Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal are playing the best football of his tenure although he admits the Gunners have a long way to go to challenge the country’s biggest sides.
While securing a top four finish this season would represent a huge step forward for the club after five years out of the Champions League, the gap on top two Manchester City (19 points) and Liverpool (15 points) suggests more patience will be required before the Spaniard’s long-term ambition of fighting for the title is fulfilled.
“We are playing better, we have a better understanding of what we want, we have the right level of confidence, belief, understanding better and everything fits better and quicker,” said Arteta ahead of the game.
He then agreed when asked if the football his current squad are playing is the best he’s experienced: “I think, with the level of consistency throughout a game and throughout a period or run of games, I would say yes.”
That Arsenal currently sit fourth with games in hand on all but three sides in the league certainly strengthens the club’s status as favourites to secure a place at Europe’s top table. But does it also put a target on our backs during the run-in?
Arteta said: “It certainly puts you in a position when you’re really looking forward, to look up and it gives you the belief that you can be there with the top teams in the country. The reality is that there is still a long way to go.”
For the time being, Arteta has challenged his players to believe they can beat Liverpool, who visit Emirates Stadium tomorrow, and to deliver a performance that is an improvement of the one produced against Manchester City, which was so impressive but ultimately flawed.
“You need that type of performance and then you need a result. The reason why we didn’t get a result against City is because we didn’t dominate every single aspect of the game. The moment you open the door, you know you’re going to be punished. Tomorrow, we know we’ll have to play at least at that level or better and control every single scenario.”
He added: “There are better teams in the country because that’s what the league table shows, we haven’t done anything.
“What we’re doing is trying to improve, understand better what we want [to do], being much more consistent in terms of performance and results, but nothing else, as yet.”
The visit of Jurgen Klopp’s men is certainly shaping up to be a mouthwatering affair with both sides coming into the game off the back of five-game winning streaks.
In fact, over the last 10 games, the two sides’ records are near identical; both have taken 25 points from a possible 30 with the Reds bettering Arsenal’s goal difference by just three.