Mikel Arteta believes last night’s impressive 4-0 hammering of Slavia Prague is proof that his players can perform under pressure.
As was the case last season, the Gunners are banking on a cup run to salvage something from a rollercoaster season. Beat Villarreal in the Europa League semi-final and we’ll be just one victory away from a backdoor return to the Champions League.
It’s set to be tense and exciting in equal measure and the boss is up for the challenge.
“The fact that you reach a semi-final is always a big boost, this club has always to be fighting for every competition we are involved in,” he said.
“Last night’s performance was a big indicator that under pressure the team can perform, that they have this spirit and desire to do well and show a real character.
“I really liked the mindset that the players had. From the whistle at the Emirates with a disappointing result conceding so late from a set piece, the players were convinced we would go through and that was really helpful in the preparations to get what we did yesterday.”
Arteta also called on his players to use the remaining seven league games to build further momentum. Arsenal are currently ninth in the table but could, with a run of wins between now and 23rd May, climb up a couple of places to snatch a place in the inaugural Europa Conference League. While Europe’s third tier is not where we want to be, it would be better than nothing if we cock up against Unai Emery or in the final.
“Now it is about winning football matches, at the end of the season you know you want to get a good run if you want to progress in the Premier League,” said Arteta.
“The priority now is Sunday [against Fulham], forget about the semi-finals, we now have two big games to play at home and we have to do our best to win them because if we do, the season will start to look a little bit different.”
He added: “I think the better we are in the league, and if we keep winning, the confidence will be higher, the spirit will be better, the players’ individual performances will maintain and that will have a knock-on effect on the Europa League, for sure.”
Fulham visit the Emirates at 1.30pm on Sunday.