Comment on this story
LONDON — Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta faces a challenge that overshadows the club’s achievement of promotion to the top of the Premier League table in the pre-season campaign. World Cup: how to maintain the improbable streak?
The Gunners hope to pick up their league season where they left off six weeks ago when they welcome West Ham in the Boxing Day finals which will conclude a seven-game schedule on Monday.
Arsenal were the best team in the Premier League in the first half of the season and have a five-point lead over Manchester City, but their task will be made much more difficult without talisman Gabriel Jesus, who is recovering from a knee injury he suffered. in Qatar while playing in Brazil.
In contrast, West Ham, who are 16th, have only managed to stay out of the relegation zone after a slow start that included four wins from the team’s first 15 games, but Arteta is not taking the Hammers for granted lightly
“We have to do that (build momentum) on the pitch. We’ve talked a lot about it. We know the importance of starting strong and we’re playing at home,” Arteta said. “It’s a very special day in the history of the Premier League, it’s a very special family day to play football, there is an incredible atmosphere on this day and we want to make the most of it.”
He also made a point of praising his young side’s consistency through the opening 14 games of the season, a stretch that has included wins over rivals Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea. However, tougher tests lie ahead.
“Probably the level we showed and the consistency we showed within that level, which with the group and the age we have is not easy,” said Arteta. “We have shown real maturity at certain times, especially against big rivals.
“The goal is to play better every day, continue to grow individually and collectively and continue to deserve to win games. That’s all we can hope for because football is a very complicated game.”
Although Arsenal do not resume their Europa League campaign until March, the FA Cup kicks off in January and Arteta knows rotation will be key, especially after some of his squad were involved in the World Cup in Qatar.
The Gunners will play six games over the next 28 days and have an equally busy schedule in February.
“There will be periods when you will have time to train and other periods when the games will come quickly and you will have big congested periods,” Arteta said. “It will be very important the health of the team, the shape they are in and how much rotation can help us maintain the level we want.”
In the first game of the day, Tottenham travel to London to face Brentford at lunchtime with Spurs manager Antonio Conte insisting the restart of the league comes too soon after the final of the World Cup.
The Premier League resumes just eight days after Spurs duo Hugo Lloris and Cristian Romero battled it out in Qatar for the World Cup.
Although Conte has already confirmed that the World Cup finalists will not be playing on Monday, the Italian is determined to get past Croatia’s Ivan Perisic, as well as England pair Harry Kane and Eric Dier, after the trio made the round of 16
“It’s a strange situation and to be honest, playing so fast, just a week after the World Cup, I’m not really happy,” he said. “On the one hand, you’re happy because for my club, Tottenham, to have 12 players at the World Cup means we’re on the right track to try to be competitive and try to win something in the future.
“But it’s normal that when you have so many players playing a tournament like this, especially during the season, it’s not easy now because the physical condition is not at its best.”
In the day’s other games, Crystal Palace host Fulham in another London derby, Everton welcome Wolves, Newcastle visit Leicester, Brighton travel to south coast rivals Southampton and Liverpool heads to Aston Villa.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports