Mikel Arteta has told Premier League top four rivals that his Arsenal side have the ‘spirit’ and ‘quality’ to ensure Champions League qualification ahead of the re-scheduled London derby against Chelsea.
Who would have imagined that after the 2-0 Chelsea win at the Emirates that the north Londoners would have a realistic shot at a top four spot?
After a terrible start to the 2021/22 campaign, the Gunners have been able to pick themselves off the floor with a number of good signings from Edu in the form of Aaron Ramsdale and Benjamin White, who weren’t signed in time to feature in the first London derby between to the two bitter rivals.
However, a dip in the league mid-season from Thomas Tuchel’s side coupled with the focus from the west Londoners being placed more on the cup competitions due to their fall off in the title race, has caused some minor cause for concern in SW6.
As a result of some impetus being taken off the league push for Chelsea, it has arguably allowed some complacency to slip in, with Arsenal currently four points behind the Blues with a game in hand on the European and World Champions.
The gap was shortened further on Thursday night after the Gunners clawed out an injury-time winner against Wolves to make their statement of intent known in this season’s topsy-turvy race for a top-four place.
What has given the north London club some more renewed optimism is the fact that their destiny is in their own hands and they have a chance to enact revenge on Chelsea whenever their re-arranged fixture is re-scheduled into the already congested Premier League diary.
The two sides were expected to meet at Stamford Bridge earlier this month but the Blues’ quest to secure the FIFA Club World Cup meant that the fixture couldn’t be played at the original time and date.
The date for the re-scheduled game between the two sides at Stamford Bridge is yet to be confirmed but Arteta has sent a warning to the Blues for what they can expect from the side, who turned them over by a single goal at Stamford Bridge last term.
Speaking after the win over Wolves, Arteta said in his post-match press conference regarding what the west London outfit can expect from his side: “Well it was a great one. Winning at the end against a really good team, who – once they are ahead – are extremely difficult to beat them.
“I think they haven’t lost a game after going ahead since 2018, but we kept pushing. I think the attitude, the spirit, the quality the energy that the players put in, in the second-half again.
“To fight, to go and win the match was phenomenal. It created a great atmosphere and synergy with our fans, and it was great to win it that way.”
He then went on to add on the current situation surrounding the state of play in the top four race. “It pulled us a little bit closer. One game less and three points,” Arteta added.
“13 games to go, and now it’s about Watford (on March 6). I think it’s about belief, that we should keep playing the way that we are playing – and keep insisting – and have that resilience and that capacity to dominate matches like we are doing right now…and then that’s the energy and (synergy) with our fans to create a special atmosphere, where people don’t want to come and play against Arsenal.”
In the meantime, Chelsea face Liverpool in the Carabao Cup Final at Wembley on Sunday before all attention turns back towards the top four race and trying to fend off the challenge of Arsenal.