Arteta believes young Gunners can draw strength from bottle shown at Chelsea
Mikel Arteta hopes the spirit shown by his side to rescue a lost cause at Chelsea will prove to be a catalyst to transform his side’s fortunes in the months ahead.
The Gunners remain 10 points behind the Blues and are miles behind in the battle for a top four finish.
But the manner of Tuesday night’s 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge should galvanise the squad, because they proved to themselves that they do have unity and grit.
They played for an hour with 10 men but had the resilience to fight back from a goal down – and do so a second time after falling behind again with six minutes to go.
“We are paying with a lot of young kids and what they are showing tonight is going to be a great experience for them – to keep believing that in football if you put everything in, anything can happen,” said the Arsenal boss.
“I asked them that when someone makes a mistake, someone has to stand up for him and every single player did it – and with belief. I could sense at half-time the belief that they could get back in the game.
“I think we are still a long way in many aspects that we have to improve, but I think that will hold everything for the foundation to build what we want to build together and without this I think you cannot compete.
“We have to be ruthless and we have to be every day or you don’t have the mechanism to respond like we did today. I hope they take it in a good way and they say: ‘Okay, from here we move to a different level.’ “
Arteta had many plus points to look back on after a night of surprises, both in terms of the collective and in terms of individuals.
In particular he was delighted at the maturity shown by 18-year-old Gabriel Martinelli – scorer of a great solo goal after a run from half way – and Granit Xhaka, who filled in at centre half after the early loss to David Luiz to a red card.
The Spaniard said Martinelli had been exceptional: “to play in this stadium the way he’s done and with 10 men, against Azpilicueta, who in my opinion is one of the best defenders in the league.
“He was going against him every single time. You need courage to do that. And energy.
“I wanted to take him off a few times because he looked knackered, then the next minute he’s sprinting 60 yards again.”
And he said of Xhaka, who endured a torrid relationship with Arsenal fans not so long ago: “From day one, I spoke with him and obviously his mind was a little bit blurry for the things that happened to him.
“I tried to convince him that this was the right place for him to stay and I want to give him the opportunity to try and enjoy again to play football and everything I ask him to do, he’s willing to do it.
“Today when I put him there [in defence], I didn’t know how good he was going to do but knew he was going to put everything on that.”