Thursday, April 25, 2024

Arteta: Arsenal getting “much closer” to City

There was an air of inevitability about the way Manchester City ruthlessly despatched Arsenal at the Etihad last year. Despite being top of the table, the Gunners were low on confidence coming into the game, reeling from a run of poor results and struggling with injuries to key personnel.

An early goal by Kevin De Bruyne set the Blues on their way to a crushing 4-1 win that proved to be a decisive blow in the title race. It was the Gunners’ seventh consecutive defeat at the Etihad and it underlined the gap between the two teams.

City went on to win the treble while Arsenal had to settle for Champions League qualification.

Since then, Mikel Arteta has doubled down on his efforts to usurp mentor Pep Guardiola. He gained a psychological edge seeing off City’s interest in summer signing Declan Rice and has overseen two morale-boosting victories on the pitch; a penalty shootout win in August’s Community Shield and a 1-0 win at the Emirates in October.

Arsenal have come a long way in a short time, spurred on by the levels reached by their rivals.

“They have raised the bar in this league, and I think in football in general too, to a level that hasn’t been seen before,” said Arteta ahead of Sunday’s rematch.

“That’s the beauty of sport, it makes you better and challenges you more. You have to keep up with that pace, and that’s what we are trying to do.”

Asked about last year’s chastening defeat and what his side has learnt, he continued: “The level that we are facing and where we want to be. Certainly, that’s where we want to be and you have to make strong steps to get there.

“I think we have made some big ones in the last two or three years and we’re getting much closer and now it is about how you close that gap and actually try to be better than them.”

He added: “They have earned the right for everybody to look at them as an example because what they have done has been phenomenal. To do it in this league and to do it consistently like they have done, I think it’s helped raise our level and our demands, to try to be like them and beat them.

“It’s a massive game for both teams, that’s for sure, because it will give us a huge push again if we go there and win it, but I still feel there is a long, long way after to make all the ground to win it.”

Arteta senses his players are up for the challenge. Having waited two weeks to get his squad back from international duty, he’s been impressed by the body language of those returning to London Colney.

“I was just watching everybody walk into the building and I love the energy. I love the smiles, they were glad to be back, and they actually wanted to train yesterday,” he said.

“The way they communicate and relate with each other is phenomenal. We have to embrace the moment, we need to go day-by-day, train really well and prepare for every match and see where this can take us.

“We’ve done a lot already to be in the position that we are in and now we have to embrace and enjoy the moment and go for it.

“I have full belief and trust in my players and what we are trying to do. It’s something that we have to show on the pitch, outside is very easy to talk.”

In years gone by, Arsenal struggled in away matches against the traditional ‘Big Six’ rivals but there have been signs of a turnaround. Thanks to a recent hot streak in front of goal, the Gunners come into this weekend’s match with the best away form in the table.

Arteta credits a change in mentality. “The secret, I don’t know,” he said. “It’s probably that we try to play the same way away that we do at home and have that belief and aggression in our play. You have to play every team twice and we know the fixtures that we have but I’m looking forward to it.

“That belief comes as well by winning and starting to win at grounds you haven’t won at for many years. You do it somewhere else and that belief takes momentum. Now they approach away games very similarly to home games. You cannot replicate it, but at least mentally. The purpose they play with is very similar.”

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Bill Hall

I would love to win but would not be disappointed with a draw of we played our socks off. It is after all the most difficult game of the season for all teams not just us!

Dada

A draw just makes Liverpool even more unbearable. I prefer a proper thumping.

Brady's Chips

We’re the only team they fear and they’re right to, it’s a hell of a squad Arteta has built.

Hatem

I don’t know but I feel they fear us more so than us them, just a hunch.

Spanner

For City this one could really hurt them to lose. KdB is not at the same level as past years and we’ve already shown we can snuff out Haaland in atack.
If they lose, their confidence might not recover for the run in. They’ve lost a lot of experience this season and have fitness issues with key players.
I think we can do them.
Kai the key to a win ?

A Different George

Departure of Gundogan with no replacement and fitness of De Bruyne mean lots of weight on Rodri and the advancing Stones to control the centre of the pitch. Without Stones or Walker’s recovery pace, they are at great risk when they attack. Rice, Odegaard, Havertz become key for us.

Pst. Simon

For two years now, we have given city a run for their money.

This season will be our season for real

William Nilliam

‘They actually wanted to train.’
I’m lost for words?!

Me2

He is getting closer without a doubt.
It will be tough and is dependent on Martinelli, Saka and Gabriel being fit.
Even with them we will not be favourites.

Fatgooner

The good thing about this game is that whatever happens it’s not terminal. A defeat would leave us only two points off City. And we have a much better goal difference.

I’d take a draw tomorrow: it leaves everything in our hands. Forget about Liverpool: they are in a false position and will drop plenty of points between now and the end of the season. Either City or us will win the title.

The three key games now are City, Spuds and Manure. If we win those three we win the league.

Rochester

Wow, finally a thumbs up for a reasonable post from fatgooner. Well done!

Fatgooner

Damn! I’m slipping!!!

Brian

Agree. A lot of people have labeled this game as “can’t lose” or title chase is definitely over. I’d hate it, but don’t think a loss is the death knell. Still a lot of points left for everyone to gain/lose.

Mkh

Having a look at the games it seems Liverpool has the easiest run!

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