Next two games crucial for Arsenal's season, says Arteta

LONDON • The tails are up at Arsenal after four straight wins in all competitions but with a testing run coming up, Mikel Arteta wants his players to go into those games with maximum confidence.

The Gunners host fellow bottom-half sides Crystal Palace today and Newcastle on Monday but their Premier League fixture list after that reads as follows: Southampton away, Manchester United at home, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa away.

Three successive top-flight wins have somewhat banished the memory of their worst start to a league campaign since 1974-75, so Arteta is eager to build on momentum.

Ahead of welcoming Palace to the Emirates, where a victory may see them move into the top 10 depending on other results, the Spaniard said at his virtual pre-match press conference: "The next two games are crucial to see the direction that we are taking.

"To reinforce all the things that we have improved on and the results that we are having recently.

"We will know much more I think after the next two games. We want to keep that consistency and having the belief that we can go into every game with the feeling that we are going to win it. The more games we are able to win the better that feeling is going to be.

"Obviously, to start thinking more about the table in a different direction, if you are able to win these matches, your mind starts to look in a much more positive way."

He also received a boost after it was revealed that the ankle injury suffered by forward Gabriel Martinelli, who missed their FA Cup win over Newcastle over the weekend, was not as bad as feared.

Defender Gabriel Magalhaes, who has missed the past three games after testing positive for Covid-19, and midfielder Thomas Partey, who has been out for the last 10 games through injury, are also likely to return.

With the return of key players and should captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang regain his scoring touch, Arsenal can have a positive second half to the campaign.

The Gabon striker is enduring the worst spell since joining in January 2018, with just three top-flight strikes this season and six overall.

But he is hoping Arsenal's upturn in form can help him recover his sharpshooting ability that has seen him plunder 60 goals in all competitions in the past two terms.

"From the beginning of this season, I was struggling a lot but I think this is part of football," he told Sky Sports. "Sometimes, you have ups and downs and you have to manage as best you can.

"I tried my best and until now, it was not the best performance from me. I'm still positive. I think I can turn this around."



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2021, with the headline Next two games crucial for Arsenal's season, says Arteta. Subscribe