A stunned Mikel Arteta says Newcastle United were "10 times" better than Arsenal and felt his side "could not cope" with the pressure in a 2-0 defeat that surely cost his side a Champions League place.

The Gunners needed a win at St James' Park on Monday to move back above fierce rivals Tottenham into fourth place heading into the final day of the Premier League season.

But Ben White scored a second-half own goal and Bruno Guimaraes sealed the Magpies' victory by doubling their lead with five minutes of normal time to play.

Arsenal were dominated by Eddie Howe's side on Tyneside, ensuring Spurs will head to relegated Norwich City on Sunday knowing a point will surely be enough to seal a top-four finish given they have a far superior goal difference to the Gunners.

Arteta's men have no chance of catching third-placed Chelsea and look destined for the Europa League next season ahead of an encounter with relegation-threatened Everton this weekend.

The Gunners head coach was bemused by such a poor display from his team with so much on the line.

He told Sky Sports: "Newcastle deserved to win the match and were much better than us. We had nothing in the game.

"They were much better in every department: in the duels, with second balls. We were poor with the ball and didn't defend as we have to do

"A lot of things happened during the night, with substitutions due to injuries, but it's not an excuse, Newcastle deserved to win the match because they were much better than us from the beginning. They were much better than us in everything that a football match requires to be on top of it."

Arteta says such an insipid display was hard to take.

"It's true that we could not cope with the game that we had to play here. We tried to change some things and it didn't make it better," the Spaniard added.

"We had moments where we looked better at the start of the second half, we understood better what we had to do but then the execution was so poor and the goals we gave away were extremely poor.

"It's extremely disappointing that Newcastle were 10 times better than us and fully deserved the match. The performance was nowhere near the level we need to be at if we want to play in the Champions League.

"I am incredibly disappointed. The team we have at the moment there are questions marks in a lot positions because of the injuries and suspensions that we had but it's no excuse. We were not at the races today. It's a really very painful one.

"It was in our hands and today it's not in our hands. We have to beat Everton and wait for Norwich to beat Spurs. There's always a chance in football and you have to be there just in case that chance appears."

Mikel Arteta is keen to focus on the future rather than Arsenal's midweek defeat to rivals Tottenham, although that match has left him with a real problem at centre-back.

Arsenal went down 3-0 to Spurs on Thursday, increasing the pressure on Arteta's side, who are one point ahead of their fifth-placed neighbours in the top four with two Premier League games remaining.

The first of those is away to Newcastle United on Monday, by which point Tottenham will have played Burnley and could be fourth.

And Arsenal may head into that match without a single senior centre-back. Rob Holding was sent off at Spurs and is suspended, while Gabriel Magalhaes went off injured. Ben White, on the bench last time out, was not considered fit enough to bring on.

Speaking on Saturday, Arteta acknowledged any decision on Gabriel and White would have to go to the wire.

"We will have to modify certain positions to try to make it work because we don't have more defenders," he said.

"And even though we have academy players, they haven't experienced those positions a lot because they are not specified central defenders. It's something we'll try to find a way [to solve]."

Arteta added: "Tomorrow [Sunday] will be the day when we will have better answers [on Gabriel and White] – probably not the answers that we want on matchday, but hopefully better answers.

"We'll probably know more tomorrow, so we wanted to extend this period as much as possible to understand how they are recovering, how they are feeling, assess them, and tomorrow we'll probably know more about how they are."

Meanwhile, Arteta was not interested in entertaining discussion of the Tottenham defeat.

"Forwards," he said. "I said it after the [post-match] press conference, I just look forward."

Even mention of Antonio Conte's claims Arteta complains too much did not prompt a response from the Arsenal manager.

Asked what he would tell Conte, Arteta replied: "That I'm fully focused on Newcastle."

Despite his clear anger at how that match played out, the Gunners boss is looking to lift his players, reminding them their performances have put them in pole position ahead of Spurs.

"That [result] was a possibility," Arteta said, "and we knew that to get into the position that we are in today, a lot has happened in the past.

"We've been through it, we have experienced it, and hopefully that can help us again on Monday."

