Arsenal may have defied expectations to challenge Manchester City for the title this season but Mikel Arteta insists his side are nowhere near their peak.
The Spaniard has also hinted he has new tactical ideas he’d like to implement but has resisted the temptation to experiment during the business end of the campaign.
The Gunners, who have vied with Southampton for the youngest average starting lineup all year, still have an outside chance of winning a first Premier League title in 19 years but will need to be perfect in their remaining three games while hoping reigning champions Manchester City slip up.
Ahead of his side’s clash with Brighton, Arteta pondered what the future holds for his players.
“We are still very, very far. We can be much, much, much better at a lot of things still,” he said.
“Huge margins. We can be much better in our buildup, attacking man-to-man situations, attacking open spaces, defending deep, set pieces.
“We have huge margins to do in terms of game management, a lot of things we can still do much better. We can be more ruthless to kill games.
“It’s a lot of things we have to see for improvement because we don’t have a single player who has reached his peak; not one. And when that happens we as coaches have to be curious to understand, what can we do to get them better?”
Asked whether unlocking their full potential requires moulding his players psychologically as well as physically, he continued, “Yes, clicking and getting into them and getting something else out of them.
“There are certain players who have to go to a different level in terms of their leadership and what they are able to transmit to the group and responsibility and accountability that they have to take for what happens here every single day, the demands and standards we want at this club. It’s a lot to do.”
Asked if he’s been holding back new ideas, he said “yes” but made clear he’s not frustrated by that situation.
“At the end, they are the protagonists. We have to try to give them the tools that they know how to manipulate. If not we are going to put them in certain positions that they are not going to be comfortable with.
“There are moments to put the players in those moments and now is not the moment to do that, in my opinion.”
Even if Arsenal fail in their quest to win the title, they can take huge comfort from a long-awaited return to the Champions League. Arteta was still on the books as a player the last time the Gunners secured a top four finish and he’s excited knowing he can put his team up against Europe’s best.
“Yeah [I’m excited]. It’s a different level, another level. You see the presence of the players, you see the charisma, how they handle the occasion, it’s just magnificent.
“We want to be really in the Champions League, representing our club in the right way so we need to seek that level. There’s no secret, if you want to be at that level, you need to certain ingredients to be there.
“It’s great [to be back in it], but that’s the first step. Once that’s done, you have to think about how we want the club to be represented at that stage. It’s very different demands.”