Mikel Arteta has said there were “many moments” last season when he thought his Arsenal team would give it their all to win the Premier League, only for a lack of depth to end up costing his side, leaving him in pain of their near miss. .
Arsenal looked set to clinch the league title before injuries, especially central defender William Saliba’s back problem, killed their hopes of holding off Manchester City.
In an interview with Spanish publication Marca, Arteta has now said he believes those injuries were the reason for the team’s loss of consistency. The Arsenal manager also pointed to his side’s run of draws against Liverpool, West Ham United and Southampton as a pivotal moment in the title race, opening up on the “pain” he felt losing to his former mentor Pep Guardiola.
“To this day it still hurts me a lot that I didn’t win the Premier League after 10 months of battling with City,” said Arteta. “But that’s the sport. That said, what has been achieved with such a young team is worth it. That is also clear to me.”
He added: “Those three draws in a row we had [against Liverpool, West Ham and Southampton] punished us, and all the misfortunes that happened. There were three or four injuries to key players and everything got complicated from there.
“When we had the full team, we were consistent. Once trouble came, it didn’t reach us. And then our rival was the best team in the world, the best team in the world, the best coach in the world. We had no choice but to accept it and shake hands with the champion.”
Asked if he saw himself winning the Premier League title, Arteta said: “A lot of times. The team gave me arguments and we bonded with the people. People believed in it.
“But when we started getting injuries I felt it was going to cost us. The question could not be held. If you want to win the Premier League against City you need to go to April-May with all the players available and at their best. And we didn’t get to that due to injuries.”
Arteta left City for Arsenal in December 2019 after serving his apprenticeship under Guardiola’s tutelage.
“This started [more than] three years ago. I was Pep’s assistant at City, we played against Arsenal and I saw that the soul of the club was lost,” said Arteta.
“It was not enjoyed, it was not felt. I knew shortly after that there was the opportunity to sit on the other bench and I knew that this club is so big that you have to connect the team with the fans. It was hard to do, and now I feel happy.
“We have a clear identity, there is unity and we are full of energy. That is the most important. From top to bottom, they all push in the same direction.”
Arteta has identified a lack of depth as the reason for not winning the title last season and hopes to address that weakness this summer. Arsenal will announce the signing of Kai Havertz from Chelsea in the coming days, after a £65 million fee was agreed.
They are still in talks with West Ham about Declan Rice and, despite competition from City, remain confident that the England midfielder is keen to make the switch to North London.
After admitting he “can’t talk about players who aren’t in the club” in regards to Rice, Arteta was more open to discussing Havertz, with the Germany international set to complete his move through London.
“Talent comes at a price and at Arsenal we are always interested in young players with experience,” said Arteta. “I repeat, I am not talking about players from other clubs, but in the case of Kai, he has already shown a lot, including a Champions League.” [win]. He is a talented player, versatile and only 24 years old.”
Arsenal are also negotiating with Ajax for a move of Dutch international defender Jurrien Timber, who could join for a fee of between £35m and £40m.
Depending on the future of Thomas Partey, who is allowed to leave the club for the right price, Arsenal are also considering signing another central midfielder this summer.
Arteta also responded to a question about reports linking him with a move to Paris St Germain to replace recently sacked head coach Christophe Galtier, but insisted he was “happy” and “grateful” to join the north London side to be a club.
“I can only say that I am happy at Arsenal,” he said. “I feel loved, valued by our owners, Stan and Josh (Kroenke), and I have a lot to do here at this club. I am happy and immensely grateful to be at Arsenal.”
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