David Moyes is looking forward to locking horns with his former player Mikel Arteta for a third time this season on Sunday.
West Ham United take on Arsenal at London Stadium looking to complete a remarkable hat-trick of wins over the Gunners, having triumphed 3-1 at home in the Carabao Cup in November, and 2-0 at Emirates Stadium the following month.
Moyes has his eyes on completing the set, but knows his team face a major challenge against a side in the thick of the Premier League title race for the second season in succession.
The manager faced the media for his pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon, when he answered questions on the Gunners’ threat, his former charge at Everton Arteta, the impact Kalvin Phillips could have and more…
Lucas Paquetá won’t be available. He's not ready yet. Michail Antonio has started a couple of days’ training, but I have to say he's only trained two days with the group.
He is looking okay, but he has been out for the best part of three months, so he’s still off it as far as being much fit and available at the moment.
Putting in the work on the training pitches
I've got to say when we were having game after game, we were looking forward to a break really, and, and having some normal weeks.
We've had a normal week [without a midweek match] this week. We've just tried to give the players a little bit of time. It’s meant more time training together, which we've needed because we've just been off the boil a little in the last month or so.
That’s partly down to injuries partly down to players being away at AFCON. So getting all the boys back together has been good, and hopefully we can build on it.
Pushing to maintain our challenge at the top end of the league
There have been a lot of years where it has not been that good. Last year, we had an unbelievable year, you know, maybe not in our league position, but if you want to talk about that, in the two years before, we had unbelievable league positions. We're pushing again this year.
We have to keep working hard to make it happen. You have to find a way to challenge all the top teams and we've been trying to do that. We’ve beaten Manchester United once this year, we've beaten Tottenham once this year, we’ve beaten Arsenal twice, and Chelsea once.
So we’re giving the top teams at the moment a game and I hope we can continue doing that and keep pushing to stay near the top of the league.
Welcoming Declan Rice back
He's such a talented player and someone who we admire so much.
He will be welcomed back with open arms here. He came to see the last time he was here when we had them in the Carabao Cup,
He’s thought the world of by everybody behind the scenes here. And he’s thought of the same way by all the West Ham supporters, for what he did for the Club over the years, the way he conducted himself.
And if you look at the class he showed when we all sort of knew he was leaving, with a lot of media attention about it, he showed great qualities. He attended the functions, dealt with young West Ham supporters. So he deserves respect for all those things as well.
Helping Kalvin Phillips settle in
We brought him in to to be to be a key player for us. I believe he will be. I think he is going to take a little bit of time just to get himself back up and running, but that's fine. I've got no problem with that.
We've got good midfield players. He's in addition to them. I need him to supplement what I've got – help out through injuries and suspension, and hopefully he's form would mean that he is always a starter. We're happy to give them a bit of time and let him break his way in.
Going for an Arsenal hat-trick
I think if you'd given me given me one of the wins against an Arsenal side so good, I think I'd have been happy. Two's fabulous. If we make three, it'll be fantastic and we’ll aim to do that.
We've got them at home, but we're also really aware how good a side they are. They are an incredibly good side, have been challenging to win the Premier League for the last two years. And we're going have to play really well.
The manager has done a brilliant job with the team. I think they've got some real top-quality players and you only need to look at the result last week against Liverpool, and how well they’ve been playing this season.
So they are a top team, they really are. We did a great job getting the result at the Emirates in December, and overall we've had a couple of good results against them.
But I know that we have to work really hard and play well to get something out of the game.
Scoring goals the key
Winning twice against them doesn't make me feel more confident, but it lets me know that I've already taken points from Arsenal this year. And we have shown that we can do it.
It's incredibly difficult – the two games we won, we scored goals against them and that would be the key. If we can get some goals against them, then we'll give ourselves a chance.
Our home form in the main, for most of the season, has been pretty good, and we hope we can keep that up.
Players making the transition to management
I get asked quite a bit [who in my squad could follow Arteta into management], and I think Vladimir [Coufal] could maybe start something there.
But again, you have to start getting a feeling of the boys who are doing the coaching badges when they're a bit younger, because too many of the players nowadays want to wait to the end of their career, then start the coaching badges, and then think that a job will come along for them. It doesn't.
I think you have to start the process much earlier in your playing career If you've really got big thoughts about going into management.
With Vladi I just see somebody who could easily go back in and manage. He's a good guy, he's balanced. A great trainer works hard every day, but he's also got a good personality.
I don't know who could make one, you asked me and I've given you an idea. I think maybe, but I could be miles off the mark!