Arsenal v Leeds United

Press conference

Every word from Mikel's pre-Leeds press conference

Ahead of our return to Premier League action on Saturday against Leeds United, Mikel Arteta was back in front of the media for his pre-match press conference at London Colney.

The boss was asked about the fitness of William Saliba and various members of the squad, his thoughts on Leeds' recent improvement, Bukayo Saka's scintillating form and what he did for his birthday during the break among many other questions.

Here is everything he had to say:

on how he spent his birthday:
I spent it with my family. I went back to my hometown of San Sebastian, and I had all the family there with me. It was a really good way to celebrate it.
on what his birthday wish was:
You can imagine it, it’s a secret!
on William Saliba’s injury:
He is progressing. He still has some discomfort in his back. We are trying to manage him in the best possible way, but unfortunately, he’s not going to be fit for his game. We are trying – he’s trying to do everything to feel better and get back into training, but not yet.
on whether we’ll see him back before the end of the season:
I’m very hopeful and he is as well. Back injuries are a bit tricky with how they evolve and the load that you put in certain areas, but he’s very positive about it. The medical staff are positive about it. Let’s push it every day a little bit and see how he can cope with that, and how the pain develops as well. He’s obviously so willing to be back with the team.
on Thomas Partey bringing a fitness coach along to international duty:
It’s something we’ve done in the past. We have a really good relationship with the Ghanaian federation, and we have to manage and look after our players. They’ve been really positive about it as well, we tried to help as much as possible - I think it works both ways. Obviously, he wasn’t fit enough to play in the second game but hopefully he’s going to be back for the weekend.
on the rest of the squad’s fitness levels and his thoughts on Rodri’s tackle on Odegaard in the international break:
These things happen in football when they play against each other. But the rest of them are all good.
on winning his fourth Manager of the Month award of the season after a blip in February:
We needed results and performances. We got the results in various ways: in some games we had to react and push ourselves to the limit to get the results, and in other ones, we were really dominant and won the games with a bigger gap. We have to continue to do that, in every single game to try to play better, and against Leeds it is going to be the same case.
on Mikel’s favourite moment in March:
Probably Bournemouth. Reiss’ goal, that moment, that celebration, that hype we all had in the moment. But I’m especially pleased with the consistency the boys are showing every single day – the way they train, the way they behave and the way they are playing, and the willingness and hunger to keep winning and winning.
on the unity in today’s dressing room compared to his playing days:
I’m really proud and happy to have and develop the group of players and staff that we have together. It’s an absolute joy to work with them every single day. I want us to push every boundary and limit, and enjoy the challenge that we have ahead of us. It’s the most beautiful part of the season, and we need to enjoy every single second and day of it. This is what we talk about every single day.
on which dressing rooms from his playing days he has taken inspiration from:
Probably the one when I was 15 years old in Barcelona. We had 13, 14, 15-year-old boys. Some of them went on to become incredibly successful football players. We had to look after each other – it wasn’t only in the dressing room, we lived together as well. We had our own issues, hobbies and ways of being. That was phenomenal, probably one of the biggest learning curves of my career in football to have to try and take certain bits and experiences on board in your professional career.

on what he makes of Leeds:
They have a very clear DNA, how they behave, the character, the passion and energy that they play with. They’ve been doing it for a long, long time and now with a new manager as well with some new ideas, some players that have been injured that they have had some issues with they are back, so they are a very dangerous team. We have discussed openly and very clearly about what we are going to expect tomorrow, and we have to be really good to beat them.

on if he has been impressed by Javi Gracia:
They have been really good. I know him as a player as he used to play in my hometown really well when I was a coach. He is a really good coach, really dedicated, thoughtful and very clear in his ideas of how he wants his team to play. He can vary as well, as he has done at many clubs with his way of playing and formations, so he is very adaptable. He’s coached so many teams already so that shows the quality that he has, and I think so far he has done really well.

on if Gabriel Jesus is nearing 100 per cent:
He’s very close to that. In the last 10 days he’s made a big step forward and you can see that he is looser and he is not thinking about [his previous injury]. You can see in training that he is already creating that chaos and unique moments that he is capable of, so he is in a good place now.

