Mikel Arteta has underlined the importance of beating PSV Eindhoven tomorrow knowing three points would take his side to the cusp of qualifying top of Europa League Group A.
Having won our three opening games, the Gunners have a two-point advantage over tomorrow’s opponents, however, a hiccup at the Emirates would make for a nervy return leg next week.
With the opportunity to skip a round of knockout football on the other side of Christmas, Arteta clearly wants focus from his players.
“Really important,” said the Spaniard when asked about the importance of getting a result.
“In Europe when you have the chance to take advantage you have to do it. It’s always very unpredictable what can happen in the next game.
“You have to go away and we know the level of the other teams as well. What I can say watching them [PSV] and what they are doing domestically, internationally, [it will be] a really tough match.”
The visitors, managed by ex-Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, are currently one point behind Ajax in the Eredivisie and have been scoring goals for fun.
They’ve hit 35 on the domestic front and 11 in the Europa League with Cody Gakpo hitting nine and teenager Xavi Simon getting eight.
“I think it’s a really good team,” said Arteta. “I think what Ruud has done with his team, the way they play, you just see the amount of goals they are scoring in their domestic league, the way they are performing in the Europa League as well, they are a really dangerous team.”
Given Van Nistelrooy’s history with Arsenal – he was both a thorn in our side and the subject of much taunting following his contribution to 2004’s Battle of Old Trafford – many are predicting a frosty relationship for the Dutchman.
Arteta wouldn’t be drawn on what he thought might happen.
“I don’t know, obviously it’s a long way back. I wasn’t involved at the club at the time.
“You can tell the history of these two clubs and the rivalry that was generated at the time because they are two exceptional teams, but I don’t know.”
In terms of team news, Arteta wouldn’t rule out Gabriel Martinelli or Oleksandr Zinchenko although both sat out training today.