‘It’s a good place to be… it’s in our hands’: Mikel Arteta reminds critics that under-fire Arsenal are in the driving seat for a top-four spot ahead of crunch Newcastle clash
- Mikel Arteta has stressed that Arsenal control their Champions League destiny
- Arteta is excited at the prospect of delivering a return to the competition
- Newcastle boss Eddie Howe, meanwhile, feels his players deserve more credit
- Howe says people are too quick to talk about club’s finances over performances
Mikel Arteta insisted that despite recent setbacks, Arsenal are in a position they would have loved to be in at the start of the season. It was a point worth making after a morale-sapping setback against their biggest rivals on Thursday.
Presented with the chance to seal a return to the Champions League at Tottenham, Arsenal instead endured a night to forget.
Well-beaten 3-0 to give Spurs renewed hope of pipping them to fourth spot, Arsenal also had Rob Holding sent off, lost another centre back Gabriel to injury and Arteta ended the night under fire from Antonio Conte.
Mikel Arteta vows to ‘go for it’ as Arsenal plot a return to the Champions League next season
It was an untimely wobble and one containing so many negatives that it could briefly make you forget the good news of Arsenal still having Champions League qualification in their own hands with two games left, despite Spurs overtaking them following their victory over Burnley.
Asked ahead of Monday night’s match at Newcastle whether he would have taken this at the start of the season, Arteta replied: ‘Absolutely, yes. It is a good place to be. It is in our hands.’
Accentuating the positives was seemingly Arteta’s approach heading into the final week of the season. ‘We want to be playing in the Champions League,’ he continued ‘We’ve come so far and we want to capitalise on that, and the excitement and the opportunities there. We will really go for it. It’s not pressure, it’s excitement and this is what we have built over the last few months. Now, it’s in our hands, and we want to deliver that.’
Arsenal’s performance and some of their decision-making at Spurs sparked suggestions that the pressure of the situation had got the better of them. The stakes got even higher after they dropped to fifth but Arteta cautioned his players against playing it safe against Newcastle.
The Arsenal boss was angered by some of referee Paul Tierney’s decisions in the defeat at Spurs, biting his tongue but in a way that made his unhappiness clear.
Arteta must lift his side after Thursday’s 3-0 north London derby defeat against Tottenham
He has rebuilt Arsenal’s squad with an encouraging blend of both experience and youth
That prompted Conte to accuse his counterpart of complaining too much.
Arteta said: ‘What I have tried to do, I think, in three years here is not make any complaints. I have no complaint and I didn’t complain on Thursday.
‘Whatever we do we will try to defend the club in the right way, like we have always tried to do. The other night I tried to do it as well. I was being clear and honest. I think that is my job and my responsibility when I talk on behalf of the club to express how we feel. And if I cannot do it, I prefer not to.’
Arteta’s opposite number in the dugout on Monday has also had to deal with sniping from the sidelines. Eddie Howe has overseen an impressive run of results since his appointment in November but that achievement has been belittled by some due to the club’s spending in the January transfer window when they splashed out £94million on five new players.
‘The easy thing is to talk about money,’ said Howe. ‘It is not what has got us here. January helped massively, and the money helped the team, and the players who came in made a huge difference. But I don’t think it was “the” reason we did very well.
Newcastle Manager Eddie Howe has steered Newcastle away from the relegation zone
‘I want the players to get the credit for their performances. The team has come together and fought for every point and I don’t think money gives you that.
‘You look at the St James’ Park atmosphere again, a crowd in a place where they are proud of the team and seeing a team giving everything to try to win. It has been great to see and experience.
‘It has been electric and the crowd has helped us get points. A key part of the future is to try to keep that dynamic as strong as it is now.’