Mikel Arteta wants Arsenal to set the pace in top-four race

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Mikel Arteta wants Arsenal to set the pace in top-four race
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Mikel Arteta has challenged Arsenal to lay down a marker in tonight’s Premier League opener at Crystal Palace as they target a return to the Champions League.

Arsenal suffered a nightmare start last season when they went down 2-0 away at Brentford before suffering damaging defeats to Chelsea and Manchester City.

It is another tough London derby first up tonight as they travel to Selhurst Park to face an exciting young Palace side looking to build on their strong first season under Patrick Vieira.

Arteta knows the Gunners have been handed a difficult opening test but wants them to show their intent as they bid to deliver a top-four finish after their late collapse last season.

“It sets a very different tone, a very different energy, and confidence around the place, and things are much easier when you start winning football matches right from the beginning,” said Arteta.

“We want to get that positive vibe right from the beginning, and in order to do that we know that tonight is going to be a real test for us, and we want to come [away] with three points.

“We are ready to go to a different level, and I am convinced of that. What the other teams are doing is obvious, and others had already a much a stronger squad than we had, and they still recruited four or five, or some of them, seven players.

“This is not going to get any easier, so we can just focus on what we are trying to do, what we can do, because we cannot do everything at the same time, and we are confident that we’re going to be able to do it.”

Arsenal have bad memories from their last trip to Selhurst Park, which ended in a 3-0 defeat in April and dealt a major blow to their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

They eventually lost out on a top-four place to Tottenham on the final day of the season.

Arteta often likes to use painful moments as motivating tools for his players and, given how that loss at Palace was only four months ago, the squad do not need reminding about it.

“I think that one is still pretty recent, so we don’t need to dig too much into that,” he said.

Mikel Arteta saw his side thrashed during his last trip to Selhurst Park (IKIMAGES/AFP via Getty Images)
Mikel Arteta saw his side thrashed during his last trip to Selhurst Park (IKIMAGES/AFP via Getty Images)

“We have players that didn’t participate at all in that game, and it would be something that probably is not even worth mentioning. They are aware about the difficulty of tonight’s match for sure.

“They (Palace) showed last season how tough they are and how difficult they are to beat and how consistent they were at home as well, especially against the big teams they got some great results.

“They had that result against us and hopefully, we learnt a lot of lessons that day, especially the 30 minutes we had where we were nowhere near the standards that we needed, and we paid the price for it.”

There is real optimism around Arsenal, who look set for an intriguing battle with Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester United for the final two Champions League spots behind Manchester City and Liverpool.

Arteta said: “I think we are all enthusiastic. We had the pre-season that we wanted, it was well organised, we had good results, good performances, good preparation.

“But now the ball starts to roll to this evening in a completely different context against a Premier League team and we know what to expect there.”

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