on whether he enjoyed the women’s team win against Bayern:
It was beautiful, it was great to just have the experience and live it there with the crowd we had at the game, and especially the way they played in the first half - it was a joy to watch. It was a big achievement, it hasn’t happened for many years at the club so we have to catch them up and this is the beauty of it - getting things inside the club that inspire each other, and make us closer to the intentions and objectives that we have for the end of the season.

on what he puts Bukayo’s consistency down to:
It’s about his mentality, I think there’s been a real shift there and how much he wants it and what he does every single day, and then obviously the maturity and acknowledgement about what to do in every situation. His decision-making is getting better and better and he is making the right decisions more often, and as well because he has very good teammates here at Arsenal and with the national team and that’s a very necessary thing to have, especially when you play in attacking positions.

on Arsene Wenger’s induction into the Premier League Hall of Fame:
It’s no question, he deserves to be there and I’m so proud of him and to have been part of his career as a player. What he did for the club and football in general; he’s someone exceptional that deserves a huge place in the football world.

on if he still speaks to Wenger:
We are in touch, you know that he has been trying to stay away and that is the way he is. We are trying to bring him back closer and closer and I think we have made some very important steps there and his influence is going to be there. Somedays his presence is enough.

on the importance the men and women are both fighting for trophies:
It tells you what the club is about - it is about winning and bringing major trophies to the club. That is the ambition that every single person who works at this organisation has to have. It is very inspiring, especially the way they are doing it.

on whether the international break was a help or hindrance:
We had time to work and analyse and think and get away and reflect on what we are doing, and how we are going to approach the final push of the season. We had some time to fill our hearts with our loved ones and spend some time with them and get a very different type of energy that is very needed, so it was really good.

on if it’s harder to play against a team scrapping against relegation:
They want the points as much as we want them. Hopefully we want them more than them and we can show that on Saturday, but obviously it’s a team that has its needs. They are playing at a really good level and they got a really good result in their last one, and like we have always done, we have to earn the right to win the game.

on managing the alterations in the starting line-up over recent games:
We try to adapt the qualities of the players to get the best out of the team. Sometimes it’s the character or the quality of the player, so in every phase we try to get them in their most comfortable position so they can deliver the best for the team. Rob [Holding] has huge experience at this club and in the Premier League and I think he proved that in the right way in the last game against Crystal Palace.

on whether the players will be allowed to watch Manchester City in the early kick-off:
Our focus is on what we can control - ourselves - every single day. But we love to watch football games and for sure if we can, we will be watching them, like any other manager or team, and this is a great game to watch. There is a little bit of gap between the games, but when we get to [our] game, the focus will be on that and nothing else. Everyone will switch on and focus on what we’re going to do.

on whether Saliba’s injury was one that he had been managing for a while:
No, it’s something that happened - we don’t know if it happened in the previous game because he had a very awkward landing against Fulham but before that he was fine.

on why he can’t give a better extent of the injury:
That’s one more for the doctors to answer and be more specific about the area and the load he puts into the area, how he can cope with that and what kind of pain he can handle, and the risk that we can make it worse.

on what advice he would give Folarin Balogun about his international future:
To focus on today, and focus on what he had been doing because he has been phenomenal. Keep doing what he has been doing and don’t focus on anything else, and everything else will come naturally. I would try to do what he has been doing because he’s been working really well for him and the team.

on how much he knows about David Rocastle:
I was pretty young at the stage when he was at the club but you can see paintings and pictures [at the training ground] and you have a lot of people that have come across him. He was a huge character, a very charismatic person and someone that was very much loved at the club. It’s great that the players and the clubs are remembering [his passing] and are making the day feel like it’s something special.

on whether Saliba’s injury could affect him for the rest of the season:
I want to be positive and think that he is going to be able to [manage it], but I don’t have the answer today to answer 100 per cent that is going to be the case.

on if there are any other players in better form than Bukayo in his position:
I don’t know - we try to assess the players that we have and he is in exceptional form. He is full of confidence and physically in the right condition and he’s providing the team exactly what he needs, so he needs to continue to do that.