Mikel Arteta should concentrate on Arsenal and not complain so much, according to Tottenham boss Antonio Conte. 

Spurs claimed a 3-0 victory over Arsenal in the Premier League on Thursday to stop the Gunners from getting the three points they needed to clinch a top-four finish, with the difference between the sides now down to one point with two games remaining. 

Son won the penalty that Harry Kane converted for the opening goal and a foul on the South Korea international saw Rob Holding receive his second yellow card in the 33rd minute. It was Arsenal's 13th Premier League red card since Arteta took over in December 2019, five more than any other side in that timeframe.

Kane doubled his tally and Son put Spurs 3-0 up early in the second half, with Arteta saying after the match he could not give an opinion on the refereeing decisions 

"He has to continue to work because he's very good. To hear someone complain all the time is not so good. If we want to complain, we have the possibility every game. 

"At Liverpool do you hear me complain about Fabinho and all the fouls? No. He can take my advice if he wants, but if not I don't care." or he would "be suspended for six months". 

Conte, however, felt referee Paul Tierney was right in his decision-making as Spurs won a third straight home league games against Arsenal for the first time since 1961.

"He complains a lot. He has to focus more on his team. He has to focus more on his work," said Conte. 

The fixture was originally scheduled to be played in January but was postponed upon Arsenal's request as they contended with absences due to COVID-19, injuries and the Africa Cup of Nations.  

Conte added: "[Arteta] complained about the fixtures and that was after Arsenal had an unbelievable postponement with just one COVID case. Now we're playing at 12pm on Sunday and they don't play until Monday. We can't always complain. 

"[Arteta] is a very good coach and I think can become a very important coach for the future, but in six months I have heard him complain a lot." 

Conte was quick to remind his players that failure to follow up their win over the Gunners with another victory against Burnley at the weekend would make their derby success meaningless. 

"For sure, it was a good performance. From the start until the end, our approach to manage the game was very positive," said Conte. 

"Winning this game gave us the possibility to continue [the fight] to take our place in the Champions League. I'm pleased with the commitment 

"I was clear with the players that it's alright to celebrate, but if we don't win on Sunday it doesn't mean anything." 

Mikel Arteta suggested he would be "suspended for six months" if he gave his honest assessment of key refereeing decisions made during Arsenal's 3-0 north London derby defeat to Tottenham.

Arsenal went into what many considered as the most important north London derby in Premier League history knowing victory would secure Champions League football for next season.

But they were blown away by Spurs at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with Rob Holding's 33rd-minute sending off for two bookings playing a big role – though the hosts were already 1-0 up thanks to a Harry Kane penalty.

Kane got Spurs' second shortly after Holding's dismissal and Son Heung-min put the game beyond the Gunners early in the second half, as Antonio Conte's men moved to within a point of Arsenal heading into the final two matchdays of the season.

Should Arsenal ultimately miss out on Champions League football again, many will point to this defeat as a pivotal moment, and Arteta seemingly laid the responsibility at the feet of the officials.

When asked for his "thoughts" on the game, Arteta told Sky Sports: "Well, if I say what I think, I'm suspended [for] six months, so I cannot say.

"I'm allowed to give my interpretation of what happened in the game, but I don't know how to lie so I prefer not to say what I think."

But it was unclear precisely which decision Arteta felt aggrieved by, as Holding was arguably lucky not to have been already sent off before his brutal barge on Son, which in itself could have potentially drawn a straight red.

That was his fourth foul of the game, more than he has ever committed in a single Premier League match despite playing just 33 minutes.

Similarly, the decision to penalise Cedric Soares for a shove on Son in the area appeared a clear-cut one by referee Paul Tierney.

Arteta initially refused to delve much deeper, as he reiterated the belief he would be banned if he was honest, but he did eventually call out the officials.

"You can ask the referee to come in front of the camera and explain his decisions," he said. "It's a shame because such a beautiful game was destroyed today."

Arsenal have two more matches to secure fourth – they face Newcastle United and Everton in their last games of the season.

 

Mikel Arteta and Arsenal now face a thorough examination of their mentality and focus after Thursday's morale-sapping 3-0 north London derby defeat blew the race for fourth wide open.

While the importance of Champions League qualification might feel exaggerated to some given the financial muscle of practically every Premier League club, regardless of finishing in the top four or not, the end of 2021-22 will undoubtedly have significant implications for both clubs.

A top-four finish would be Arsenal's best Premier League season in six years and simultaneously the first time since the same season that they'd finished above their bitter rivals.

Champions League qualification would also be vindication of the faith placed in Arteta and a clear sign of genuine progress since he replaced Unai Emery.

For Spurs, on the other hand, it's difficult to look at these final 10 days of the season being anything other than a sliding-doors moment.

Failure to return to European football's top table would plausibly see Antonio Conte call it quits, whereas the possibilities could be endless under him with the extra cash, exposure and lure provided by the Champions League, particularly when you consider the transformational effect he's already had in north London and elsewhere previously.

With those points in mind, it was no surprise to see Thursday's contest – the first with fans present at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – labelled the most important north London derby in Premier League history, and it's fair to say the hosts handled the occasion far better than the Gunners.

Perhaps that wasn't actually as shocking as it initially felt during the match.

The turning point came with just 33 minutes on the clock. While Tottenham were already ahead thanks to a Harry Kane penalty, it was just past the half-hour mark when Rob Holding's pushed his luck once too often.

Having already been booked – frankly, he could have been carded several times by this point – Holding cynically blocked off the relentless Son Heung-min with a combination of shoulder and elbow, deservedly earning himself a second yellow and subsequent red card.

It had been coming. Holding's early duels with Son had the South Korean showing signs of frustration – not because he couldn't get the better of his opponent, but because he was getting the better of him. He just kept getting fouled by the Arsenal defender.

Holding's wry smile when walking away from an angry Son after a tangle that wouldn't have looked out of place on a Judo mat belied a degree of arrogance and misplaced confidence.

It was ill-judged to say the least.

But of course, this is by no means the first time indiscipline's been seen as the scourge of Arsenal. Since Arteta's appointment, the Gunners have been shown five more red cards (13 in total) in the Premier League than any other team.

Granted, they are the youngest team in the Premier League, so perhaps a hint of indiscipline is to be expected as a consequence of inexperience – but that argument can't really be applied to 26-year-old Holding.

Arsenal had actually started the match quite well. Their pressing intensity was excellent, so much so that a Spurs passage of play consisting exclusively of passes between the defence and Hugo Lloris drew significant jeers of derision and frustration from the home crowd.

But Spurs identified they could find joy by playing direct, which was exactly how the opener arrived, with Cedric Soares – no, not Holding this time! – the one guilty of barging Son over at the back post as he looked to reach a deep delivery.

Just four minutes after Holding's red card, Kane – who had endured a career-worst derby drought of two matches prior to Thursday – exploited Eddie Nketiah's lack of awareness to stoop in at the back post to head home his second goal of the game, extending his all-time record as this fixture's top scorer.

Conte was a figure of calm after the first goal, but this time he wore his near-trademark terrifying jubilation with pride, presumably aware only a miracle would save Arsenal now.

The sparkling Son made sure any Arsenal hopes were thoroughly extinguished less than two minutes after the restart, pouncing on a loose ball in the area before steering beyond Aaron Ramsdale with the kind of expertise we've come to expect from a player only outscored by Mohamed Salah in the Premier League this season.

Arteta can console himself with the fact Arsenal remain fourth heading into their final two games of the season. Had you given him the option of being in that situation back in August, he'd have snapped your hand off.

But Thursday's ultimately crushing defeat once again raised questions of the Gunners' mentality and discipline, and their squad is becoming more depleted by the game. It's hardly an ideal combination when the pressure is on – and boy is it on now.

Tottenham – whose kind run-in sees them face Norwich City and Burnley – still need either Newcastle United or Everton to do them a favour at the very least.

But Thursday was evidence of Spurs keeping their cool when it matters. Arsenal didn't, and there's nothing to suggest they're too good to capitulate.

