjoy and rest.

On what has changed in the team to achieve more flexibility…

We build it more, these results help you do that. That’s what the big teams do, they find a way to win and in difficult moments they have to manage the game in a different way and they do it, they turn the press into something positive for the team, and we were able to do that tonight.

Ali Ben White plays at right-back, and how did he deal with Zaha tonight…

He has done well. We all individually know even when you are in full swing with him how hard it is to win the ball from him [Zaha]. The way he tries to play the game is really hard. Ben has the ability to play in different positions and this is a huge advantage for any player.

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