on whether he is surprised with his consistency given his age:
I think that’s getting better and better and there are a lot of things that he is doing to maintain that consistency. His habits every single day, how he conducts himself and allows people to give him advice in the right moments, how he pushes himself and the people he has around him - they are all very important factors for someone to be that consistent every day.

on what he thought of Frida Maanum’s goal on Wednesday:
It was beautiful, the moment the ball left her foot we knew it was going in, so it was a beautiful finish.

on whether he was comfortable with the amount of minutes Bukayo played during the international break:
The players that are fit have to be ready to play at international level. [England] had two important games and Bukayo is becoming more and more important there, so you have to fulfil your role. Your role gets bigger and you have to be able to fulfil that, and that’s what he did.

on if he has a message for our supporters for the final 10 games:
To live the day, enjoy the day, push on the day and give us all the energy that they have and the rest will come. That’s what we are going to do - give a real push every single day to get our best, so with their help and support we are much better as a team. That is all we are asking for - nothing different to what they have done the whole season for us.

on how important their positivity is:
What we do, we do today. Our message to them is what we perceive from them every single day. It is not only what we eat, it is what the players read so all those positive messages and all that feeling of support, energy and enthusiasm for the day to come, and enjoy what is coming - that is the most beautiful thing. That gives you energy and that fills your desire to play in front of them. When we have those 96 minutes to play for, they really stand out and they’re really behind the team to inspire them.

Pre-Match Report

Preview: Arsenal v Leeds United

Arsenal v Leeds United

We return to Premier League action on Saturday when Leeds United head to N5, as we look to maintain our impressive form from before the international break and extend our winning run to seven-straight league matches.

That would be the first time we have achieved that feat under Mikel Arteta, and the omens of that happening are good given you have to go back nearly 20 years for the last time the Whites recorded a victory at our expense.

However their 2023 side head into this particular encounter in confident mood after claiming seven points from their four games under the watchful eye of former Watford boss Javi Gracia, as they attempt to avoid being sucked into what looks like being one of the tightest relegation battles in years.

Gracia’s instant impact

Javi Gracia

After an initial bright start to the campaign that yielded seven points from the first three games, Jesse Marsch would win just twice in his next 20 matches to bring about his dismissal in February, with Gracia swiftly ushered in.

He made a quick impression by winning their first game since November in a crunch basement battle against Southampton four days after his appointment, before also impressing in a narrow defeat at Chelsea and a draw against Brighton & Hove Albion. 

They won only their second away league game of the season at Wolves last time out, netting more goals in that 4-2 victory than they had in their previous six on the road combined, helping them soar up five positions out of the relegation zone and into 14th position.

What the managers say

Mikel Arteta

Arteta: "Leeds have a very clear DNA, how they behave, the character, the passion and energy that they play with. They’ve been doing it for a long, long time and now with a new manager as well with some new ideas, some players that have been injured that they have had some issues with they are back, so they are a very dangerous team.

"We have discussed openly and very clearly about what we are going to expect tomorrow, and we have to be really good to beat them." - read every word from his pre-match press conference

Gracia: “We are playing against the team at the top of the table and we have to be ready for that. They are doing many things well and you can see the stats.

“You have to be ready to defend more than attack and when attacking you try to be aggressive and clinical and take the chances you have. For sure you need to make very good defensive work and if you don’t do it, you don’t have any chance.”

Talking tactics

Patrick Bamford celebrates scoring for Leeds

Michael Cox, writing in the official matchday programme: Gracia’s arrival has prompted Leeds to play a less frantic style of football, which caused us issues in the reverse fixture after the half-time introduction of Patrick Bamford. He has started the last two matches, generally looking to work the ball onto his favoured left foot, while the quick Rodrigo is also a valuable option.

The new boss can call upon a variety of exciting, direct attacking midfielders to support Bamford in a 4-2-3-1. Brendan Aaronson is the regular in the No. 10 role, and is clever at receiving passes in tight positions between the lines, Jack Harrison has scored in consecutive games playing on both flanks, and Crysencio Summerville is likely to deputise for the injured Wilfried Gnonto.

Gracia has favoured Luke Ayling and Junior Firpo as his two full-backs. Both have pushed on aggressively in recent weeks, with Ayling constantly popping up at the back post to meet crosses from the left, and Firpo grabbing a crucial winner against Southampton. 