Mikel Arteta has denied he came close to joining Mauricio Pochettino's staff at Tottenham, even though the Arsenal boss considers the Argentinian a "football father".

The Spaniard is preparing to face Spurs on Thursday evening in a north London derby which could confirm a return to the Champions League next season for the Gunners.

It would cement an impressive turnaround under Arteta following a tough 2020-21 campaign that saw the club miss out on European football entirely.

Arteta is looking to burnish the reputation he has at Emirates Stadium, where he spent the end of his playing days before joining Pep Guardiola on the Manchester City coaching staff.

He was asked about having once been tipped to cross the divide and join rivals Spurs, when they were led by current Paris Saint-Germain boss Pochettino.

That was a reported possibility in 2016, but the Gunners boss has poured cold water on the suggestion it could have happened, albeit reinforcing the point that he shares a close bond with the former Tottenham manager.

"No," Arteta said when asked if there was truth to the rumours. "My relationship with Mauricio comes from when I was 18 years old."

As a teenager, Arteta went on loan from Barcelona to PSG, and Pochettino was a team-mate.

"I have always said, for me, he was like a football father," Arteta said. "I have an extraordinary relationship with him. But unfortunately, he was a coach at Spurs, and I was here at the time. That relationship hasn't changed, but that isn't the case."

Arteta touched on the relationship between his team and their fans following this season's resurgence, saying he hopes a derby victory will strengthen their bond.

"The players want to show them gratitude for the way they have performed with the team," he added. "That would be the answer – to say thank you.

"We're in this together, and now the journey is going to change us, and I think we are going to be more excited about the future."

Arsenal can secure Champions League football with victory over Spurs, while a failure to win for Tottenham would also assure Chelsea of a top-four finish.

Mikel Arteta refused to comment on whether Arsenal want to sign Gabriel Jesus with Erling Haaland on his way to Manchester City.

City on Tuesday confirmed the club have reached an agreement in principle with Borussia Dortmund to bring prolific Norway striker Haaland to the Etihad Stadium ahead of next season.

Haaland's imminent arrival would suggest starts would be even more limited for Jesus, who has netted eight Premier League goals this season.

The Brazil international's agent, Marcelo Pettinati, said in an interview with Fabrizio Romano that he has held talks with Arsenal over a potential switch to the London club.

"We had talks with Arsenal about Gabriel Jesus," he said. "We like the project – it’s a possibility we're discussing.

"There are six more clubs interested in Gabriel. He's focused on the final games with Man City. We'll see."

Arteta would not be drawn over a possible move for Jesus on the eve of a huge derby showdown at Tottenham on Wednesday.

The Gunners head coach said: "You know that I don’t talk about any players that are not with us."

Asked if he wanted to add to his strike force, Arteta replied: "I'm looking for the strikers that we have in the team. This is my focus for the next three games."

Arsenal will check on the fitness of England internationals Ben White and Bukayo Saka ahead of the short trip to Spurs.

Midfielder Thomas Partey misses out once again as Arteta's side seek a win that would seal Champions League qualification. 

The Gunners have won four consecutive games to stand on the brink securing a top-four finish and Arteta is determined to make it mission accomplished in their fierce rivals' own backyard.

Arteta said: "The message is clear, if we win against them we will play in the Champions League next season. You don't need much more motivation than that."

Mikel Arteta says Arsenal will have "an extra level of motivation" when they face Tottenham on Thursday knowing a victory would seal Champions League qualification.

The Gunners extended their winning run to four Premier League matches at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, seeing off 10-man Leeds United 2-1 to go four points clear of Spurs.

Eddie Nketiah punished Illan Meslier's early howler to open the scoring and the striker doubled Arsenal's lead with a clinical finish only 10 minutes in.

Things went from bad to worse for Leeds in a nightmare first half when Luke Ayling was sent off for a reckless two-footed lunge on Gabriel Martinelli.

Diego Llorente pulled a goal back in the second half, but Leeds dropped into the relegation zone as Arsenal strengthened their grip on fourth place with three games to play.

