Mikel Arteta agreed that it will be special to face Everton but does not believe a defeat to his former club would end Arsenal’s chances of qualifying for Europe.
Arsenal welcome Everton to the Emirates Stadium on Friday knowing that every point counts at this stage of the season. They are currently lingering in ninth place in the table. A Champions League berth looks impossible to accomplish, and even a Europa League space is in doubt.
Everton are three points above the Gunners as things stand. Hence, Arteta’s men can afford no more slip ups in their final six league games of the season.
The Spaniard knows that the club he used to play for will present a big challenge, though.
“Again they are having a really good season,” he said. “We are not getting the results that we want, against Fulham where the result was disappointing apart from the performance, which in my opinion we totally deserved to win the game.
“But we need to win every game now in the Premier League to give us the best possible chance to be in Europe next season through that competition.”
Asked whether it would be a special occasion for Arteta, the former Everton midfielder agreed.
“Always,” he said. “I had an incredible seven years over there.
“There are a lot of people there that I love, a lot of feelings towards the club, towards their supporters and I’m always grateful because I had some amazing years there and will never forget them.”
Arsenal’s injury situation will not make their preparation for the game ideal. They currently have five players ruled out.
Although all are on the road to recovery, Arteta does not think they will be back in time for Friday.
“Yes it is unfortunately the situation we have at the moment,” he said. “They are all doing really well to be fair, they are a little bit ahead of schedule.
“We don’t expect them for Everton I think, we have a doubt with Martin [Odegaard] a little bit, let’s see how he is today in training. The rest will be out and get them back in the team as quick as possible.”
But when the importance of picking up no more injuries was put to him, Arteta wasn’t thinking about it.
“I want to win the game!” he insisted. “Then, hopefully, that will come as well. But I don’t even want to think about it.
“We had so many injuries in recent weeks that put the team in a difficult position but the other players are reacting well, the team is performing well and let’s go and win. That is the best medicine, always, for everything that happens: win football matches.”
Arteta not thinking about Europe
As stated, this game will be crucial for Arsenal’s chances of reaching the European places. But Arteta does not think they will give up if they do drop points.
“I think mathematically it’s possible and we will give it a go knowing that it doesn’t depend on us,” he said.
An easier route into Europe for Arsenal would be to win the Europa League. After Everton, they will contest the first leg of their semi-final against Villarreal next week.
But Arteta is solely focusing on one task at a time and denied the Villarreal game will be in the back of his mind.
“No, I want to focus on Everton,” he said. “We still have more than five days to prepare and how we get on there will depend on how we do against Everton and that is the only focus today for the team.”