Arteta: Arsenal have 'responsibility' to qualify for Europe

Slavia Prague's Lukas Provod (left) and Arsenal's Thomas Partey battle for the ball at Emirates Stadium

Slavia Prague's Lukas Provod (left) and Arsenal's Thomas Partey battle for the ball during the UEFA Europa League match at Emirates Stadium - Credit: PA

Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal have a "responsibility" to deliver European football for next season.

The Gunners head to basement club Sheffield United on Sunday bidding to climb up the Premier League from their mid-table position.

Arsenal are also locked at 1-1 at the midway point of their Europa League quarter-final with Slavia Prague, leaving their European ambitions for next season hanging in the balance.

And boss Arteta insisted he does not feel pressure to reach Europe next term, but instead appreciates the necessity.

Asked if he feels personal pressure to steer Arsenal into European competition next season, Arteta replied: "It is not pressure - it is our responsibility.

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"The club we represent has high demands and that is the minimum we can ask for and we have to, over time, work to deliver those goals because it is what we get asked for."

Asked if there could be any benefit to a season out of Europe in order to build a long-term project, Arteta continued: "We go back to what we used to say when those teams were in a position not to qualify for Europe, we are talking about similar things.

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"It is true there are some really good examples of teams that were rebuilding their teams and it helped them in their project, but I would rather be in Europe."

Asked where failing to qualify for Europe would leave Arsenal, Arteta added: "That's too many ifs. What if we qualify for Europe and win the Europa League? I prefer to think like that."

Midfielder Thomas Partey is finally approaching full sharpness after long-term injury issues.
Arteta now believes the 27-year-old is ready to hit top form - this season, not next.

"Hopefully on Sunday and next Thursday you can see the best version of Thomas," said Arteta.

"Now he has got a sequence of two or three games, apart from the international break, I think you will see that he will finish the season in a really strong way.

"It is very difficult to make a real assessment because he has missed six months. That is a long time.

"He is still adapting to our way of playing which is different to what he did at Atletico Madrid.
"He had some big sparks and we can all see what he can bring to the team.

"Now it is about finding that consistency level that we need from him and building a team that can play around him because he has that capacity."

Meanwhile, Arteta does not think Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will become another Mesut Ozil and says the striker is "totally" committed to the club.

Aubameyang signed a hefty new three-year contract last summer but has failed to deliver this season and found himself in and out of Arteta's team in recent weeks, while also being dropped for the north London derby after arriving to the stadium late.

His situation at the Emirates has similarities to that of Ozil, who vastly under-performed while being on huge wages before eventually being exiled by Arteta.

But the boss is not interested in comparisons, adding: "I'm always positive about the future but once you think about things that happen in the past or compare different situations and personalities I won't do that."

Asked whether Aubameyang was committed to the Gunners' cause, the Spaniard added: "Totally."

Aubameyang came on as a 78th-minute substitute against Slavia Prague in the Europa League and assisted Nicolas Pepe's opener before his side let in a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw at the Emirates.

Arteta was pleased with the Gabonese international's impact off the bench.

"Yes because we talked before - in the Europa League everyone has contributed in different ways, the whole squad has been involved and yesterday's role for him (was) he was sat on the bench and to make an impact and he made an impact," he said,

"He assisted Nico and should have scored a tap-in with his left foot and that's what the players have to do when they come in."

One win in the last four league games has made European qualification difficult through the league as they sit seven points behind sixth-placed Spurs and 12 behind fourth-placed Chelsea.

But Arteta is not giving up, although he accepts his side have to go on a winning run.

"To win the next game against Sheffield, that's the only focus that we have," he said. "There's still eight games, there's a lot of points to play for, mathematically everything is possible but we have to put a run together."

Martin Odegaard is expected to miss out with the ankle injury that kept him out of the Prague game, with Calum Chambers also a doubt. David Luiz and Kieran Tierney are definitely sidelined with knee problems.

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