Arteta reveals White, Saka injury latest and hits Arsenal with reality of potential win over Tottenham
Mikel Arteta has confidently reiterated that Champions League football next season is Arsenal’s if they can beat Tottenham in their own back yard.
Thursday’s north London derby has emerged as one of the biggest games of the Premier League season alongside Manchester City v Liverpool in April. But while a draw in that game kept the title race firmly on, a draw this time would still be great for the Gunners.
They currently sit fourth, four points ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham with three games left.
A stalemate would mean Arsenal could still lose to either Newcastle or Everton and finish in the final Champions League spot.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Gunners boss Arteta insisted that his side are targeting a win away from home to finish Spurs off before then.
“For me it’s more about the excitement and the opportunity,” the manager said. “When you have that in football you have to go and do it.
“The message is clear, if we win against them we will play in the Champions League next season. You don’t need much more motivation than that.”
However, Arsenal could do with a bigger squad and more clarity on those who may not make Thursday’s clash.
Arteta confirmed that midfielder Thomas Partey and left-back Kieran Tierney are both still absent.
Centre-back Ben White “is a doubt but feeling much better”, Arteta added, as the Englishman recovers from a hamstring injury.
Meanwhile, Bukayo Saka is also looking to prove his fitness after he came off in the second half of Sunday’s 2-1 win over Leeds.
“It’s very difficult to rate [a chance] with injuries, it’s just how they feel today,” Arteta said. “That’s the last day we can assess them so we’ll have to see.”
Arteta relishing potential Arsenal occasion
Arsenal’s push for a top-four finish looked a long shot at the start of the season. Three defeats to start the season left them bottom with a minus nine goal difference.
However, Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli have been some of the close-knit driving factors pushing Arsenal to improve.
At the back, meanwhile, summer goalkeeper and defender signings Aaron Ramsdale and White have formed a strong understanding.
As such, Arteta has said he is relishing the chance to tick off the major objective for the season.
“It’s the most exciting one, probably,” the manager said. “But we had others when we played finals against Chelsea and Liverpool in the FA Cup and the Community Shield, it was the same.
“When you have the opportunity to achieve one of your objectives in the season, you just cannot wait to play the game because this is a job, and the work you have done throughout the season to try to earn it.”
Tottenham know they need a win to really put the pressure back on Arsenal.