'Playing in Europe is always great' – Arteta relishing Europa League challenge despite Champions League aim

By Sports Desk October 05, 2022

Mikel Arteta said Arsenal will not take participating in the Europa League for granted ahead of Thursday's tie with Bodo/Glimt, but acknowledges the Gunners have loftier ambitions.

Arsenal sit top of the Premier League table after a scintillating start to the season; only twice have they bettered this campaign's return of 21 points after eight games in the competition, earning 22 points in 2004-05 and 2007-08. 

Having missed out to Tottenham in a fierce battle for Champions League qualification last term, however, Arsenal are competing with Bodo/Glimt, PSV and FC Zurich in Group A of Europe's second-tier competition. 

While Arteta knows Champions League football must be the aim for his team, he said Arsenal will "make the most" of their continental campaign.

"Playing in Europe is always great. We know we would want to be playing yesterday or today, but that's the next step," he said on Wednesday. 

"This is the reality, and we have to make the most of it.

"It's a test for the squad, in terms of the numbers and the quality. If you make changes, how much you notice it, whether you can continue consistently playing at the top level.

"Everyone's going to have to do that after the World Cup, especially with the schedule.

"It's a competition that is really important for us, we know how important it is to be on top of the group and the home advantage, we have to use it."

Meanwhile, William Saliba and Bukayo Saka have both expressed confidence they will sign new contracts after emerging as key components in Arteta's side, and the Arsenal boss says the club is working on deals for the duo, as well as fresh terms for Gabriel Martinelli.

Arsenal have been forced to sell several stars after allowing them to run their contracts down in the past, but Arteta moved to quell fears of a repeat, adding: "Obviously we have to plan for the future, and we are all working on it.

"Edu is on top of it, and all the board. We will try to do things in the right way, being fair, and rewarding the players that – in our opinion – have a big future for the club.

"When we have something to announce, we will do it. Every player is different and what happened in the past, the people that were in charge had the right reasons.

"We will try to do the same thing and make sure the club is always protected, that the club is always in a good position to move forward, and the players are happy."

Arsenal saw their first scheduled home game of the Europa League campaign, against PSV, postponed following the death of Queen Elizabeth II last month, and will look to end a poor continental run at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday.

The Gunners have failed to win any of their last three home European matches (D2 L1), their worst such run since they went six without victory between October 2002 and September 2003.

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    Herdman's team are looking to avoid the ignominy of matching El Salvador's record for the most World Cup games played without avoiding defeat (six) when they face Morocco on Thursday, but the Reds' dynamic style has won them admirers on their first appearance at the tournament since 1986.

    With Canada set to join Mexico and the United States in hosting the next World Cup, Herdman is focused on helping the side continue their upward trajectory.

    Asked at Wednesday's pre-match press conference whether he would be coaching the team in 2026, Herdman said: "I will be tomorrow. I will be excited tomorrow, absolutely. 

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    "The one thing you've seen from us is we've always come back strong. In [the Women's World Cup in] 2015, we finished sixth.

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    "Now it's about how we recover and prepare to play against this Dutch team, who have a very clear idea and are very well coached. We have to come up with a way to beat them."

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