Mikel Arteta believes that we can continue to battle for both the Premier League and the Europa League, as the momentum gained from each competition can help drive the other.
We return to European action against Sporting CP on Thursday night after a four-month break which has seen us maintain top spot in the league, prompting many to suggest we may just focus on domestic affairs for the rest of the campaign.
However, Mikel is adamant that we will continue to fight on both fronts as he looks to try and progress as far in Europe as possible, with the end goal to hopefully claim our first continental honour since 1994.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, he said: “Our priority is the two competitions. Obviously we have to earn the right to continue in this competition to get as far as we want, and tomorrow we're going to face a really difficult opponent.
“The best way to prepare for any competition is to win the previous match and having the confidence and the proper emotion to approach the next game. Tomorrow if we play well and we are able to win the game, that will better prepare us for the next game.”
During the group stage, many predicted that the boss would make wholesale changes to his starting line-up as we looked to juggle domestic and European action, but instead only a sprinkling of changes occurred each week as Mikel kept a strong side in mind and showed complete respect to our opponents.
He felt as though that was necessary to ensure we progressed as group winners, but was also forced to at times due to unfortunate injuries to players who may have been required to step up.
“We have one team, and we have to play all the games with the best possible players to win them,” he added. “At this moment we have made eight changes [in the competition] so we try to accommodate.
“We have certain players where we don’t know if they will last 60, 70 or 90 minutes. We have to be really good at maintaining the quality and the balance in the team, as well as the threat to be as competitive as we can for the 95 or 96 minutes the game is going to last.
“As well, players have moments in the season where they are available or not available, and tomorrow it will be the same case, but for sure, we will try to put the most competitive team together to win the game.”
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