A North London derby win will guarantee them a place in the Champions League next season and the Spaniard is determined to make it mission accomplished in the home of their fierce rivals.

The Arsenal boss said: "We want to prepare and go for that match like we always do, with the same enthusiasm, but knowing obviously that this can be a defining moment and that’s an extra level of motivation and another layer for us to really go for it and I can't wait to play that game."

It appeared that Arsenal could run riot even before Whites captain Ayling was sent off and Arteta felt his side made hard work of securing three precious points two days after he signed a new contract.

Asked if they made seeing out the win more difficult than it ought to have been, he replied: "Yes, considering the way that we started I think we were electric, so determined, so incisive, we scored two good goals, created chances and didn’t allow anything to happen around our box.

"And after that, obviously, the red card presents a different match where they change completely their behaviour and how they set up and we have to manage the game in a different way.

"I think for a lot of phases we did well, but we needed to score the third goal and we had the chances to do so and then the accident happen when the first time that they were through at a set-piece we conceded a goal and it's game on and some nerves have to handled."

Arteta, who revealed Ben White is poised to return at Tottenham, says spirits are understandably high in the Arsenal dressing room but they know there is work to do.

"Really good, really positive, but at the same time really humble," he said of the mood in the camp. "We know that nothing has been achieved yet and still a lot of things and a lot of minutes to play to do what we want to achieve."

Jesse Marsch vowed his Leeds United side will "fight for our lives" after dropping into the Premier League relegation zone with a 2-1 loss to Arsenal on Sunday.

Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier gifted Eddie Nketiah an early opener, and the Arsenal striker, who spent 2019-20 on loan at Elland Road, added a second with just 10 minutes played.

The visitors inflicted more damage on themselves after 27 minutes when Luke Ayling, making the 500th appearance of his career, was sent off for lunging in on Gabriel Martinelli.

Diego Llorente did manage to pull one back through Leeds' first effort on target in the 66th minute, but they were ultimately left with too much to do.

A second loss in a row for Leeds, coupled with Everton's 2-1 win at Leicester City, means they will end the day in the bottom three for the first time since October 30.

Leeds have spent 16 days in the relegation zone this – five fewer than Arsenal, who made a poor start to the season with three defeats in a row.

Marsch accepts Leeds were victims of their own mistakes at Emirates Stadium but is hopeful his side will respond in their remaining three fixtures.

"I think we had a really bad start and dug a hole for ourselves, which we didn't need to," Marsch, who succeeded Marcelo Bielsa in late February, told BBC Sport. 

"At half-time we talked about keeping our composure and treating the game like it was 0-0. That's what we did.

"We are in a difficult situation. We have to regroup and figure out what we can do. Our backs are against the wall. We are in the relegation zone, but we have to fight for our lives.

"When I arrived two months ago I knew this wasn't going to be easy. The group's stayed strong. Our second-half performance highlights the character of the people we have.

"The fans and the support at this club is unreal. We want to put a performance on the pitch that honours that support."

With their 95th and 96th yellow cards of the season, Leeds set a record for the most bookings for a club in a single Premier League campaign.

They now host Chelsea and Brighton and Hove Albion in successive home games before travelling to Brentford on the final day of the season.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have won four successive league games while conceding at least once each time for the first time since a run of five in February and March 2012.

Following Tottenham's 1-1 draw at Liverpool on Saturday, the Gunners now hold a four-point lead over their fierce rivals in the battle for fourth place.

Should Arsenal make it five top-flight wins a row by beating Spurs on Thursday, they will secure a return to the Champions League for the first time since 2016-17.

"We know that, and we have earned the right to play that game in that context," Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, who signed a contract extension this week, told BBC Sport. 

"Winning any match is extremely difficult. We are going to prepare for the game as best as we can.

"We started extremely well today and were determined, creating chance after chance. And then playing against 10 men it is always more complicated.

"We controlled the game really well. It became nervy, and you start to defend that result."

Mikel Arteta believes his new contract will clear up any doubts over Arsenal's future direction and be a major factor in the club's recruitment and retention drive.