Goalkeeper Illan Meslier is capable of great reaction saves, but was lobbed from 40 yards by Wolves left-back Jonny last time out, after sweeping aggressively behind his defence.

Team news

William Saliba is substituted during our game against Sporting CP

Mikel Arteta revealed that William Saliba remains out with a back issue, but hopes to have Thomas Partey fit after he sat out Ghana's game against Angola earlier this week.

Eddie Nketiah is also a doubt with his ankle issue, and Takehiro Tomiyasu will be out for the rest of the season after sustaining a knee injury, the same issue that sees Mohamed Elneny sidelined.

Gracia was dealt a blow during the international break with the news that Gnonto and Max Wober picked up ankle and thigh injuries respectively in action for their countries and they will miss out.

Tyler Adams has also undergone surgery for a hamstring problem and could be out for the remainder of the season, while Stuart Dallas and Adam Forshaw are long-term casualties.

Facts and stats

Gabriel Martinelli celebrates scoring against Crystal Palace

Since a 0-0 draw in their first Premier League away game against us in February 1993, Leeds haven't kept a clean sheet in any of their subsequent 13 league visits (W3 L10), shipping 31 goals in total.

We have won our last six Premier League games, our joint-longest such run under Mikel Arteta. We last won seven in a row between August and October 2018 under Unai Emery.

We have scored 66 Premier League goals this season and have an expected goals tally of 54.9 – the highest difference in the division.

Both ourselves and Leeds have had a joint-high 14 different goalscorers in the Premier League this season.

Our top league scorer is Gabriel Martinelli with 13 goals; the last player to score more while aged 21 or under in a single campaign in the Premier League was Dele Alli in 2016/17 (18), while the last non-English player to do so was Saido Berahino in 2014/15 (14).

Only Erling Haaland (33) and Harry Kane (23) have been involved in more Premier League goals than Bukayo Saka this season (22) - he is the only player so far to reach double figures for both goals (12) and assists (10).

Jack Harrison has scored in his last two games for Leeds, as many as he had in his previous 29 appearances. Harrison has made more assists (6) and created more chances (41) than any other Leeds player in the league this term.

Match officials

Darren England

Darren England takes charge of his first game involving us since August when we beat Leicester City 4-2 at home, and this will be just his fourth time overseeing one of our games during his refereeing career. 

Only Anthony Taylor has shown more red cards this season in the top-flight than England’s two, while he has also awarded a penalty every three matches on average across all competitions this term.

  • Referee: Darren England
  • Assistant Referee 1: Dan Cook
  • Assistant Referee 2: Nick Hopton
  • Fourth Official: Jarred Gillett
  • VAR: Craig Pawson
  • Assistant VAR: Marc Perry

Recent visits from Leeds

Last season saw us claim a 2-1 win at Emirates Stadium as Nketiah came back to haunt his old club by netting twice in the opening 10 minutes, with the striker also getting on the scoresheet when we knocked the Whites out of League Cup back in October 2021 with a 2-0 success, with Callum Chambers also finding the target.

The season before was the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang show as he netted a hat-trick during a 4-2 success, as we raced into a 4-0 lead after just 47 minutes with Hector Bellerin also scoring, while we recorded a 1-0 victory in the FA Cup during Leeds’ promotion campaign with Reiss Nelson bagging the all-important goal.

Relive some more classic home matches against Leeds, including some Thierry Henry magic

Breakdown Live

Breakdown Live

Saturday's show sees Nick Bright and Adrian Clarke hosting from Emirates Stadium from 2pm (UK time), who will look back at our win against Crystal Palace before the international break as well as weighing up our final 10 games of the season.

Pre-match, they’ll speak to some members of Arsenal America about their fandom across the pond, while fresh from defending his WBO Cruiserweight title, Lawrence Okolie will also pop by the studio to give his take on the season so far.

Then from 3pm, Dan Roebuck and Nigel Winterburn will provide live commentary of the game, talking you through all the key moments on the field, so log on an hour before kick-off for the perfect matchday build-up for any Gooner!

See Full List

Fixtures & Results

Premier League
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