Mikel Arteta delivered an emphatic response to talk of him becoming the next Barcelona manager, and lauded two Arsenal stars who are doing everything right despite rarely playing.
Arsenal host Swiss side FC Zurich on Thursday night with top spot in Europa League Group A on the line. Arsenal can still be overhauled by PSV Eindhoven if results go in the Dutch side’s favour. Finishing as group runners-up would leave Arsenal vulnerable to drawing one of the Champions League drop-outs in the play-off round, such as Barcelona.
Barcelona have been on the agenda at Arsenal for an entirely different reason of late, namely regarding the future of Mikel Arteta.
The Spaniard is working wonders at the Emirates and losing him now would be a bitter blow for the Gunners.
Spanish outlet Sport recently claimed Arteta is viewed as a future Barcelona manager by the Catalan giants. With Xavi struggling at the helm at present, that time may come sooner than any Arsenal fan wishes to consider.
However, Arteta was asked about the Barcelona speculation in a press conference on Wednesday.
Via Football London, Arteta was having none of the Barca talk, and insisted he’s “extremely” happy in north London.
“No, what I can say is that I am extremely happy and proud to be where I am,” said the 40-year-old.
“Barcelona now they are in a really good path now, with a phenomenal coach, a coach that has been an absolute legend in that club and has lifted the whole place.
“You have to be very respectful of that.”
Attention then turned to the injury status of Bukayo Saka.
Bukayo Saka injury update
The winger was substituted against Nottingham Forest mid-way through the first half on Sunday after suffering what Arteta described as a “bad kick”.
“It was a bad kick,” said Arteta in the post-match fall-out. “Right from the beginning, he was limping, but I don’t see any further than that.
“Let’s see how he is in the next couple of days. I think both [foot or ankle]. He got kicked a few times and he wasn’t comfortable.”
Providing a positive update for both Arsenal and England fans on Wednesday, Arteta said: “Bukayo has missed one or two [training sessions] and trained today.”
When asked if Saka could be available for selection against Zurich, the Spaniard simply replied: “Yes.”
Finally, Arteta was asked about two Arsenal stars who are contributing this season, though rarely from the off.
Tierney, Nelson claim “absolutely the contrary”
Kieran Tierney initially lost his place to summer recruit Oleksandr Zinchenko. Takehiro Tomiyasu then stepped in on the left side when Zinchenko suffered an injury, leaving Tierney to make do with cameos from the bench.
Reiss Nelson, meanwhile, provided a reminder of his talents against Forest.
Nelson got the nod from the bench when replacing the injured Saka. 63 minutes later, Nelson has two goals and an assist to his name.
Reliable strength in depth will become increasingly crucial to Arsenal’s title chances in the second half of the season.
Assessing the two stars, Arteta dismissed any notion that their mentality has been affected by starting matches so infrequently. In fact, the Arsenal boss categorically stated any such claim is “absolutely the contrary” to what he sees from the pair.
“I think it’s a lot about an understanding of each one’s role in the team and that changes every single week,” added Arteta.
“You’re talking about two players that in the past they play matches and some weeks they’re on the bench.
“It doesn’t mean that they don’t push, it’s absolutely the contrary, they’ve been really pushing and doing their best to play.
“But in the end, we have to make decisions and they’ve been really respectful as we expect all the players to be respectful when they are on the pitch as well.”
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