Mikel Arteta has admitted Newcastle United have been transformed into one of the biggest Premier League powerhouses during Rafa Benítez’s time in charge but feels that after a difficult couple of weeks during which he found himself struggling for first-team football, their victory at Arsenal could bring renewed confidence to the Gunners.
Arteta, who was involved in his side’s 6-3 victory over Newcastle, played 75 minutes of the 3-2 comeback victory at Southampton on Wednesday, the day before the Gunners defeated Crystal Palace 1-0 in the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg.
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The assistant manager was initially forced to train with the reserves during the week and may have had to consider leaving the Emirates Stadium as a result of his subdued performance in the league win at West Bromwich Albion a week earlier.
But now Arteta, in his first season as a full-time first-team coach, has been back to his best, he is understandably expecting a tougher test against Rafa Benítez’s side on Saturday.
He said: “They [Newcastle] have been, after some strong results, in the top 10 of the Premier League and have become more confident. They have done really well and under Rafa’s guidance they play really good football. There are some top players. They like to press and make things happen. The pressure will be quite high. The best thing we can do is forget about this week’s game, we have to be 100% focused on Saturday.
“We have been playing well recently, it’s always difficult to change your mood straight away. We have played good football and we have been in the top four of the Premier League. When you win games, confidence comes back and [you] get that feeling again.”
Arteta believes one positive for Arsenal is the fact that in the past two weeks they have performed in the Champions League and the League Cup, meaning they may not need to make wholesale changes.
“It’s always difficult to change the side, especially when you don’t have a lot of players out,” he said. “We are in a good moment in terms of the Champions League and the League Cup, so I don’t think we need to make a lot of changes.
“If the players who are back play well, more will come back, so I am confident we will have a competitive side.”
Arsenal, who will be looking to win the League Cup for the first time since 2005, meet Crystal Palace on Tuesday in the first leg of their semi-final tie at Selhurst Park.
But Arteta believes the players were still focused on Wednesday’s match when they arrived at Arsenal’s pre-match training session.
“The mood is good,” he said. “The guys want to win everything and the two results we had [at the weekend] are great news for everyone.
“It’s never easy to be involved in both competitions and I know we can only play together, so I think we have a chance in both, but first we need to focus on Newcastle first and then we will see the results from the week.”