Where does that rank in terms of wins?
Probably one of the best because of the difficult schedule that we’ve had compared to them in terms of recovery and for how well they’ve been doing all season and as well since COVID-19. To come here and win like we’ve done today is not an easy thing, it’s another step forward in our process so obviously I’m really happy today.
Did you answer critics from the Brighton game?
I said after Brighton that I was very, very happy with the effort. I never denied the effort and the intention we were putting in. It’s that we can’t give anything to the opponent. That’s about competing for 100 minutes in these games. We have to evolve in that. Hopefully we’re doing much better and that’ll give us a chance to win football games.
Will Leicester and Tottenham be a defining week?
Every game we have no margin for error. We knew that. We’re trying to win every game. If we can’t let’s enjoy a little bit tonight and tomorrow start thinking about Leicester and try to go again.
Are you in the Champions League race?
I’m in the race to try to win against Leicester and then let’s see what happens. Weeks ago it looked impossible and the fixtures we had in the next few weeks. We try to improve every time and there’s a better chance the better we play, the better we compete. At this level of intensity if we play like this against any team we will make it hard for them.
Then we will see.
Can you speak about the character of the side
I think the reason we had a life and can win against any team is that at the moment we are enjoying to suffer together. In difficult moments if you enjoy that you’ll get rewarded because we have the ability after to hurt teams. At the moment we don’t have the ability to batter teams for 95 minutes.
To be able to do that you have to be very able to compete and be a team. A team means 11 that started and all the subs, the way they came on today and make a difference in the team.
Was the plan to start with Saka or did Pepe’s unavailability change your plans?
I had a lot of doubts what to do for the game. The moment we had a situation with Nico it was clear. I was trying to find something with Bukayo in that position. In the first half he struggled in some moments, he started to understand it better after 20 minutes I think.
He scored a really good goal but what I liked about him was when things aren’t going for him the way he keeps trying and trying instead of putting his head down and being disappointed.
How much of a physical test has the recent run of games been for you?
I don’t want to talk to them about that. It’s all in our heads. We have everybody ready. You can see on the bench how ready they are to come and make an impact.
It’s clear that we have to rotate players if we want to get the maximum and we have to protect them as well. Whoever is available is welcome and we will use him.
How impressive is the defensive turnaround?
You can see all the teams that are in the title race, that win championships, the amount of clean sheets they need in order to do that. The more we improve here, the more solid we are the better chance we’re going to have to win football games. It’s simple.
We have a lot of things to improve in our attacking patterns, the way we use the spaces, the way we read the overload. That will come but at least it goes down to 11 players defending every time the ball is on the opponents’ feet.
Saka feels like the team is closer together, do you have that feeling?
To be fair since I joined I saw some really good things about how they treat each other and how much they enjoy being together. I think they understand more what we expect from them and these wins bring the team together.
When you suffer together, when you see your team-mates giving absolutely everything for you, when someone makes a mistake and the other one puts it right it makes you feel proud of where you are.
That’s slowly what we have to try to evolve and get better, doing it in a very consistent way.
Saka’s first Premier League goal will be the first of many, won’t it?
Hopefully yes. He has the ability to do that. He’s very neat when he gets in the opponents’ box whether it’s to produce an assist or finish a move. I think the move was really good as well, he was in the right spot at the right moment. A very important goal.
How have you changed the mentality?
We try to inspire them. It’s not me. Unfortunately I cannot help them much, they’re the ones who make all the decisions on the pitch.
The way they fight, the way they believed and in certain moments. We knew they couldn’t maintain the level they had when they played. They believe.
When you believe and you’re happy to do the work all the time you get rewarded. I’m really happy for them today.
Lacazette’s first away goal, what will that do for him?
He really needed that. When I ask him to come in in three seconds he was ready to jump on the pitch. When you do that things like this happen. He had a great movement of the ball, great touch, great finish. We have to give him more opportunities to be able to do that but I’m so happy for him because he completely deserves that, the way he trains and plays every day.”
Mustafi seems to have really found his form…
We try to help every player to improve. First of all, to feel that we trust them, that they can make mistake, but if they are willing and happy to try again after, I think they will get rewarded. Musti, his attitude, the way he’s training, the attention level, the questions he is asking, how much he wants to help everybody has been really good since I joined and I think it’s a consequence of his performance.
How good was Granit Xhaka?
He was pivotal today. I think him and Dani [Ceballos] dictated the game really well for the first 45 minutes and then when the game plan changed a little and we suffered, they read the situation really well. They gave the team exactly what they needed. Above all, we have to manage the game, at times they did this with great maturity. I know his [Xhaka’s] character, he’s a great personality as well and he’s so focused that he deserves to be helped and then when he puts in performances like today, the team is very happy with him.
Are you more vocal now than you were pre-lockdown?
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Yes, because now they can hear me – or they pretend to hear me at least. With 60,000 people it’s much more difficult but it’s the way I like to coach. Sometimes it’s probably too much for the players but we just try to guide them and help them.
Ceballos was getting a lot of ‘Dani!’ shouts. What were you trying to relay to him and was it getting through?
Just to try to make him aware all the time of the situations happening on the pitch and to try to help him to make the best possible decisions.