Since Arsenal beat Chelsea 3-1 on Boxing Day last year only Manchester City and Manchester United have claimed more Premier League points. It’s a state of affairs that is quite hard to believe when you consider the Gunners head into the final game of the season sitting ninth in the table.
For manager Mikel Arteta, the run of five defeats, five draws and 13 wins – four of which have come on the bounce in recent weeks – is proof that Arsenal can compete with the top division’s big guns but he admits it’s now up to him and his squad to prove they can do it over an entire season.
“Yes, it [our form] is very good but the league is played over 38 games,” said Arteta ahead of Sunday’s clash with Brighton.
“But at least it shows that we are able to do it and when we have a little bit more of a normal context, more normal situations, I am very positive about what we can do, but at the end of the day we are judged on what we have done over the whole season and it is not, for sure, where we want to be.”
While the Gunners could finish the campaign with 61 points – five more than we accumulated last season – our failings in the early part of the season have been very costly.
“Yes, there’s a lot of things from September to December that are contributing to that,” noted Arteta. “I don’t believe it was just one issue. There were a lot of things in that period.
On whether those issues have been eliminated, he added: “This is my job. To identify, to be very critical with myself first and then try to analyse and find out why things happened. Whether that’s negative or positive. If it’s positive, let’s keep doing a lot of the good things that we are doing.”
Having been a goal away from the Europa League final and a final shot at qualifying for the Champions League, the ‘best’ the Gunners can now hope for is a seventh-place finish that would sneak us into the newly former Europa Conference League.
Debate is rife as to whether the club would be better off out of Europe altogether with fears that participation in a third-tier continental competition could be an unwelcome distraction from the Premier League.
Asked for his view on the ECL, Arteta said: “It’s a new competition so I don’t really know what will happen. First of all, let’s try to finish as high as possible and then after we will determine, once we are involved, what the best way is to do it.
He added: “We have experienced in the last few years how tough being in the Europa League is with the amount of games you play and the short turnaround that you have all the time in the Premier League.
“I think there is a lot of history there with teams that have been involved in the Europa League, and the negative consequences that has in the Premier League positions. But we’ve tried to give it the best possible go, we came a little bit short, but this club has to be in Europe.”