Mikel Arteta believes it is increasingly difficult to qualify for the Champions League, but is confident that Arsenal will make it again this season.

The Spaniard captained his side to a hard-fought victory at Sunderland on Saturday that saw them move up to fifth in the Premier League table.

Arsène Wenger’s side are still four points behind Tottenham but have 12 games, including a trip to White Hart Lane, in which to bridge the gap and reach Europe's elite competition for the 16th season in succession - a task which Arteta says is getting tougher.

“I think that 10 seasons ago it was not as difficult to get into the top four as it is now,” he said. “At the moment there are six or seven teams who can get there and that says a lot about the improvement of English football.

“For me, no other League in Europe has the level of the top five or six teams in England. Every ground is hard; places like Sunderland, Stoke.

“But qualification is massive for us. We can’t be out of the Champions League because it is the best competition.

“This is the month where everything can look brighter or look really bad for the end of the season. But we are looking OK now and we have players hitting top form.

“The Spurs game is a big derby. This one is at their place and it could be decisive.

“But we believe we have the quality to be where we deserve to be and we will fight until the end to get there.”

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source Richard Clarke 11 Feb 2013