The manager has committed to a two-year contract extension at Emirates Stadium, with his previous deal having run to the end of next season.

It means he is now set to stay at Arsenal until 2025, ensuring stability at the club.

Arteta revealed a number of Arsenal stars had been asking him about his future before he committed to an extended stay, with the announcement coming from the club on Friday.

Asked when the players learned the news, Arteta said: "They found out this morning. Some of them had been asking me in the last few months because they had questions about their individual futures.

"I want zero distraction about that. It's clear for the future."

Arsenal sit fourth in the Premier League and are looking to lock down a top-four finish to ensure a return to the Champions League, having last featured in that competition in the 2016-17 season.

They face Leeds United on Sunday, with Arteta hoping a feel-good factor can carry Arsenal towards their goals.

"I'm delighted, because from both sides we have shown a real commitment of what we want to do together in this beautiful journey," he said of his new deal.

"The plans and the vision that we shared are the reason why I'm doing it, and I think the club is doing it because we share the same belief, the same passion, and the same level of trust about each other and how we're doing it, and I'm really excited about what we can do together."

Speaking in a news conference, Arteta said: "The club was so decisive and committed to do it now.

"They wanted to bring clarity starting from ownership about what we were doing and show the stability and commitment to the project, and don't have to worry in the summer about any of that. When we want to recruit players or keep the players we want, they can see a clear path in the future and there is no question mark.

"I'm extremely happy here, and this job is still a lot to do."

Arteta indicated he was offered his new deal after the run of losses to Crystal Palace, Brighton and Hove Albion and Southampton in April.

That has been followed by wins over Chelsea, Manchester United and West Ham, and now lowly Leeds await, with Jesse Marsch's team battling to avoid sliding into the Championship.

The Emirates Stadium clash is therefore a high-stakes affair for both sides.

"It's a lot to play for, and obviously the situation they are in, they're going to show how much they want to get out of that zone as quick as possible," Arteta said.

"For us, it's the defining moment in the season, after everything we've done, so we want to capitalise on what we've done in the last nine or 10 months."

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has agreed a two-year contract extension at Emirates Stadium.

Arteta's previous deal – signed when he was appointed in 2019 – ran until the end of next season. He is now set to stay at Arsenal until 2025.

The Spaniard, who won the FA Cup twice as a player with the club, led the Gunners to Wembley glory in 2019-20.

Progress has since been steady, with Arsenal now in pole position to return to the Champions League for the first time since 2016-17, when Arsene Wenger was still in charge.

With four games of the season remaining, Arsenal are fourth, two points ahead of rivals Tottenham, who they play next week.

Mikel Arteta maintains hope of pipping Chelsea to third, although he expects Arsenal's bid for Champions League qualification to go to the wire after an "ugly" win at West Ham.

Arsenal played in Sunday's late Premier League game after third-placed Chelsea and fifth-placed Tottenham played earlier in the day.

Chelsea lost at Everton, but Spurs beat Leicester City to briefly move ahead of their rivals into the top four.

Arsenal came up with a vital response, however, edging West Ham 2-1 at London Stadium to reclaim fourth place and close to within three points of Chelsea, with Thomas Tuchel acknowledging concern regarding his side's Champions League hopes.

Manager Arteta was not impressed with the Gunners' performance but recognised the importance of the victory.

"We didn't concede goals, but we didn't play so well," he told Sky Sports. "If I had to analyse the game, I would use a word that is to win ugly. Today we won ugly.

"Big teams have to find a way to win ugly when they don't play at their best, and today with the ball we were really poor."

In his news conference, Arteta was asked if this below-par display might have been linked to the pressure of Tottenham playing – and winning – first, but he dismissed that suggestion as "just an excuse".

Arteta is attempting to own that pressure, insisting he could not keep the Spurs score from his players.

"I think I would be wasting my time," he said. "If it's not the players, it's the staff, because everybody is with their phones, and they all know.

"So, we all knew the result beforehand, and the next week I don't think that is going to change; until the last day of the season we will probably be connected."

