Mikel Arteta: ‘I ask everyone to go there tomorrow night with full energy because the team is going to need it’

After Porto’s smash-and-grab victory over Arsenal in this week’s Champions League Round of 16 first-leg, Mikel Arteta faced the media today at the Sobha Realty Training Centre to pick up the pieces of a disappointing European loss and to preview this Saturday’s Premier League match at home to Newcastle. 

Arteta began by addressing the current injury status of his squad, reiterating that Gabriel Jesus, Thomas Partey, and Alexander Zinchenko are close to returning. However, most excitingly for Arsenal fans, he gave an update on the fitness of Jurien Timber: “He’s doing really well, he’s been with some players out on the pitch and he’s going to start to do some bits with us in the next week or so and then we have to see how his confidence and fitness levels are.”

After the disappointing loss to Porto in the Champions League, Mikel Arteta was asked how his squad have reacted and what response he hopes to see.

“What I see is a team that can’t wait to play Porto at home, and with that result, we have created a fantastic Champions League night of football in front of our people where we need to beat them to go through.”

This was then followed up with a look towards this Saturday’s game against Newcastle. The Emirates Stadium atmosphere has become a very powerful tool for the Gunners in this title race and the Arsenal boss wanted to fire up the fans who will be in attendance to help the team bounce back immediately, continuing their excellent domestic form.

“We want to create that atmosphere in the stadium from the beginning, and I ask everyone to go there tomorrow night with full energy because the team is going to need it. We are at a really good moment in the Premier League, and we want to remain there, and tomorrow’s game is vital to achieve that.”

Arsenal have only managed to defeat Newcastle once in four previous meetings, with November’s controversial 1-0 loss at St James’ Park ending their unbeaten start to the season. Arteta spoke on these struggles against Eddie Howe’s side: “With every club, there is always a history, there is always what happened before and what is going to happen next, but we know the importance of the game and we’ll focus on what we have to do.

“They are a really good team, they are very well coached and have fantastic players with a great spirit within the team, and they are difficult to beat for us and many opponents.”

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When asked whether the midweek defeat in Europe will give his players any extra motivation this weekend, Arteta spoke on the mentality of his side: “What happened in another competition is there, what you cannot deny is what ids in your tummy after a defeat, and we have to use it in a really powerful way to get better.”

The theme of his squad’s mental strength continued when asked about their ability to use the ‘dark arts’ to win games, something that seemingly failed them on Wednesday night and has often been a topic of discussion in games against Newcastle.

“You have to be tricky, you have to be smart, you have to be streetwise and you have to try and take advantage in every situation. “

Finally, Arteta was asked about the emotional toll this title run-in has had on his players and how much more they must give in such a tight Premier League run-in. He used this as a chance to challenge some of the fringe players in his squad to make their impact on this season.

 “A lot of players haven’t played significant minutes this season, and some important players as well, so I can sense that there are still five or six that still have a lot of effort to give to the team, and after what happened last season that this season is very different. That brings a lot of energy because we know what we are facing.”

Arsenal host Newcastle in the Premier League on Saturday 24th February at 8pm live on TNT Sports, looking to continue their fine Premier League form.