Arsenal must aim for a strong finish to the Premier League season if they are to keep hold of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang insisted Mikel Arteta in a Zoom press conference ahead of Gunners’ trip to Manchester City on Wednesday.
With three months of inaction due to coronavirus, the Premier League returns on Wednesday with Aston Villa hosting Sheffield United, followed by Mikel Arteta coming up against his former club later that day.
Mikel Arteta wants to keep Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at Arsenal
Aubameyang has a year left on his current deal following a £56m move from Borussia Dortmund in 2018. His goals have given the Gunners a much needed boost since Arteta took over at the Emirates last December and he wants to keep hold of his striker.
Arsenal remain unbeaten in the Premier League in 2020, and the chance of a top four finish, however remote would be the catalyst to keeping hold of the Gabon striker who has scored 17 Premier League goals this season.
“I think it is our responsibility to make him feel this is the right next step in his career. In order to do that, he needs to feel valued, he needs to feel he belongs to us and we want him, and then he really needs to believe that we can take the club forward in the way we want to do, and he is going to be a key player to do that.
The Gunners return to Premier League action with Wednesday’s trip to the Etihad
“At the moment I am extremely happy with how he has been performing and behaving, I have a really good relationship with him where we can discuss face to face a lot of things. As far as I am aware, he is very happy at the club,” said Arteta.
The Gunners have previously allowed player contracts to run down, with players then able to leave on a free, but the current Covid situation has impeded the club’s ability to negotiate with players agreed Arteta.
“Well, I think in a different context we would have liked to do things much quicker but obviously we have been really tight with time and communication as well. These unprecedented times bring a lot of uncertainty and things are getting clearer and clearer every day, we are a step closer to get back playing football and moving forward.
“We’ve had many discussions with Pierre, his family and agent, and I’m pretty positive that we can find the right agreement for all parties.
Arleta’s first encounter with Pep Guardiola since his arrival at the Emirates will provide a gauge of where the Gunners currently are in respect of their top four ambitions. Guardiola has known Arteta since the Arsenal head coach was in his teens. Guardiola has been an inspirational figure from their early days together at Barcelona, on and off the pitch.
Pep Guardiola has been an influence on Mikel Arteta on and off the pitch
“Well, he was an influence for me since I was 15 years old and we met at Barcelona, both as players. And in my coaching career and my personal life, he has an enormous influence. If I have to talk about the person he is, his values, the way he has treated me and how he deals with the players and the staff around him, it’s phenomenal. As a coach, I have learned so much from him, we have spent some amazing moments together, some difficult ones as well, but the experience next to him has been incredible.”
Arsenal have had two warm up matches ahead of their trip to the Etihad where Arteta was able to look at trying new formations and also to ensure that his players can be as best prepared. However, the lack of crowd atmosphere will take some getting used to noted Arteta. Injuries and niggles will have cleared up in the main, however, the return to training under challenging circumstances has been unlike anything any team will have faced before.
The Gunners were beaten 3-0 by City at the Emirates last December
“It wasn’t exactly a pre-season! I didn’t have the players for six weeks, but we tried to use everything that we could. If you ask me ‘what have you learned most?’ then it has probably been using different ways of communicating and using technology is one of them. From my side, it’s hard to communicate with players and talk to them and try to get into them as well without touching them, without seeing them, so that has been a challenge. But we’ve been trying to do everything that we could to help them to understand better what we are trying to do, to convince them that it is the right way for them to enjoy their profession and let’s see if we’ve done a good job or not.”
Arsenal last won at Manchester City in 2015, and the Gunners face an uphill task against the champions. Arteta knows that he will have to be prepared for all eventualities and ensure both he and his side remain focussed.
“We have to take every game in the same way, to go there and win the game. We know that every stadium and every opponent is completely different. I have to focus and I have to try to convince my players to focus on what we have to do. We cannot control everything that Man City does, it’s impossible. Even if we want to and I will drive the players mad in order to do that. So I just try to convince them on what we can do to try and beat them, what is the best plan possible for us to have the best possible chance to compete in that game and to win it. Let’s see how much we are able to do that because here it’s easy, but to go there on the pitch and show it for 96 minutes is different.”