EPL

Arteta concentrating on Arsenal's Champions League push: 'It's all in our hands'

By Sports Desk March 31, 2022

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta remains uninterested by the other teams in the Premier League's top-four race, insisting it is all in the Gunners' hands.

Arteta's side have lost just one of eight top-flight games since a 1-0 defeat to Manchester City at the start of 2022, surging up the table to fourth in the league.

Arsenal are three points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham, who have played a game more, as they push for Champions League qualification, with their next fixture coming away at Crystal Palace on Monday.

That means Spurs, Manchester United and West Ham will have all played before the Gunners are in action at Selhurst Park, but Arteta does not see the late game as an advantage over his competitors.

"We're going to focus on what we can do. That's the only thing we can control," he told reporters at Thursday's pre-match news conference. 

"Through the TV we can suffer and we can enjoy and there's not much else we can do. What we have to do is win the football matches that we need to achieve what we want and that's all in our hands."

Aaron Ramsdale missed the 1-0 win at Aston Villa last time out, with Bukayo Saka scoring the winner before the teenager withdrew from international duty with England due to COVID-19.

Arteta confirmed Saka has returned to training, but the clash with Patrick Vieira's Palace may come too soon for Ramsdale, who suffered a muscle injury in a 2-0 loss to Liverpool earlier in the month.

"Bukayo is feeling good," he added. "He's training today hopefully if he's still feeling as he was yesterday. Aaron, it's a doubt. He's still feeling not great, he hasn't trained yet so we don't know what he'll be able to do on Monday.

"He wanted to play against Villa but it was a significant injury and he had to take his time and the physios are doing everything they can. We will see more in the next few days when he starts to do real training."

Meanwhile, Takehiro Tomiyasu nears a return from a calf injury that has kept him on the sidelines since early January.

"I think it will be close. He's been training more and more. He has the boys back now, so he will be joining some sessions this week, and let's see how it is," the Spaniard said of Tomiyasu.

The Premier League also announced the reintroduction of five substitutes from the start of next season, a decision that Arteta is glad to see introduced.

"I'm glad that in the end, we have unified the criteria with the whole of Europe," he said on the rule change. "It's now how we do it and how we manage it. There will be some changes because that gives you different opportunities and tactically the chance to make some changes.

"I think the most important thing is that you manage the load of the players much better. Make sure we don't slow the game down too much and I think it's good. It gives the players opportunities to be on the pitch, which is what they want to do.

"The options you are given to change the game, to refresh the game, to change in many different positions which is something you are always restricted to do, and probably the timing of the subs because when you have three the last sub is always in the back of your mind and if you make it too early you can pay the consequences. So that gives you more flexibility."

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