Ahead of our top-of-the-table showdown with Manchester City on Wednesday night, Mikel Arteta cannot wait to experience the passion raining down from the Emirates Stadium stands.
Having enjoyed the atmosphere generated by our Gooners all campaign, the boss is hoping for an even-more energised backing from our supporters in our biggest game of the season so far, especially as he feels it will provide a huge advantage on the field.
When asked what he is most looking forward to in his pre-match press conference, Mikel said: “We’ll play with 15 players tomorrow! They are so into it with every single ball and giving us energy and support, and basically everything they have been doing. Let’s enjoy it, a beautiful night on a really special day.
“The atmosphere we are generating at the Emirates is incredible. The players are talking about it, and it makes it very special to be part of it.”
The additional noise will add to the occasion as the reigning Premier League champions come to north London, three points behind us in the table and looking to knock us off the summit for the first time since August.
Having spent three years in the blue half of Manchester as Pep Guardiola’s assistant, Mikel has first-hand knowledge of how they operate, and is impressed with how we are progressing as we aim to emulate Pep Guardiola’s team’s success in recent years.
Speaking about our opponents, he said: “What they have done in the last six years, they absolutely merit it - on the pitch and the way they play, the way they have competed and how they have gone through difficulties.
“When I was working there, it was an incredible experience on a personal and professional level, to be with [Guardiola], all the coaching staff and the players at the time. Like every experience, it made me a better person, a better coach for sure. You use those experiences for your own career.
“For us, the challenge is to get to that level and we need to use that challenge and that energy to say ‘this is where we want to be.’ That is the level, and we are heading towards it.”
With 16 games still to play after this one, including a meeting with City at the Etihad Stadium in April, Arteta follows Guardiola’s belief that this isn’t a title decider, but feels his players will benefit from playing in a game involving the top two in the title race.
“We are comparing two very different teams,” he said when comparing us to City. “One with huge experience of [winning titles] and a lot of our players have never done it. We want to use that energy and that anger that we have inside to make the most out of it.
“I don’t know how much experience we had when we had to play Manchester United at home, or Chelsea or Spurs away. It’s about how good we are tomorrow night, how well we perform - that will dictate what happens in the game.
“At the end of the day, it’s still three points. The same three points we had to play against Spurs, and the two points we lost against Brentford - exactly the same.”
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