It was far from a vintage performance by Arsenal at Selhurst Park but Mikel Arteta was pleased with the way his players fought to the end to secure a late 3-1 win against Crystal Palace.
The victory, a fourth on the bounce in the Premier League, ensures our quest to qualify for Europe runs until the final day of the season and marks a decent turnaround since our frustratingly tepid Europa League semi-final defeat to Villarreal.
“I think you have to win the four matches to prove that you have reacted as a team,” said the boss when asked about his side’s run since the 2-1 defeat in Spain.
“The reaction and the pain in that dressing room still hurts and that is what we are using in the final games to show everybody and show ourselves that we could have done better, but we’re not going to give up and we’re going to challenge to the last day to give Arsenal a chance to be back in Europe and have the opportunity again.”
He added: “If somebody were to say to us in November or December that we could be in the position that we’re in to have the chance in the last game to qualify for Europe, we’d have said you’re crazy, but we’ve done it.
“I think what ourselves and the number of points that we’ve managed to get in those months, we have earned the right to be in that position. Now it’s time to deliver on the final day, but unfortunately, it’s not in our hands.”
When Gabriel Martinelli managed to poke home from close range as the game ticked into stoppage time, the joy and relief on the manager’s face were palpable. That Nicolas Pepe found space and time to add a third goal was a delightful cherry on top.
Our return of 8 Premier League goals in the final 15 minutes (plus stoppage time) of matches this campaign has been decidedly average so it’s little wonder the boss took positives from the way his players kept battling.
“You saw me on the touchline,” he said. “I’m so happy. When you’re able to win a game in the last minute, it’s always really pleasing because it shows the team how much they want it and [how much they] believe up to the last whistle, so really good.”