Arteta demands Arsenal start living up to expectations


Mikel Arteta has challenged his Arsenal players to embrace the expectations that come with playing for the club.

Arsenal conclude their Premier League campaign against relegation-threatened Watford on Monday (AEST), sitting 10th in the Premier League.

The best they can hope for is an eighth-place finish, meaning a Europa League spot can only be claimed if they win the FA Cup final against Chelsea.

Arteta took the reins at Emirates Stadium after Unai Emery was sacked midway through this season on the back of seven winless matches in all competitions.

The early days of Emery's tenure, of "we've got our Arsenal back", had given way to the more poisonous negativity that sullied the final years of Arsene Wenger's reign.

Results such as the battling 2-1 win over Premier League champions Liverpool and, in particular, the impressive FA Cup semi-final triumph over Manchester City last weekend have done much to buy Arteta time and the fan favourite is presiding over a period of cautious optimism in north London.

Nevertheless, the former midfielder is well aware of the task at hand and would be more concerned if Arsenal's fanbase stopped demanding success.

"Listen, I came here and I knew the challenge – to come in the middle of the season with all the issues that were happening," he said.

"Once you are inside, you can even dig deeper and realise and start to understand why things happen. It is the consequence of many little aspects.

"I am so convinced we are going to do it right. We need a little bit of time. The fans, when they get nervous, it's normal.

"For me, it's not that they get nerves. It's frustration that this club, with its history, is there.

"People are relating this badge with success, with joy, with emotion, with trophies. We cannot change that and we must not try to change that. It makes us big. It is the only way to think about this club and the future of it."

He added: "If we are all on the same page like that, we will make it. But we have to do it and then transmit it to the players, to every member of staff and the public and the fans.

"If we are together with that mindset, we will do it.

"The situation is what it is. Let's take it, let's embrace it but let's do something. Let's analyse why things happen and the things that are not working have to get changed.

"This beautiful game is the most unpredictable one in the world. You can do everything right or everything wrong and it can still work in both directions. But from our side we have the responsibility to do it as well as we all know."

Arteta expects to be without centre-back Shkodran Mustafi for the FA Cup final due to a hamstring injury.

Watford, who travel to the Emirates with their Premier League future on the line, will be Arsenal's 12th opponents in 39 days and Arteta feels that exacting post-lockdown schedule has taken a toll.

"I'm worried. Musti's injury is related to [the fact] we had to expose our players," he said, with Mustafi joining Bernd Leno, Pablo Mari, Gabriel Martinelli and long-term victim Calum Chambers on the sidelines.

"We've had some really bad injuries in the past few weeks.

"But it's an unprecedented time with COVID. It is our responsibility to put a plan together when we don't expose them as much as we can, but sometimes it's inevitable."

Source Omnisport