Mikel Arteta says Arsenal matching Manchester City impossible after break

When Mikel Arteta looks over the Wembley turf on Saturday night, what will he see? Part of the answer is simple: at certain points he will have to watch Manchester City whirring into gear and rendering his players virtual onlookers, regardless of the outcome. But the sight of his former team in full flow may be interpreted in different ways. Is it a vision of what he expects to replicate in the process of making Arsenal fully relevant again? Or will it be a maddening 90-minute confirmation of exactly how far his plans are from being realised?

Anyone dismissing Arteta’s chances of leading Arsenal to the FA Cup final should exercise caution, particularly after they punished slackness in a manifestly superior Liverpool on Wednesday and dug out a potentially crucial win. He knows that kind of firefighting display is no long-term route to success. It may be required again, though, and the idea does not sit easily. Arteta was asked whether Arsenal’s transition to his preferred style had been slower than expected and the bristling in his reply was unmistakable.

“No,” he said. “You are asking me if I wanted to play, after a two-month break, like City right now? Look back on the issues we had with a lot of players, with all the injuries, with suspensions, with players out. It is impossible. I need to adapt, I need to win games and I need to find ways to do that. My task, my long-term situation, in how we want to play is very clear.”

Mental gymnastics are not required in order to see how the aggressive pressing Arsenal’s forwards use to hound opponents into errors could, with better players elsewhere and if channelled more consistently, become the basis for something formidable. Finding those reinforcements, though, remains the biggest problem and Arteta is understandably twitchy.

His media appearances in midweek were spent pushing the view that, if Arsenal desire a return to the Champions League, investment is imperative. He was careful to say on Friday that those statements should not have been interpreted as a challenge to the hierarchy, emphasising he can make such contentions to the Kroenkes at any time. But he thinks Arsenal remain stuck between transfer market scenarios, even though the most obviously transformative of them sailed away with their top-four chances, and are bound by variables partly out of their control.

“There are many different aspects,” he said. “Obviously the financial one, depending on where we finish, is one. Depending on the future of a few players and obviously depending on the transfer market. We don’t know the type of market we are going to find. It is something unique, it never happened and there are a lot of question marks around that.

“We cannot stick to something that maybe is not possible to do, so we have to be flexible and creative … but to have clear ideas of what we need to do and how we are going to do it.”

Reaching the Europa League would help and, while the semi-final has been billed as do or die, six points from their games against Aston Villa and Watford would stand a good chance of squeezing Arsenal in. But the £15m they might earn from a strong group stage performance is unlikely to make the difference between budgetary plans. Their ability to find takers for Matteo Guendouzi, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and a host of other squad players stands more chance of being relevant.

Flexibility and creativity: those words will come to mind in a different context when Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva work Wembley’s angles. Defeating a team whose qualities Arteta helped instil would, however it is done, be a means to the end of emulating them. “[What we can do] will depend a lot on what we do on the pitch in the next three or four games,” he said. “That is in our hands, so we have to maximise it.”

source: theguardian.com