Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal can cope with the demands that a push for a top-four finish in the Premier League and a deep Europa League run will place upon them.
The Gunners have lost their past two Premier League games 1-0 and will have contested seven matches in just over three weeks by the time the November international break comes around.
With a three-month suspension of all football during the previous campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020-21 season started late and the fixtures will consequently continue to come thick and fast.
Arteta could only steer Arsenal to eighth in the league last season, with qualification to the Europa League secured via success in the FA Cup.
A top-four finish in the Premier League and winning the Europa League represent Arsenal’s two potential paths into next season’s Champions League, and despite the fixture congestion Arteta does not see a reason to pick between them.
“Well we’re going to try for sure to do that and at the moment we have the squad to try to achieve that,” he replied when asked if it was possible to fight on both fronts.
“What is going to happen in six weeks or six months we don’t know, and how the players are going to assimilate all the minutes in their legs and how they’re going to respond to that is a big question mark for all the managers and all the clubs. But starting this season, for sure this is our aim.”
Super sub Aubameyang!
Arsenal lead in Vienna after going a goal down #UEL pic.twitter.com/HSoQLQiKQk
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) October 22, 2020
Arsenal have been hindered recently by a struggling attack and have failed to score more than twice in any of their previous eight games.
In the Premier League this season, Arsenal are averaging just 8.8 shots per match – their lowest such figure since at least 1997-98 – and 1.3 goals per game, their worst rate in 25 years.
Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are finding goals hard to come by, and Arteta believes the Gunners’ centre-backs hold one of the keys to the duo returning to their prolific best.
“When you face a low block like Leicester [City] did when they played 5-4-1 and the striker comes with the holding midfielder, if you don’t utilise your two central defenders you are playing eight against 10 the whole game. That’s a really difficult game to play,” said Arteta.
“They have to step in, they need to know which spaces to attack, which players they have to commit, which players and areas they have to provoke. They become crucial there.
“It’s something we haven’t had time to do, we haven’t really faced and we have to start training. But it’s a really good sign that a big team like Leicester comes here to sit and says, ‘We want to be here’.
“We will work on that, we will improve on that and we will give much more to our strikers so they can finish games off.”
Ahead of Thursday’s Europa League clash with Dundalk, however, Arteta’s options in the heart of defence are significantly depleted with David Luiz having joined Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Pablo Mari on the sidelines.