Mikel Arteta demands full Arsenal focus on Everton clash despite turbulent week

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Mark Mann-Bryans, PA
·3-min read
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Mikel Arteta wants to keep his Arsenal players focused on the task of facing Everton on Friday night despite a turbulent week off the pitch which saw the club backtrack on plans to join a breakaway European Super League and their supporters plan protests against the owners.

The Gunners host Arteta’s former club in the Premier League, looking to leapfrog the visitors and reach eighth place with a win.

But the fixture will be played out against a backdrop of one of the most tumultuous weeks in the recent history of football.

Arsenal, along with five other Premier League clubs, announced on Sunday evening their plans to be founder members of a new European Super League.

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The response from supporters and the wider footballing world was almost completely negative to the extent that, by Tuesday evening, Arsenal – as well as Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham – withdrew from the process.

Although Arsenal apologised to their supporters in a statement confirming they had quit the project, the wedge between fans and the club’s owners had already grown larger.

There are now protests planned against Stan Kroenke to take place outside the Emirates Stadium ahead of the Everton clash – with Arteta keen to keep the minds of his players on the task at hand.

“I will try to prepare the team in the best possible way so that isn’t the case,” he said when asked if he was worried the week’s events could prove a distraction.

“We know that we might have a situation outside the stadium because our fans want to express their feelings, and our job is to try to make the team as focused as possible to perform on the pitch.

“I am getting used to it, since I joined it has been a roller coaster and more things have happened in those 18 months than probably in the last 20 years.

“Dealing with it, trying to maintain the unity and commitment of everybody, trying to be clear and transparent with the news that we have, and trying to move on.

“It’s been a really challenging week for everybody in world football but we have to move forward.

“There are a lot of lessons we can take from it and we have to learn and probably reflect and put football in a better position.”

Arsenal will come up against former head coach Unai Emery's Villarreal side in the Europa League semi-finals.
Arsenal will come up against former head coach Unai Emery’s Villarreal side in the Europa League semi-finals (Adam Davy/PA)

With Arsenal nine points off the top four and with a Europa Leaue semi-final against Villarreal on the horizon, Arteta admits winning their remaining seven league games may be the only route into Europe through the Premier League.

“I want to focus on Everton,” he added.

“We still have more than five days to prepare (for the first leg against Villarreal) and how we get on there will depend on how we do against Everton and that is the only focus today for the team.

“We need to win every game now in the Premier League to give us the best possible chance to be in Europe next season through that competition.”