Mikel Arteta is speaking to the press following Arsenal’s victory over Oxford United in the third round of the FA Cup.
The Gunners were installed as heavy favourites to overcome the League One opposition and that belief would have been strengthened with Buyako Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah, Kieran Tierney and Gabriel Magalhaes all named in the starting line-up.
However, despite a strong attack, nothing clicked for the visitors in a goalless first half that lacked any real quality. Although, the one flashpoint was a penalty shout for Arsenal waved away after Albert Sambi Lokonga’s effort appeared to hit the hand of Elliott Moore.
It took until just after the hour mark for the Premier League leaders to break the deadlock as Mohamed Elneny headed home Fabio Vieira’s free-kick before a quickfire brace from Eddie Nketiah took the game away from the hosts.
Arsenal’s reward is a fourth-round tie away at Manchester City, but there was an injury scare ahead of Sunday’s North London Derby against Tottenham Hotspur with Bukayo Saka limping off to be replaced by Emile Smith Rowe, so Gunners supporters will be anxiously awaiting some positive news.
As the January transfer window has been open for nine days now, it wouldn’t be a press conference if Arteta wasn’t asked about possible signings. The Arsenal manager usually gives little away regarding deals but he could be pressed for an update on links to Mykhaylo Mudryk and for a reaction to news of Chelsea reaching a verbal agreement to sign Joao Felix on loan.
On the game:
“It’s always tough to win these matches. They matched up, it was a physical game in many moments but we stood by that.
“They are a direct team a and we had to control certain things better. We changed things in the 2nd half and got more control of the game and found the openings to win.”
On what he changed to win the game:
“We changed a few things. We had some problems to deal with the way they were attacking certain balls and we needed more continuity in our play.
“We needed more speed and threat in our possession and to find spaces better to open them up.”
On Fabio Vieira:
“I’m really happy with Vieira. He contributed in a big way to win this game. That’s his quality, to create goals and decide games in the final third and he had two really good moments to help us win.
On Saka’s fitness:
“Saka is fine.”
Is Nketiah showing to be a capable replacement?
“He showed great composure. He’s a great finisher, the timing of his runs and the decision-making in waiting until the last moment when the keeper was committed shows his quality. His understanding, his work rate, I think he’s getting better and better.
Having the options to cope (Mudryk):
“The problem is that we have only one striker and to cope for that many months until Gabby is back is not easy. But we have to get the most out of the players that we have at the moment. If we can have some reinforcements, great.
Frustrating having the game with City so close before the league game?
“It’s what it is. That happens. You have to play different competitions between teams and we’ll try to prepare that game to win it obviously and that game will be very different to the league game.
“We know each other really well – every team does – and I don’t think that will change much.”
Is there too big of a drop-off from the starting midfielders to the rotational options?
“They were two different moments in the game and obviously some players have more time on the pitch than others and there are things that obviously we have to improve but this is my job.
Are the players okay for Sunday?
On Emile Smith Rowe’s performance:
“Yeah good, obviously it’s been four months since he played so I think it was the perfect game to give him some minutes to get off the blocks and now he needs to start to get available and start to play at the highest level because we’re going to need him.”
On Eddie taking his chance:
“Obviously he’s been waiting for this moment. He’s been patient when he needed to be but as well he’s been with the right mindset and preparing himself for this moment. And that’s why I think he looks ready and why he’s performing the way he is.
On Fabio Vieira’s performance:
“Yeah as well because the way the game was in the first half. He was man-marked all the time, he didn’t have a lot of space, the game becomes really direct and unclear for him but the moment we started to do things better, he found more space and that’s his game.
What changed with Xhaka coming on?
“He’s got that presence and obviously the subs are really important in this competition – having 5 subs you need to use them in the right moments and they had the impact we were hoping for.”