Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is refusing to accept that a top-five Premier League finish would represent success as he targets Champions League qualification.
The Gunners travel to Newcastle on Monday evening for their penultimate game of the season locked in a battle for fourth place with neighbours Tottenham, who kept up the heat by following up Thursday’s 3-0 north London derby triumph with a 1-0 win over Burnley on Sunday.
However, asked if fifth would be something to celebrate, Arteta was unequivocal.
It's in our hands and we want to now capitalise on that and the excitement and the opportunity's there, and we will really want to go for it.Mikel Arteta
He said: “No. We want to be playing in the Champions League, and that’s the end. We’ve come so far.
“It’s in our hands and we want to now capitalise on that and the excitement and the opportunity’s there, and we will really want to go for it.”
The trip to St James’ Park, where the Magpies have secured their top-flight status despite losing to top two Liverpool and Manchester City in their last two games, is followed by a final-day home clash with Everton.
Arsenal have not finished in the top four since they ended the 2015-16 season as runners-up, and have had to make do with eighth in each of the last two campaigns.
That said, Arteta is adamant his players should relish the opportunity to take the club back into European football’s big time.
He said: “It’s not pressure, it’s excitement, and this is what we have built over the last few months. And as I said, top four is the target. Now, it’s in our hands, and we want to deliver that.”
Arteta faces something of a selection headache at the back with Rob Holding suspended as a result of his red card in the derby and Ben White and Gabriel both battling injury.
But asked if he would have taken the current situation at the beginning of the season, the manager said: “Absolutely, yes. It is a good place to be.
“As I said, it is in our hands. We have done a lot in the past few months to be in this position, so let’s go for it.”