Mikel Arteta, Martin Odegaard and Eddie Nketiah answered questions in the pre-game press conference for the MLS All-Star Game.
The three spoke about their tour of America, Major League Soccer, Declan Rice and more in front of reporters gathered at the Washington Hotel.
Below is a full transcript of the press conference:
When taking inspiration from other coaches and other sports:
MA: It’s always great to be in touch with coaches who have a variety of experiences in other sports, in other leagues, in other countries. We have a group where we talk about a lot of different topics, and to me it’s really cool to understand other sports, other ways of thinking, other ways of training and leadership as well, which we’re doing. It was a great learning process for me.
On the MLS scene:
MA: I think it’s great to be here. We had a great experience here last year connecting with fans from different regions. It’s so cool to see all the love we get here and to see different cultures. Like I said, we had a great time here last year, and I’m looking forward again to playing in front of the fans, connecting with them and hopefully giving them a good experience with some good performances. So yeah, I’m happy to be here and excited to play again.
EN: Yeah, just to add to that, like Martin said it’s a really great experience for us to be here. We enjoy our trips here to the States, test ourselves, get different opponents, play in different stadiums and connect with different groups of fans. Our fans here are really great all the times you’ve been here pre-season. So now we’re really excited about the games and we’re grateful for the opportunity to be here and the lovely welcome. So we hope to put on a good performance and a good show for the fans.
MA: Yes, I am very excited. Tomorrow’s experience will be great. The night begins with all the challenges players face against each other and it will be a special unpredictable game. We’re obviously going to change a lot of players as well, but it’s great to be invited and be a part of this, and hopefully we’ll give something back for the fans here.
On how he sees MLS now:
MA: Well, the history and the way the league has evolved over the past 20 years is phenomenal. The attraction that is spreading across Europe now is very different from what it used to be. Now with the decision that they have made to take the lead by bringing in the best talent and the best ever footballer in the planet, it will obviously put the league in the spotlight. It was a very smart move and a really good thing, not just for the league, but for everyone associated with it.
0n What can he take from this game:
MA: I hope the rhythm is not different and ours is better than theirs. That’s what we hope for and we always want to play our way, be dominant and it doesn’t matter who we play against, that’s the attitude we have. It’s very early in the pre-season and we know that. The teams we will play in the next few days will be very different. But tomorrow will be a challenge. The heat will also play a role, the conditions, but we have to get used to it, to win and to play what we want to play under any circumstances. It’s a great test for us.
On Folarin Balogun:
EN: Flo is obviously a really good player. I’m sure a lot of Americans are excited now that he changed it. We followed his progress last season, it was a really good season. So it’s good to have it back. All the others who returned from the loan as well. It’s good to reintegrate and get them back. They obviously want to show off their qualities and impress them, as we all do. We are really happy to have him back and wish him all the best. I hope he can impress us and help us in pre-season to win the next matches.
MA: I’m just happy to see it’s doing so well. Last year she had a great season in France and she is a great talent. He works hard and is very hungry to improve all the time. So I’m happy for him and excited to see him again in matches, I hope he performs well and scores some goals.
When entering the team last season:
EN: Every player’s dream is to play and help the team. I pride myself on working hard all season and training hard. So I was really confident about getting on the team that I could help. It also helps to have great players behind me. I am grateful for the opportunity to coach and I am hungry for more. We had a really good season, not just me, but everyone has developed, developed and really contributed.
As a player this is the best thing, you know you have contributed to something greater. We obviously haven’t gone all the way, but we’ve come close and we’ve made a lot of progress. So we are hungry to help and bring new things this season. Hopefully I have a role to play in that and we can win some things together.
On becoming a leader:
MA: Of course it’s a great honor and I’m very proud to be named captain. To have this confidence from the club, the players and everyone means a lot to me. So it’s something I’m very proud of and something I enjoy, the responsibility. I’m learning all the time and trying to improve my role as a leader. So I am very happy and very proud to have done that.
On the concept of the England All-Star Game:
MA: I like the idea. For me as the Arsenal coach, playing against MLS All-Stars is amazing. I love the experience but if you ask me the other way around, depending on when it’s halfway through the season, I probably wouldn’t be happy about losing my players. But I think it’s great when the guys get together and play on the same team. If I was a gamer for sure, I wanted to try this out, why can’t it be done in the future.
On whether Declan Rice will be involved:
MA: We just wanted to manage it. A lot has happened to him in the past five or six days, and it’s a very busy schedule. He had some training sessions that were really good, but before that he hadn’t done much before he joined us, so we just wanted to manage him. Today he trained with us and he was in good shape and he is fine.
On Declan and Eddie being released together:
EN: I obviously got on really well with December. We initially played alongside the Under-9s, to the Under-14s at Chelsea. As you can imagine as kids we played a lot of games together, and a lot of travelling. Therefore, his father and I were very supportive. We built a little bit of a relationship together. We were all released on the same day, as you can imagine it’s very hard to do. So the character we have to come back with, obviously I went to Arsenal and he went to West Ham.
It’s funny how life goes, we’re back here playing for Arsenal and hopefully we can work well together and get things done. I’m really proud of the progress I’ve made. I see him as a kid and the man he’s grown up into now and I’m really glad he’s here. I’m sure it will help us a lot, but like I said we all want to win together. Hopefully, it will be another piece of the puzzle to get us closer to where we want to be.
On the health level of support in Washington:
MA: Like I said before, I think it’s great to come here and see all the fans we have here. I think it’s good for them too that we play. I know the [kick-off] Times are a bit tough for the fans here to watch us play and yes, it can be tough. So it’s good to come here and feel the love and give back to the fans.
We want to give them a good performance, hope they enjoy tomorrow and we want to thank them for all the support now, as well as throughout the whole season. The support was unreal for us. Of course in London and the Emirates, but also all over the world. We are grateful for all the love we get and all the help.
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