10 games to go. That’s all that stands between Arsenal and a return to the Champions League.
Following the conclusion of the final Interlull of the season, it’s little wonder Mikel Arteta is keen to refocus his players’ attention on the matter at hand.
Prior to the recent break, his squad put together a very decent run of six wins in seven games to lift themselves to fourth in the table. He knows they need to produce more of the same in the hectic run-in.
Facing the media on Thursday, he said: “I will have them all here today, just try to refocus them, obviously, when they’re on international duty all the time they’re being asked to do different things, different roles, different kind of pressures.
“For some of them, it was their first international, so emotionally for them as well it’s very draining. And make sure that everyone is fine and look forward to the challenge that we have ahead.”
Arsenal resume their campaign on Monday night with a trip to Crystal Palace. Under ex-Gunner Patrick Vieira, the Eagles have been in impressive form and proved tough opponents in October when we came from behind to snatch a stoppage-time 2-2 draw.
“We scored right at the end and it was a tough match,” reflected Arteta.
“We had some really good periods, some periods where we struggled. We conceded two very poor goals in that game with simple giveaways that put the game into a really difficult position.
“The team, especially at home, is doing really well and the coaching staff are doing a great job and we know how it is to play in their stadium.”
If Arsenal do secure a win at Selhurst Park, Arteta fully backs his players celebrating. Joyous scenes greeted the full time whistle at Aston Villa two weeks ago causing some of football’s biggest grumps to get their knickers in a twist. If anything it made things all the more enjoyable.
“I don’t tell the players to celebrate or not,” said Arteta.
“I think that’s something that comes right from them, and it’s great when I see them hugging each other, enjoying each other and celebrating with the fans who made a long trip to be with us for a 12.30pm kick-off.
“Showing the gratitude for (the fans) to be supportive. For me, it’s great.
“I think the best moment as a football player is after winning a match, and the atmosphere with your teammates. They have to celebrate, of course.”