Mikel Arteta on Arsenal’s title near miss: ‘I don’t want to get over it’

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is starting early in his quest to win next season’s Premier League title.

The Gunners boss has taken nine players not involved in either Euro 2024 or the Copa América out to Marbella on the south coast of Spain for a summer training camp ahead of the club’s preseason tour to the United States.

Arsenal will play Manchester United at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on July 27 before travelling to Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field to face Liverpool on July 31 (stream both games LIVE on ESPN+.)

Arteta talked to ESPN while promoting ticket sales for those matches to reflect on last season’s title race with Manchester City. Arsenal amassed 89 points and had the best defensive record in the division while also breaking a series of club records — 28 Premier League wins, 91 goals, their highest-ever goal difference (+62) — but still fell short as Pep Guardiola’s side lifted the trophy for a fourth year in succession.

Once a protégé of Guardiola, the 42-year-old Arteta discussed his thinking behind the U.S. trip, the latest on his contract situation, as well as transfers, summer training plans, Jürgen Klopp and the Euros.


How has the last month been for you? You are always thinking, always planning, but have you been able to switch off?

Arteta: Yes, I did. We had some wonderful time with family, with friends. I’ve been away from football and London but at the same time obviously there is a lot of planning to do, a lot of reflection and analysis to do to understand what we did really well in the season, where are the areas we can improve and develop and we are right on it. We are really excited and looking forward to a new season.

Why Marbella? Is it a sort of mini-preseason before proper preseason?

Arteta: It is a long break for some of the players that haven’t had international football, and nowadays we need top-level athletes at the level that we are competing and the schedule that we have. So we believe it was the right thing to do, to bring them in a little bit earlier and start connecting with the team, to check the physical levels and to start to get a good preparation. They still have some time off, some downtime to enjoy. Marbella gives you a bit of everything and I think it is working really well.

You’ve had time now as you said to analyse last season. So much progress and club history was made, but Arsenal couldn’t win the league. How do you reflect on it now?

Arteta: When you are analytical and you gather all the stats and everything the team has done over the past 11 months in the Premier League, we should have won it. That’s what the stats say. The reality is that we didn’t so there is something that is there that we haven’t managed as well as Man City or other clubs in the past. I think we understand where those margins are. I think we have come very far. We have been really consistent now in the past 24 months in terms of performance and the levels that we want to hit. But those margins are super small. One thing is to get the 90% that we want and actually the 10%, 5%, 1% is what defines success and winning major trophies. Now we have to continue to do all the right things that we are doing and just make those small margins that are going to be able to win the tournaments.

When you look at where it slipped away, is it as simple as pointing to Aston Villa at home or does it run deeper than that?

Arteta: The small margins, we have the game against Villa [a 2-0 defeat on April 14 which put them two points behind City with six games left to play] and when you look at the expected goals of what we generate just throughout the game, we should win it, but we don’t. So efficiency in the box was a dictator of success when we are so dominant like we are right now in many games. You have decisions as well. They are not in your hands and they can take a point or two points or three points away from you and that can decide the title. At the end, we are going to have to be that good that our worst version is going to have to be much better than the best version of the opponent. This is what we are going to try to do and in order to do that we are going to have to dominate a lot of things that are going to be difficult to identify with your eyes when you watch a football match. I’ll leave it there.

Did it take you a long time to get over it?

Arteta: I don’t want to get over it. I am really satisfied with the way the team is performing, the way the players are evolving, what the team transmits, the momentum we have as a football club. In all departments, not only on the men’s side, but the women’s side, what we are doing with the academy, the prospects that we have there. But we need that pain and that hunger to achieve what we want to achieve because the competition is unbelievable and we are going to need everybody feeling that way to achieve it.

You’re in Marbella now and head to Los Angeles later in the month, back to the LA Rams’ base. How useful is that to have a home from home in America you use each year?

Arteta: That’s the right words. We feel at home and the fact we have been there a few years now and played in one of the nicest stadiums in the world, built by our owners, we have that connection. We have now that feeling with our supporters with the show that we put in last year against Barcelona. We have two big, big, big games coming up now and hopefully we can deliver what everybody expects and use it for the preparation into what we need.

Can you give us an insight into the facility? Are they making changes to make it more suitable for you or is it ideal as it is?

Arteta: It is ideal as it is and having to adapt to different scenarios and setups is very valuable because during the season, some unpredictable things happen and when you travel abroad you have to face that. The conditions are different, the pitch is different, the opponent is different, the weather is different, the stadium is different, the travelling is different. If you want to be the best team in the world, you are going to have to adapt to all those things on the day so it is good practice for us to achieve that.

