Mikel Arteta maintains hope of pipping Chelsea to third, although he expects Arsenal’s bid for Champions League qualification to go to the wire after an “ugly” win at West Ham.
Arsenal played in Sunday’s late Premier League game after third-placed Chelsea and fifth-placed Tottenham played earlier in the day.
Chelsea lost at Everton, but Spurs beat Leicester City to briefly move ahead of their rivals into the top four.
Arsenal came up with a vital response, however, edging West Ham 2-1 at London Stadium to reclaim fourth place and close to within three points of Chelsea, with Thomas Tuchel acknowledging concern regarding his side’s Champions League hopes.
Manager Arteta was not impressed with the Gunners’ performance but recognised the importance of the victory.
“We didn’t concede goals, but we didn’t play so well,” he told Sky Sports. “If I had to analyse the game, I would use a word that is to win ugly. Today we won ugly.
“Big teams have to find a way to win ugly when they don’t play at their best, and today with the ball we were really poor.”
In his news conference, Arteta was asked if this below-par display might have been linked to the pressure of Tottenham playing – and winning – first, but he dismissed that suggestion as “just an excuse”.
3 – Arsenal have won three consecutive Premier League games with each coming against opponents starting the day within the top seven positions (Chelsea, Man Utd and West Ham) for the first time since March 2012 under Arsène Wenger (Spurs, Liverpool and Newcastle). Competitive. pic.twitter.com/DdOBGzZjoM
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 1, 2022
Arteta is attempting to own that pressure, insisting he could not keep the Spurs score from his players.
“I think I would be wasting my time,” he said. “If it’s not the players, it’s the staff, because everybody is with their phones, and they all know.
“So, we all knew the result beforehand, and the next week I don’t think that is going to change; until the last day of the season we will probably be connected.”
But Arsenal could yet climb further up the table, with Arteta asked if third place was now the aim.
“Mathematically, everything is open,” he replied, “so we’re going to have to go to Leeds and win again, because everybody’s going to put pressure because everybody wants to play in the position we are in now.
“We have to handle that. It’s a great opportunity, and that willingness and motivation that we have is what is driving us to continue to do so.”
Arteta was without Ben White, who is to be assessed following a hamstring injury sustained against Manchester United, while Takehiro Tomiyasu and Bukayo Saka both had to be substituted.
The Arsenal boss assured Saka was simply “really fatigued”, and Tomiyasu could not last the 90 minutes in his first start since New Year’s Day, but Arteta was not concerned.
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