Mikel Arteta, Martin Odegaard and Eddie Nketiah fielded the questions at the pre-match press conference for the MLS All-Star game.
The three talked about their tour of America, Major League Soccer, Declan Rice and more in front of assembled reporters at the Washington Hotel.
Here is a full transcript of the press conference…
On getting inspiration from other coaches and other sports:
MA: It’s always great to be connected with coaches who have different experiences in other sports, in other leagues, in other countries. We have a group that we talk about many different topics and for me it’s really great to understand other sports, other ways of thinking, other ways of coaching and leading, which is what we do. It has been a big learning process for me.
About the spectacle of MLS:
MO: I think it’s great to be here. We had a great experience here last year to connect with fans from different areas. It’s amazing 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 to playing in front of the fans again and connecting with them and hopefully giving them a good experience with some good performances. So yeah, I’m just happy to be here and excited to play again.
DA: Yeah, just to add to what Martin said, it’s a really nice experience for us to be here. We enjoy our trips here to the US and to test ourselves and get a different opposition and play in different stadiums and connect with different sets of fans. Our fans out here are really amazing every time I’ve come here for pre-season. So now we are really excited for the games and grateful for the opportunity to be here and a nice reception. So hopefully we can deliver a good performance and a good show for the fans.
MA: Yes, I am very excited. Tomorrow’s experience will be fantastic. It starts tonight with all the challenges that the players have against each other and it will be a special, very unpredictable match. Obviously we’ll be replacing a lot of players as well, but it’s great to be invited and be a part of this and hopefully we can give something back to the fans here.
On how he sees MLS now:
MA: Well the history and the way the league has evolved over the last 20 years is phenomenal. The attraction that also comes around Europe now is very different from before. Now with the decision they made to take the lead much further by bringing in top talent and the best football player ever on this planet, it will naturally put the league in the spotlight. It was a very smart move and something really good not only for the league but for everyone connected to it.
What can he take from this game:
MA: Hopefully the rhythm won’t be different and our rhythm will be better than theirs. That’s what we hope and we’ll always 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 against in the next few days will be very different. But tomorrow will be a challenge. The heat is also going to play a role, the conditions, but we have to get used to it, to win and play the way we want to play under any circumstances. It is a big test for us.
About Folarin Balogun:
DA: It is clear that Flo is a very good player. I’m sure many Americans are thrilled now that he’s made his switch. We followed his progress last season, he had a really good season. So it’s good to have him back. All the others who have come back from loans too. It’s good to reintegrate and get them back. Of course, they want to show their qualities and impress, as we all do. We are really happy to have him back and wish him all the best. Hopefully he can impress and help us this pre-season to win the upcoming games.
MO: I’m just happy to see him doing well. Last year in France had a great season and is a great talent. He works hard and is very hungry to improve all the time. So I’m just happy for him and I’m excited to see him back in the games and hopefully he can do well and score some goals.
On stepping into the side last season:
DA: It is every player’s dream to play and help the team. I pride myself on working hard throughout the season and training hard. So I was really confident to get into the team that I could help. It also helps to have good players behind me. I’m grateful for the coach’s opportunity and I’m just hungry for more. We had a really good season, not only myself but everyone developed, developed and really contributed. As a player, the best thing you know is that you have contributed to something bigger. Obviously we didn’t go all the way, but we came close and we made great progress. So we are hungry to help and achieve new things this season. Hopefully I can have my part to play in it and we can win some things together.
On being made a captain:
MO: Of course it’s a great honor and I’m very proud to be named captain. To have this trust from the club and from 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 am constantly learning and trying to improve my role as a leader. So I’m very happy and I’m very proud to do it.
On the concept of an All-Star game in England:
MA: I love the idea. For me as Arsenal coach, playing against the MLS All-Stars is fantastic. I love the experience, but if you ask me the other way around, depending on when it was in the middle of the season, I probably wouldn’t be too happy to lose my players. But I think it’s great for the players to get together and play on the same team. If I was a player for sure I would want to experience it, so why not in the future it can be done.
Whether Declan Rice will be involved:
MA: We just wanted to manage him. A lot has happened with him in the last five or six days, a very hectic schedule. He had a couple of training sessions that were really good, but before that he didn’t do much before he came to us. So we just wanted to handle him. He trained with us today, he was in good shape and he is fine.
On Declan and Eddie being released together:
DA: It is clear that I have a good relationship with Dec. We first played together with under-9 to under-14 at Chelsea. As you can imagine as kids we played a lot of games together, a lot of traveling. So me and his dad and my dad was very supportive. We built a bit of a relationship together. We were all released on the same day, which you can imagine is very hard to take. So the character that we both have to come back, of course I went to Arsenal and he went to West Ham. It’s funny how life works, we’re back here playing for Arsenal and hopefully we can do well together and get results. I am really proud of the progress he has made. I see him as a child and the man he’s grown into now, and I’m really happy to have him here. I’m sure he will help us a lot, but as I said, we all want to win together. Hopefully he can be another piece of the puzzle to hopefully get us closer to where we want to be.
On the healthy level of support in Washington:
MO: Like I said before, I think it’s great to come here and see all the fans we have here. I also think it’s nice for them to see us play. I know [kick-off] times are a little difficult for fans here to watch us play and yes, it can be difficult. So it’s nice to come here and feel the love and give something back to the supporters. We want to give them a good performance, hopefully they will have fun tomorrow and we want to thank them for all the support now, and also throughout the season. The support has been unreal for us. Of course in London and in the Emirates, but also all over the world. We are grateful for all the love we receive and for all the help.
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