But Arsenal could yet climb further up the table, with Arteta asked if third place was now the aim.

"Mathematically, everything is open," he replied, "so we're going to have to go to Leeds and win again, because everybody's going to put pressure because everybody wants to play in the position we are in now.

"We have to handle that. It's a great opportunity, and that willingness and motivation that we have is what is driving us to continue to do so."

Arteta was without Ben White, who is to be assessed following a hamstring injury sustained against Manchester United, while Takehiro Tomiyasu and Bukayo Saka both had to be substituted.

The Arsenal boss assured Saka was simply "really fatigued", and Tomiyasu could not last the 90 minutes in his first start since New Year's Day, but Arteta was not concerned.

Arsenal cannot replicate the meteoric rise of Liverpool due to financial restraints and the Premier League becoming more competitive, says Mikel Arteta.

Jurgen Klopp signed a new deal to keep him at Anfield until 2026 on Thursday, signalling an intent to extend Liverpool's dominance that has them hunting an unprecedented quadruple.

Liverpool are profiting from a transformation in the club's fortunes, underpinned by astute signings and the development of players into world class stars.

The Gunners, meanwhile, are fighting for fourth in the Premier League – a competition they have not won since 2003-04 – with their last trophy being the 2019-20 FA Cup.

While manager Arteta respects the route Liverpool took to return to a force to be reckoned with, the Spaniard believes Arsenal must forge their own path.

"There are things you can try to compare, and you can acknowledge how other clubs have been through these processes and these phases of a project, like Liverpool," he told Sky Sports.

"But what the league was six years ago and what the league is today is completely different. Those leagues were won with 83, 84, 86 points. Now you need 95, 96 or 100 points to win the league.

"The context is completely different, so what was good three or five years ago is not good anymore, because the standards are so high.

"We need to focus on what we want to do and how we are going to execute it, and not look too far ahead."

Arsenal visit West Ham on Sunday as they look to build on their two-point advantage over fifth-placed Tottenham, who they face in the penultimate week of the season in what could decide Champions League qualification.

Once this season is complete, Arsenal face a crucial transfer window in order to become more competitive, with Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus reportedly a top target.

Arteta reiterated that Arsenal cannot duplicate the success of Liverpool's signings, given the club's financial restraints.

"I don't think we are in a position where we can do that, so we have to find other ways to do it," he added when asked in reference to Klopp signing both Alisson and Virgil van Dijk for record fees at the time.

"Liverpool, as well, have improved their players immensely, which is as important as bringing players in. And then, the ones that you buy, [it's important] that they can have an impact straight away.

"That's a big decision they have to make in recruitment, and then they are human beings as well. They have to adapt, and sometimes that's a tricky question to answer before they are actually here.

"We want to make the squad stronger, we want to make the starting XI stronger, we want to make the specificity and the personality of our players stronger, and that's what we are going to be seeking to do.

"It will depend on many factors. How many players are back from their loans, with the commitments we still have with them, our financial position in relation to where we finish; the clubs' demands when we want to buy players or sell players.

"There are a lot of question marks there, but this is football. We've been through a lot in the last two seasons and we are going to try to manage it in the best possible way.

"The good thing is that the plan is clear, but the plan is just the plan until you start to work through that plan. Then, every decision and every situation is going to allow you – or not allow you – to be as close as possible to that plan, which is our aim."

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta hailed the mentality of Bukayo Saka to bounce back from Euro 2020 final penalty shoot-out heartbreak, while he implored the Gunners to capitalise in the top-four race.

Saka missed the decisive spot-kick for England against Italy in early July, leading to a wave of online racial abuse towards him and international colleagues Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford.

Arteta previously suggested the penalty failure would aid Saka's development and resilience, and the 20-year-old has supported his manager's comments with his best Premier League season to date.

Saka has scored 11 times in the league and assisted five more as Arsenal battle with Tottenham for the final Champions League qualification spot, while he has made amends from the penalty spot in recent weeks.

Indeed, he became the youngest player ever to score a penalty in consecutive Premier League appearances following spot-kicks against Chelsea and Manchester United in the last two games.

