‘Of course’ I sympathise with Erik ten Hag, says Mikel Arteta ahead of Old Trafford clash

Addressing the media from Sobha Realty Training Centre on Friday, Mikel Arteta previewed Arsenal’s upcoming clash against Manchester United – a fixture that is a must-win if the Gunners are to keep their title hopes alive.

Despite the Red Devils patchy form throughout the 2023/24 season, Arteta is under no illusions that Sunday’s hosts will pose a difficult challenge – suggesting that his side will ‘have to perform at a really high level’ to secure a positive result.

‘I don’t think about it [their form], every game has a different context. We know the difficulty and the history when you look at what we’ve done over there, so we’re going to have to be at our best to earn the right to win the game.’

Asked if he sympathises with his managerial counterpart, Erik ten Hag, the Spaniard gave a simple answer. ‘For sure,’ he explained, ‘because at this level, that’s the reality. The margins are so small and momentum shifts in relation to an action sometimes in the game, sometimes in a season because you need that moment for something to click to start an unbelievable run, so of course I do.’

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Arsenal have experienced something of an unbelievable run themselves this season, forcing the title fight to continue into the very last weeks of the campaign – and Arteta admitted that with Manchester City still having games in hand, ‘at the moment, it’s not in our control.’

‘It’s literally a very clear situation that you have to focus and be determined to do what you have to do to be in the best possible position. That’s very simple and clear, and that’s what we are doing.’

‘My brain always takes me to the players lifting the Premier League, that’s what my brain is doing at the moment. I just follow my brain and my gut and this is how I feel, and this is the way that I want everybody to think and hopefully we can achieve it.’

The Spaniard takes confidence from the fact that his Arsenal side are challenging City for the second consecutive season, and stressed that ‘we are on the journey to try to catch them and be better than them.’

‘It’s an inspiration to have this level of opposition and it makes you better if someone challenges you to go further and further… They’ve been on an unbelievable journey over the last 10 to 15 years, but we want to change that. We’re trying to do everything that we can to improve and get better and better.’