Mikel Arteta says the gap between Arsenal and the clubs at the top of the Premier League is a clear indication that his side must keep improving if they are to become a force to be reckoned with.
Nine wins in 11 games is a clear indication the Gunners are heading in the right direction but the manager is utterly unwilling to let a few good headlines distract from the job at hand, especially with everything still to lose.
Ahead of Wednesday’s huge clash with Liverpool, he said: “I think we are much closer than we were, and probably the closest that we have been in terms of what we are looking for. But I focus on that gap. And that gap is still big.”
He’s not wrong. While Arsenal might be sitting fourth in the Premier League with Champions League football within their grasp there’s also a considerable gap to bridge if we’re to be considered title challengers in years to come. Table-toppers Manchester City are 19 points ahead.
So where does he see the room for improvement?
“We have to make things quicker, sharper,” said the boss. “We can be more adaptable, we can be much more unpredictable, we can have much more flexibility and we can be much more consistent throughout games to maintain that level.”
The Spaniard also returned to a common theme of his time in charge – the importance of the collective.
Reflecting on how Arsenal have turned things around since August’s shaky start to the campaign, he said: “Everybody is aligned with the same purpose.
“With the same determination and with the same level of passion to achieve what we want to do. Accepting we are not there, but we want to get to the top very quickly and in order to do that we have to do it together.
“We don’t have any single player or any single member of staff in the organisation that can do it individually, all by themselves so it has to be a collective drive to get that bit extra and one of those main factors, for me, has been the Emirates and our supporters. How much they are giving to the team, it’s difficult to put a number on it but I’m telling you it’s been one of the biggest parts.”
Hardened by an eventful start to his coaching career and learning on the job that the only thing he should expect is the unexpected, Arteta is keen that self-pity has no place in his dressing room.
It’s clear he wants his players to take responsibility for their actions and, with his help, to put things right when things go wrong.
“I hate that feeling, of feeling sorry for ourselves. Of saying ‘oh, this is happening to us again’.
“A lot of things happen, and when they happen we have to find the reason why. If we don’t want it happening again we have to do something about it because if we keep doing the same thing then I expect the same thing – or worse – to happen, because we already have a history.
“So we have less margin to suffer, because we have already been there. We have to change that dynamic completely and look at what we can become and how we are going to do it. If we put all the effort and energy there, the rest will take care of itself.”