You have preseason games against Man United and Liverpool. Did you specifically want tough games? What’s the benefit of that?

Arteta: First of all, commercially it is a huge opportunity for our football club to grow and deliver to all these people who are supporting the club to put on a big show and to do that you need strong opposition. It does not get better than the Premier League because it is what they love watching and we agreed immediately because we know the importance of that.

How will Arne Slot change Liverpool?

Arteta: I don’t know. That’s a question for him and the people that have decided to come here. Welcome to the Premier League. I think he is an exceptional coach. Obviously it is a bit sad to see Jürgen leave because what he has brought to the league, I think, is something unprecedented with his charisma, his way of playing and the moments he has created in this league.

How tough will it be reintegrating players after the Euros and the Copa América to then hit the ground running in the Premier League?

Arteta: I think we’ve done a lot of planning with what we believe is the best plan for them and the best preparation to be fully ready when the whistle goes on the first day at the Emirates against Wolves [on Aug. 17]. We are going to have to tweak things for sure and adapt because players are going to come in at stages at the moment which are a bit uncertain, physically, mentally. But if you think the players are always connected, they are willing to come back, excited for the new season and when you have that feeling I think something positive will happen again.

I guess you’ve not seen all the players yet but do you sense there’s that hunger within the group to go again?

Arteta: I could feel it straight away. We have a gathering together after the final whistle against Everton [on the final day of last season] and that was the only thing they were talking about: What are we going to do next season? They are looking at us and saying, ‘OK, what is next? What are you going to do next? How are you going to again turn the wheel and find something else, that extra motivation, other tactics and something amongst the group that is going to elevate everybody’s level?’ The club is sharing that vision and we are trying to achieve that.

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I know you don’t like talking about transfers but there is a suggestion that you are looking for one more attacking player to help make the difference. Is that accurate?

Arteta: We are looking to improve in every possible department. With the new regulations, there are certain things we have to respect and be conscious of and then obviously the Euros and Copa América are slowing everything down. Hopefully now it is going to pick up a little bit.

How active do you expect to be?

Arteta: I think both ways [players coming in and going out of the club]. There are things that we have to improve, that’s for sure and we are going to try to. But the market is tricky. We have been very aggressive, we are very determined and we have a clear idea obviously of what we want to do. It will come down to finding the right agreements at the right time.

Is there any update on your own contract situation?

Arteta: No, there is no update at the moment. [Arteta’s deal is due to expire at the end of next season.] The thing that hasn’t changed is how happy I am and how valued I feel here and how much I love representing this club.

Are you expecting that to be resolved before next season?

Arteta: Things happen in a natural way and our relationship is that good that I don’t predict any issues happening. But things have to develop in the right way and it will happen.

The reason I ask is if it was a player entering their final year, we’d all be talking about their future. From the outside world, there’s a desire for clarity and surely it would help you in the market to show that stability to new signings.

Arteta: I understand that, but the focus now is, ‘OK, how we can improve things around the team, how we can improve now the things in the transfer window that we have.’ We have time to sit down and discuss that.

Looking ahead to the new season and those first few fixtures, how do you view them as it looks like a pretty tough start?

Arteta: I like playing the first game at home, that’s for sure. I think everybody is looking forward to that. It is going to be a special day in the new season, starting with that level of energy and expectations. Obviously we are going to be very well prepared for that one. Then in the Premier League you have to play against everybody. It looks tough but if you put it in any other way, it looks tough as well. We are going to have to go through that. We have to be prepared because [the games are] going to come very thick and fast.

Shall I ask you again how many points you need to win the league?

Arteta: [Laughs] I told you anything less than 90, I didn’t believe it would deliver that. Let’s start with 114 and see what we get.

We joked about it a few times last season, but you were right — you need at least 90. Is that the target?

Arteta: One-hundred-and-fourteen [the maximum points available] wins it and then you start from there. You know that the margins are really, really small and tight and the competition is going to be even harder than the previous season. You go game-by-game, earn the right to win every game, that’s all we can think of, and try to improve our players. And make them believe they can do it because now they are good enough to do it.

Finally, who wins the Euros?

Arteta: You never know. I think the Euros started [properly] on Sunday and we have to wait and see how it develops. But momentum-wise it was a big moment for England [Jude Bellingham equalised in the 95th minute before England beat Slovakia in extra-time to reach the quarterfinals]. Big, big moment. I think that is going to reunite everybody. When you see yourself almost out, that puts a different context and perspective onto things. Everybody wants to be in it, that’s the reality so let’s see what happens.