Mikel Arteta has called on Arsenal to relish the physical side of Sunday’s meeting with old rivals Manchester United, as the Gunners look to maintain their lead at the Premier League summit.
Arsenal hold a five-point advantage over Manchester City – who host Wolves on Sunday – at the top of the table, while they also have a game in hand over the defending champions.
A win over United would represent a huge step towards Arsenal’s fourth Premier League title triumph – and their first since an era in which they routinely battled the Red Devils for major honours.
Several meetings between Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal and Alex Ferguson’s United boiled over as the teams competed for Premier League dominance at the turn of the century, and Arteta says his men must also relish the dirty work in their quest for the title.
“Having that balance and having those qualities in the squad is necessary,” Arteta said. “To have the mentality and capacity to control emotions when you play on big stages is very necessary.
“The physical aspect is necessary. Without that, you cannot compete over 11 months in the conditions in which we work. We have tried to build a team that has everything.”
Asked whether Arsenal have the resilience to avoid ceding ground to a City side with experience of chasing down their competitors, Arteta added: “We haven’t done it in many years.
“To be in the title race, it’s something that we have to show we can do. Words mean nothing. We have to do it on the pitch.”
A piledriver from Granit Xhaka pic.twitter.com/4vZQ46Ccg3
— Premier League (@premierleague) January 20, 2023
While Arsenal have won five of their last seven home league games against United (D1, L1), Erik ten Hag’s men are the only team to beat the Gunners in the Premier League this season.
With Arsenal looking to avenge September’s 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford, Arteta is braced for a unique atmosphere, saying: “I’m talking to the boys to understand what we’re going to experience on Sunday.
“For us it’s very meaningful, for our fans it’s very meaningful and we are creating special atmospheres in the stadium. We have to take advantage of that, for sure.”
Despite Arsenal’s long-running rivalry with United, Sunday’s fixture will represent just the third time they have hosted the Red Devils in the Premier League while top of the table.
Both of the two previous such meetings finished level – 1-1 in March 2004 and 2-2 in November 2007.
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