Arsenal take on West Ham at the Emirates this afternoon looking to move within five points of fourth-placed Chelsea as they seek to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Mikel Arteta’s men were dealt a major blow last week when their chances of playing in Europe’s premier competition were halved courtesy of their Europa League exit at the hands of Olympiakos.
The Gunners, who have not played in the Champions League in any of the last three seasons, can now only qualify via the league.
Headed into today’s fixtures, Arsenal sit 10th on 37 points, eight away from fourth spot and five adrift of fifth-placed Manchester United having played a game less than each.
Arsenal’s game in hand, however, is away at champions Manchester City while they also take on Wolves, Leicester, Tottenham and leaders Liverpool before the end of the season.
And that means the north Londoners’ need to pick up the full three points at home to the Hammers today is all the greater, but Arteta has sought to play down that pressure.
“When we were in December nobody talked about Champions League,” Arteta said. “It was an impossible thing. It is not in our hands.
“If we don’t reach any European competition we know what the meaning of that is so they don’t need any more pressure.
“They don’t think too much about the Champions League or the Europa League – or the relegation zone when we were talking about that, which is a much worse pressure I believe as well.
“They are dealing with the situation. We try to help them to focus just on what they have to do on that pitch and the rest will come naturally.”
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But Arteta is well aware of the threat that they face with David Moyes’ men having given Liverpool a scare recently, though they eventually lost 3-2 at Anfield.
“They caused a lot of problems to big teams recently,” the Arsenal manager continued.
“I know David because I worked with him for seven years.
“I know his structure, I know how organised he is. I am sure he’ll put a team out there that is going to make life very difficult for us.
“They will compete, they will be physical. We need to use our resources, play our game and then just think about performing.
“That performance will bring the points home.”
Arsenal vs West Ham lineups
Arsenal XI: Leno, Sokratis, Luiz, Mari, Saka, Xhaka, Ceballos, Ozil, Pepe, Nketiah, Aubameyang
Arsenal bench: Martinez, Bellerin, Guendouzi, Willock, Nelson, Martinelli, Lacazette
West Ham XI: Fabianski, Ngakia, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Noble, Rice, Fornals, Bowen, Antonio, Haller.
West Ham bench: Randolph, Balbuena, Zabaleta, Soucek, Snodgrass, Lanzini, F. Anderson
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