Mikel Arteta has predicted a ‘spectacular game’ as Arsenal face Tottenham in a crucial North London derby on Thursday evening.
Arsenal can secure a place in the Champions League for the first time since the 2016/17 season with a win at Spurs this evening, with the latter facing a must-win clash in their own bid for a top four finish.
With the two teams going head-to-head for Champions League qualification, Arteta has predicted a ‘spectacular’ clash as the sides meet at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
“We always play to win and that’s the way we will prepare this game,” he said at his pre-match press conference. “I’m sure [Spurs] will try to do the same. That’s why hopefully it’s a really spectacular game.
“It’s the opportunity to achieve something we haven’t achieved for many years. It’s the game that will decide it. Normally you don’t play games like that in the league unless you are competing for the trophy but we know that, at our level, what this game can deliver to us is really important.”
Arteta insists his side must be at their best to secure a win this evening, before admitting the ’emotion and passion’ of a derby fixture has only increased the atmosphere around a hgh-stakes clash.
“The expectation is huge,” he continued. “This is an opportunity for one of the clubs to achieve what we are looking for, and on top of that is the emotion and the passion that the derby brings with it. We need to be away from that and focusing on what we have to do. To win the match we are going to have to be at our very best.”
Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 21 years in 2016/17 and have since failed to return to Europe’s elite, their longest run outside the competition since the 1990s.
Arteta admits expectations are different at a rebuilding Arsenal at present, but says a win at Spurs can move the Gunners ‘forwards quicker than expected’.
“At the time the club was very consistent achieving a Champions League spot so it was almost a must,” he said. “Now the perception is a little bit different because we haven’t been able to do that, so we didn’t have expectations to be where we are. It’s a game that can help us move forwards quicker than expected.”