By Nick Ames
Mikel Arteta believes that last week’s win over AC Milan gave an important boost to Arsenal's image.
The Spaniard, who was unable to play after sustaining a head injury in the game against Liverpool, told the Official Matchday Programme that the manner of the 3-0 Champions League win - and of several others recently - suggests that Arsenal are growing in confidence at a crucial time.
“At least we changed our image a bit, as a club and as individual players,” said Arteta.
“We needed that because we produced a really disappointing performance in Milan. Now we’ve had three really good performances against top teams [Tottenham, Liverpool and Milan], winning them all and coming back well when under a lot of pressure. It shows that the team has a lot of character and never gives up.”
Arsenal have scored 15 goals in their last three home games, suggesting that they’ve rediscovered their free-scoring edge of previous seasons.
“I think everyone’s getting more confident, trying more things - and as the manager would say, we’re playing ‘without the handbrake’ and are not scared to lose,” explained Arteta.
“When you’re scared to lose you never give 100 per cent of your qualities, but we’re looking more fluent offensively now and hopefully we now have three interesting months ahead – let’s see what we can do.”
The 5-2 win over Spurs was a prime example of that fluency and Mikel was singled out by captain Robin van Persie after that game as a catalyst for Arsenal’s comeback. He says that upping the pressure on the visitors was key to the floodgates opening.
“The supporters had to see a reaction from us, because being 2-0 down at home against Spurs was not a good situation at all,” he said.
“We had to take a gamble and really pressurise them, and in doing that we got the crowd behind us too. As soon as we started closing them down intensely, winning some balls and stepping up the pressure then you saw what happened – it went to 2-1, then 2-2, and Spurs knew that they were going to lose the game after that. You could see it in their faces and their energy levels.
“You could feel that we were up for it and that they didn’t know what to do with what was coming to them. In the end, it was definitely one of the nicest games I have ever played in.”
- Read the full interview with Mikel in Monday's Official Matchday Programme. Click here to subscribe