Mikel you must be really proud of your players?
“I am. The spirit they showed, the character, the fight and the leadership as well was there because you have to really stand up. I asked them that when someone makes a mistake – it can happen in football, someone has to take a red card – what cannot happen is that after we don’t stand up for him and every single did it with belief as well. I could sense at half time they believed they could get back in the game and I wasn’t expecting Hector to score with his left foot obviously, but I’m very pleased.”
Leadership has been questioned in past years and Arsenal seem to be showing that in recent times…
“Absolutely. I’m surprised as well, we’re playing with a lot of young kids and what they showed tonight is going to be a great experience for them to keep believing that in football, if you put (in) everything, anything can happen. So in that sense, top.”
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When Holding was about coming on was Martinelli going to come off?
“Not Martinelli but I changed my mind. I was thinking about that and said ‘I don’t want to send that message’ to the team and we decided to keep us as we were, give them a chance and I wanted to see how they could respond to that. Don’t make the response for them because I asked them to be accountable for what they do and I didn’t want to make a decision not to let them decide for themselves. It was a great response from them.”
Martinelli looks a natural finisher. Not many kids at that age can score goals like that…
“No and to play in this stadium the way he has, with 10 men and against Azpilicueta who in my opinion is one of the best defenders in the league – and he was going against him every single time, you need courage to do that. Then his energy. I wanted to take him off a few times because he looked knackered, he was cramping and next minute he’s sprinting 60 yards again.”
Martinelli’s really stepped up in Aubameyang’s absence hasn’t he?
“Absolutely. Not just him, I think Laca is playing at a really good level even though he’s not scoring and Nico as well and everybody that’s coming in. They are fighting really hard in training to try to convince us to play more – when they question some things I tell them (to) speak on the pitch and this is to speak on the pitch.”
How is David Luiz?
“It was a very special game obviously and to get sent off the way he did, he was disappointed but at the same time proud of his teammates.”
Do you have any complaints about the sending off? Possible double-jeopardy?
“I watched it from different angles and different angles make it look a bit different. They made the decision, we have to accept it, that’s it.”
January transfer window 2020
How impressed have you been with Granit Xhaka’s leadership?