Arteta confirmed Saka will again be on penalty duties should the chance arise at West Ham on Sunday as the Spaniard heaped praise on the England international.

"Well, if someone has to take a penalty, he will take it," Arteta told reporters at a pre-match news conference on Friday.

"Again, but it happened quite naturally in the Chelsea game, he took it and the next game we had another one and hopefully he can continue to put the ball in the back of the net.

"The first two conversations that I had [with him] it was straight after the incident [at Euro 2020], but Gareth Southgate was really helpful as well because he had Bukayo in his hands at that moment and they were really caring and really supportive of him, so by the time he joined us, he was in a really good place.

"Obviously, he got all this support and love and help in any way that he needed it to overcome that situation and then it's down to him and his family around him that were very helpful for him."

Arsenal have been inspired by their younger players this season, with Emile Smith Rowe just the second Gunner to score 10 or more Premier League goals in a season, after Nicolas Anelka in 1998-99 (17).

Fellow youngster Eddie Nketiah also netted twice to guide Arsenal past Chelsea earlier in the month, and Arteta believes club experience helps his youthful squad when they go on international duty.

"I think they're doing it at their clubs and that's really, really important so again, the step of demands is not that high, they are already key and important players in their own clubs," he added.

"So they're used to that pressure and at international level it's something very different, but I think they have the maturity and they have the capacity to sustain that level under pressure because they're doing it every week at their clubs."

Arteta will be hoping his young Gunners can deliver again when Arsenal visit fellow top-four chasers West Ham on Sunday, looking to improve on their two-point lead over fifth-placed Tottenham.

However, the Arsenal manager warned to expect more changes heading into the final weeks of the season as teams battle for European football next campaign.

Asked whether the fight for fourth place was a two-horse race, he responded: "I don't think so, there will still be some twists and turns, we all have difficult matches to play.

"We all know how difficult it is to win games in the Premier League and now we had two really good results that put us in a really good position. But it is about doing it again at West Ham.

"I think in the league when you are able to win consecutively away and at home, it gives you a huge platform and things quickly change.

"We have some momentum now and we want to make the most out of it."

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was overjoyed to see how much Granit Xhaka's relationship with the fans has improved after his starring role in Saturday's defeat of Manchester United.

Xhaka got Arsenal's third goal at Emirates Stadium, drilling in from long range to put the game beyond the Red Devils.

United had previously threatened to wipe out Arsenal's lead, which had been 2-0 in the first half before Cristiano Ronaldo's well-taken goal.

But Xhaka's strike dulled United's momentum, and the Switzerland international enjoyed a rapturous ovation when he was withdrawn towards the end of the Gunners' 3-1 win.

It marked a significant change in fortunes for Xhaka from when he routinely seemed to be at odds with the fans, revealing recently in an article for the Players' Tribune that he nearly left the club over "pure hate" from supporters, claiming his bags were packed in December 2019.

"I was dreaming of that [ovation] because he deserves it," Arteta told reporters after Saturday's win.

"If any fan would individually spend five or 10 minutes with Granit, or even two minutes, because that's all you need, they would understand the person that he is, the professional that he is and how much he cares about the club. But the history was there.

"I think he made, I would say a risky move, when he opened up and expressed completely his feelings, but as well he's done that because he's prepared.

"He feels that environment is going to protect him. He feels loved at the club and the response I think it was great.

"Thank you to the fans for showing that appreciation to him because I know how much that means to him."

There has been a massive overhaul of players at Arsenal over the past few years, reflected by the fact Arteta has consistently named the youngest starting XI on average this season.

Xhaka, 29, is something of an outlier in terms of age and experience, and it was put to Arteta that the midfielder's longevity was somewhat surprising given his past issues.

"We need some balance in everything that we do, especially with the characters and the personalities that are in that team," Arteta said of Xhaka's continued association with Arsenal.

"With the youth academy players that we are bringing in, with the signings that we made, with the quality that we had on and off the field, Granit in my opinion was going to have a key role and he was going to have a key leadership role to achieve what we wanted."

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