Arsenal face Wolves in the Premier League knowing that a win could be a big step towards their only goal this season: finishing in the top four and qualifying for the Champions League
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Arsenal entered their Premier League game against Wolves on Thursday night knowing victory could help define their season.
All of that was a disappointment. But all have also focused their minds on Arsenal. Their goals this season are clear and uncanny.
Premier League is the only thing left Mikel Arteta and his players to aim for. A top four finish is still within their grasp.
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After 23 games, the Gunners ranked 6th with 42 points. However, the quirks of the Covid-beaten fixture list mean they have three games in their hands on either side directly above them, West Ham and Manchester United.
One of them takes place tonight at Emirates Stadium, against another opponent. Win and Arsenal will be fifth, one point behind United, with two games in hand.
That would be a huge step forward in terms of psychology and importance for Arteta herself.
“I think they know,” he replied in his press conference when asked if the players understood the importance of Wolf match.
“They know how much every game means to us. We knew how true it would be until the end, we saw a lot of different results that you don’t really expect.
“We play at home and the importance of getting points when we play at home is paramount to getting to the finish line.”
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As Arteta also admits, Werewolves are a tough character to break. But, encouragingly, one that they successfully cracked recently.
The discussion after the 1–0 win at Wolverhampton on 10 February was dominated by a Strange red card for Gabriel Martinelli and a sly dig from Ruben Neves with its rivals, but its importance is clear.
Arsenal showed they had the courage to win the ugly with their backs to the wall. They have since backed that up with a 2-1 win over Brentford.
And after their two rivals went through a Champions League midweek tie, Arsenal must take another crucial step towards getting there next season.
Arteta was clear when asked on Wednesday whether he was missing out on experiencing the pinnacle of European club football.
“I do a lot, because as a footballer I’ve been through that and it’s one of the best feelings you can have,” he said.
“Be surrounded by the best competitors in the world and challenge yourself and judge yourself against that kind of opposition.
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“Then as a club you play in a competition that takes that club into another dimension, another period, different impact, and a competition that sticks with the history of the game. this football club.”
Arteta understands better than most of Arsenal’s recent history in the Champions League, being part of the last generation of players for the club.
When the Spaniard retired in 2016, he couldn’t have imagined the Gunners would play just one more season in the Champions League before heading into the wilds.
What they had to do with four seasons in the Europa League after that, before they finished eighth in the Premier League in 2020/21 and didn’t even have that – or a spot in the nascent Conference League.
Victory over Wolves and Arsenal may soon end that period of protracted mediocrity.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/mikel-arteta-champions-league-arsenal-26312572 Mikel Arteta's Champions League challenge puts pressure on Arsenal stars