Arsenal Euro hopes next season still a possibility, says hopeful Arteta
Mikel Arteta remains positive on Arsenal’s outside chances of clinching European football next season, after late goals from Gabriel Martinelli and Nicolas Pepe earned a 3-1 win at Crystal Palace.
The Gunners were unconvincing for the most part at Selhurst Park, despite the result, with Pepe’s first of the night initially cancelled out by Christian Benteke.
It was rough luck for the Eagles, especially on an evening which was all about their manager, Roy Hodgson, who is departing the club at the end of the season.
The veteran boss, 73, was given a rousing send off by Crystal Palace fans as well as being afforded a guard of honour prior to what was his final home game in charge.
From Arsenal’s point of view, a club record-equalling 13 games in a 38-game season has proven costly in general. This London derby win was the fourth in a row in the Premier League which supplies a faint lifeline in the quest for European football next term – but it may have come too late ahead of the crucial final round of fixtures.
The Gunners need results to go their way if they are to finish seventh and claim a place in next season's inaugural Europa League Conference competition. And manager Arteta is at least holding out some hope.
He said: "We will keep fighting right up to the last day. If someone said in November or December [they could qualify for Europe] it looked impossible but we've been on a strong run these past six months and we deserve a chance to be there on the final day.
"It was a crucial moment because we wanted to go into the final day with every chance to be in Europe next season. In order to do that we knew we had to win today and wait for some results, and with the way the game was developing, we were running out of time and it looked difficult. But at the end we found a way to do it.
“When you're able to win a game in the last minute, it's always really pleasing because it shows the team how much they want it and [how much they] believe up to the last whistle, so really good.”
The north Londoners, in ninth place, host Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday in the final game of the season. They must beat the Seagulls and hope both Everton and Tottenham Hotspur drop points against Manchester City and Leicester City respectively, otherwise the club will be without a European spot for the first time in 25 years.
“I think what ourselves and the number of points that we've managed to get in those months, we have earned the right to be in that position,” added Arteta. “Now it's time to deliver on the final day, but unfortunately, it's not in our hands."
The Gunners’ chief also paid tribute to Hodgson and his longevity in football.
“I think it was great timing to get the crowd back in at the stadium because what they did for him, I think was really emotional and nice and totally deserved,” explained the Spaniard.
“I apologise for that [the win] but what he’s done in his career is incredible. It’s not about what happened tonight.”