LONDON: Mikel Arteta insists Arsenal will not down tools in the Europa League to help their bid to win a first Premier League title for 19 years.
Arteta’s Premier League leaders sit five points clear of second-placed Manchester City with 11 games left.
Bowing out of the Europa League could aid the Gunners’ hopes of holding onto the lead in the title race as it would allow more recovery and preparation time.
But Arteta does not share that view because the Arsenal boss is trying to restore a winning culture to a club mired in mediocrity for much of the past two decades.
Arsenal host Sporting Lisbon in the second leg of their Europa League last 16 clash on Thursday with the tie delicately balanced after a 2-2 draw in Portugal last week.
“Our priority is the two competitions,” Arteta said. “The best way to prepare for any competition is to win the previous match and having the confidence and the proper emotion to approach the next game.”
Arteta’s philosophy has so far been proved right.
Arsenal have won six and drawn one of their seven Premier League games immediately following their Europa League matches this season.
Despite arriving back in London in the early hours of Friday morning, the visitors cruised to a 3-0 win at Fulham on Sunday with the game won by half-time.
It is master against the apprentice in the Premier League title fight as Arteta takes on his former boss in City manager Pep Guardiola.
Arteta was Guardiola’s assistant for three years between 2016 and 2019.
The influence of Guardiola is clear to see Arsenal’s style of play under Arteta, but also in the mentality, the Spaniard is trying to instil.
City lifted the League Cup for four consecutive seasons under Guardiola between 2018 and 2021.
Rather than preferring a less congested fixture schedule, the City boss believes that winning trophies is an “addiction.”
The FA Cup is where Arsenal have been able to get their hit over the past 19 years, winning the competition five times, including in Arteta’s first season in charge.
But Arsenal have only won one European trophy in their history – the 1993/94 Cup Winners’ Cup.
Arteta is desperate to change that appalling record for a club of Arsenal’s size and is not willing to compromise despite the risk his young squad could run out of gas in the final months of the season.
If Arsenal are to make it to the final in Budapest on May 31, they will have to progress past a stellar cast of big names in Europe’s second-tier competition.
Manchester United have one foot in the quarter-finals after a comprehensive 4-1 win over Real Betis at Old Trafford.
Juventus still have work to do when they travel to Freiburg defending a slender 1-0 first leg lead.
Six-time winners Sevilla may be fighting a relegation battle in La Liga but are always a threat in the knockout stages of the Europa League and take a 2-0 lead to Istanbul against Fenerbahce.
Jose Mourinho led Roma to their first European trophy in 61 years by lifting the Europa Conference League last season.
The Italian giants are also well-placed to reach the last eight after beating Real Sociedad 2-0 at home last week.