Arteta hopes title-chasing Arsenal can create fear factor

AFP , Friday 5 Apr 2024

Mikel Arteta hopes his Arsenal team can create an aura similar to that enjoyed by the 2003/04 "Invincibles" as they chase their first Premier League title for 20 years.

Arsenal s manager Mikel Arteta reacts during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Luton Town at the Emirates Stadium, London, Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2024. AP


The Gunners are on 68 points, two behind Liverpool and one ahead of defending champions Manchester City with just eight games to go in a thrilling three-way title race.

Arsenal, who faltered badly at the end of last season after leading the way for the bulk of the campaign, have hit a purple patch, winning nine of their past 10 league games.

Arteta, 42, played against the then reigning champions, managed by Arsene Wenger, in May 2005 during a 7-0 defeat for Everton at Arsenal's former home of Highbury.

Wenger's team went through the 2003/04 Premier League season unbeaten -- the last time they were crowned English champions.

Arteta wants his side to be similarly feared by opponents.

"I've been in the tunnel playing in a different shirt and looking at the Invincibles," he said on Friday.

"You had a feeling 'tonight is going to be really tough'. Hopefully we can create that."

The Arsenal boss, whose team face Brighton on Saturday, predicted top-scorer Bukayo Saka would "fly" during the Premier League run-in but the England winger could be a doubt for the weekend.

The 22-year-old missed his side's 2-0 win over Luton on Wednesday that briefly returned them to the top of the table before they were dislodged by Liverpool.

A muscle injury sustained during the goalless draw at Manchester City meant Saka, who has 16 goals in all competitions this season, missed a league game for just the second time this season.

"I'm super positive," Arteta said of Saka's potential impact. "I think he's going to fly and be so decisive.

"He's so strong, how much he wants it. How excited he is about what is coming. He wants to be there, and he's getting better and better.

"It's normal to have little niggles, you have kicks. He's gone through a lot of that in the last two or three years, and look at the way he is performing."

Arteta gave a third start of the season to Emile Smith Rowe against Luton.

Injuries have badly disrupted the development of the 23-year-old academy graduate, who was brought into the first team around the same time as Saka but has suffered a number of setbacks.

"Don't look back and say 'if'," said Arteta. "If this happened, use it. 'It was the best thing that could have happened. I had great moments, I had difficult moments -- now I know what I want and it's going to make me a much better player'.

"It's a hell of a player that we have when he is fit and he's playing at that level."

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