Mikel Arteta believes third-placed Newcastle will present “a big test” for his Premier League leaders as Arsenal attempt on Tuesday night to open a 10-point gap on Manchester City.
Arsenal’s 4-2 win at Brighton on New Year’s Eve extended their lead to seven points after City had drawn with Everton. Eddie Howe’s team visit the Emirates having also dropped two points on Arteta’s team on Saturday in being held to a goalless draw by Leeds. City do not play again until they travel to Chelsea on Thursday.
Newcastle are likely to offer the toughest post-World Cup test yet for Arsenal, who in scoring seven goals in their two matches since returning are yet to show many ill-effects from the absence of Gabriel Jesus. “A very good team, really well coached,” said Arteta of Tuesday’s visitors. “I think what Eddie has done in that short period of time, when you look at the numbers, incredible big credit to him and the coaching staff.”
Nine points behind Arsenal having played a game more, Howe’s men have lost one match all season, at Liverpool on 31 August. Arteta said: “They have created a belief, a momentum around the team that they play the same way against any opponent. It’s going to be another big test. But we play at home in front of our crowd and I’m looking forward to it.”
Arsenal have won every home Premier League game so far to the great excitement and growing anticipation of their supporters. After a 3-1 homecoming win over West Ham on Boxing Day, Arteta hopes his team can sustain the party atmosphere. “It’s about being realistic where we are,” he said. “The way we are performing, obviously it is impressive and we are really happy with that. But, as well, we set the objectives in the short term and what we want to improve, and what is making us win that many football matches.”
Unwilling to set any concrete objectives for 2023 or countenance talk of a title race just yet, Arteta set his hope for the new year simply: “To win against Newcastle. And then the next one and then the next one. That is the dream. And obviously that all my loved ones and everybody around the club feels healthy and satisfied and enjoys life, which is beautiful.”
Arteta’s captain, Martin Ødegaard, outstanding at Brighton, also refused to engage in any title talk. “We don’t focus on that,” he said. “We focus on every game to improve and get better and of course we are in a good position and we are really happy to be there. It is our job to keep fighting and keep improving and make sure that we can fight all the way.”
Source: The Guardian