Since the disappointing defeat to Everton in early December, Arsenal have picked up 28 points from a possible 33. Even the two games in which points were dropped during that 11 game run – a 0-0 draw with Burnley and the New Year’s Day defeat to Manchester City – should have been won.
It’s an impressive run – the best of Mikel Arteta’s tenure as manager – and has put the Gunners in a strong position to end a five year Champions League exile.
Of course, a top four finish is far from a foregone conclusion. Stern tests lie ahead and none more so than Wednesday’s visit of in-form Liverpool who are on an eight-game winning streak of their own.
Despite a creditable 0-0 draw with 10 men in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, the Gunners have struggled to take the game to Jurgen Klopp’s side in any of this season’s three matches and Arteta knows an improvement is needed.
“That’s a different level now and we have to take the game to a new standard to have a chance to beat them and we know that,” said Arteta after Sunday’s 2-0 win over Leicester.
“Tomorrow, we’re going to start to prepare how we can beat them and how we’re going to start believing that we can beat them, which is crucial to be able to beat them.”
It’s not just Liverpool who look daunting. Arsenal also have to play Chelsea, Sp*rs, West Ham and Manchester United before the end of the season.
“We know where we are now, but we have to look forward,” said Arteta.
“We have to look at what we do, focus on our performances and prepare for the next match and that’s it. Because the rest is just guessing. I’m not a great gambler, I never have been and I don’t want to gamble.”
It’s clear that after years of cliques and indiscipline, there’s a team spirit being fostered by the manager that is helping the players enjoy their football.
Last week, Martin Odegaard went out of his way to say, “the togetherness is something special” while other squad members have suggested similar.
“It’s the way it should be,” said Arteta.
“I think if the players representing the club are not happy, as the people who we are responsible for them, I think we have to go somewhere else because we are doing something wrong.
“They have the joy and the privilege to be football players, they have to enjoy it, it’s what the purpose of what they do and now you can really sense they are having a good time together, they enjoy playing football with this freedom, they can express it and it’s all about that.”