Mikel Arteta has challenged Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to stay at Arsenal and become a club great.

Aubameyang scored both goals – as he did in the semi-final win over Manchester City – as Arsenal completed a stirring 2-1 FA Cup final triumph over Chelsea on Saturday.

The former Borussia Dortmund forward has 70 goals in all competitions since joining the Gunners in January 2018, but his future is the subject of mounting speculation.

Aubameyang is out of contract next year, although Arteta has repeatedly expressed confidence the Gabon international is ready to remain at Emirates Stadium.

After his superb winning goal downed London rivals Chelsea, he was challenged by his head coach to place himself alongside the likes of Ian Wright and Thierry Henry in Arsenal history.

"It's the most difficult thing in football, that's for sure, and he makes it simple – look at the second goal he scored," Arteta said.

"We always had incredible strikers at this football club and Auba deserves to be named and compared with the big names.

"By winning trophies he will be closer to that and the longer he stays there as well.

"Hopefully we can have him for more time."

Arteta also made a point of praising Aubameyang's work ethic – the captain leading by example in a squad where the likes of Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi have fallen shy of their boss' exacting standards.

"The biggest problem as well was probably to convince [Aubameyang] to work the way he is working," Arteta added.

"He was going to get more rewarded, more respected and then that respect goes from respect to admiration – admiration from his team-mates, the people who work with him and the fans.

"I think now, the way he is conducting himself on and off the field, he has got that."

Mikel Arteta thanked Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola after Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 in the FA Cup final to give the head coach what he described as the best moment of his career.

Arteta left his position as City assistant in December after three years alongside Guardiola to take over from Unai Emery at Emirates Stadium.

The 38-year-old has enjoyed a successful first campaign at Arsenal, culminating in Saturday's win at Wembley to take their record tally of triumphs in the famous competition to 14.

And Arteta, who becomes the first Arsenal boss to win a major trophy in his first season in charge since George Graham in 1986-87, was quick to laud Guardiola.

"He has been a key figure in my development as a coach," he said at his post-match news conference. 

"He has my gratitude. I wouldn't be sitting here today without him. I have to thank him big time."

Arteta also had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to thank after his double turned the all-London final around following Christian Pulisic's early opener for Chelsea.

The Spaniard, who said after the match he is optimistic Aubameyang will sign a contract extension, praised the club captain for another match-winning display.

"Big games require big moments for big players - he did that in the semi-final and now today," he said. 

"People questioning whether he can do it in big games and he's done it today."

Arsenal finished eighth in the Premier League - their lowest position since 1994-95 - but have earned a place in next season's Europa League thanks to their win over Chelsea.

Arteta is pleased with the steps his players have taken in his first eight months at the helm and is hopeful that his side can build on their latest domestic cup success.

"I think this is the best moment of my career because I know the difficulties we've been through," he said.

"I had one mission - make the players and staff believe that we could do it. Seeing the change in the dressing room is what makes me more proud.

"I completely understood the needs of this football club. I knew the challenges I was facing when I made a decision to come here and the expectations we will always have. 

"This is the first one. Let's enjoy it today. My players have been fantastic and the staff and everyone upstairs."

Arteta, who only ended his playing career with Arsenal in 2016, added: "I could write a book on my time here. Everyday has presented something different. 

"I'm very lucky the people I have around me for every decision I had to make. Until you are sitting in this seat, you don't know the responsibility you have to make. 

"I'm proud of what we've done."

Mikel Arteta is confident Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will sign a new deal and intends to build Arsenal's squad around the striker following his FA Cup final heroics against Chelsea.

Aubameyang followed up his semi-final brace against Manchester City with two more goals in Saturday's 2-1 win over 10-man Chelsea as Arsenal recovered from an early Christian Pulisic strike.

The Gabon international's future has been shrouded in doubt amid reports he does not intend to sign a contract extension, with his current terms due to expire next year.

However, Arteta said on the eve of the final he does not expect Aubameyang to leave and he is now even more optimistic about Arsenal's chances of persuading their captain to stay.

"He knows what I think about him. I want to build the squad around him," Arteta told BBC One. "I think he wants to stay and it is just about getting the deal done.

"But I think these moments will help him to realise and believe that we are in the right path and he is a big part of that. 

 

"He is loved by everybody at the club. Hopefully he can continue with us."

Asked if he feels Aubameyang will put pen to paper on a new deal, Arteta replied: "I think he will, yes."

Arsenal showed good character to respond to Pulisic's fifth-minute goal at Wembley, with Aubameyang converting from the penalty spot before half-time and adding a second with an impressive solo strike in the second half.

And Arteta, who succeeded Unai Emery as Arsenal boss in December, believes his side kept one of their best displays of his tenure until the final game of the season.

"It was a difficult start when we conceded so early. If I know something about these players, it's that we weren't going to give up," he said.

"We played probably the best 30 minutes after since I arrived. I am so proud to represent these players and this club."

Arsenal finished the Premier League season in eighth place but will now play in the Europa League next season after lifting the FA Cup for a record-extending 14th time.

"It is a double reward for us. It is really important for this club in every way to be in Europe. We all did it so I am so happy," Arteta added.

"The players were completely knackered and they made a massive effort through the coronavirus to keep fit so I am so happy for them."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang won the FA Cup for Arsenal with his Wembley double but left Gunners fans guessing about his future.

The Gabon striker dropped the trophy amid the celebrations but it was his only clanger of the day, after his two goals guided Arsenal to a 2-1 victory over Chelsea.

His first goal was a confident penalty and the second strike was one to savour, twisting by Kurt Zouma before lifting the ball over Willy Caballero.

Asked what he could say about his future, given his contract expires at the end of next season, Aubameyang told BBC One: "Nothing, just today, trophy, that's it."

It was a day he and Arsenal deservedly relished, and a place in next season's Europa League awaits them.

"We enjoyed today. We are all happy," Aubameyang said.

"Emi [goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez] is crying. That shows that he's really implicated in this game and in this trophy."

Mikel Arteta joined Arsenal as head coach in November, and Aubameyang hailed his impact.

"I think he deserved this win. I think he did a great job and we are happy to have him on board. We just follow him," said the 31-year-old.

Discussing his dazzling winning goal, Aubameyang said: "Zouma knows me well. He knows I'm right-footed so that's why I said, okay, I went on the left there."

The Gunners frontman said his winner was like "Wrighty in the 90s" when told Arsenal great Ian Wright was lapping up the action from the BBC studio at Wembley.

Wright described Aubameyang's impact as "amazing finishes from the top man, the man that we needed." 

"He's come up with the goods," the former England international added.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang produced a moment of magic to give Arsenal their 14th FA Cup triumph in a dramatic 2-1 Wembley win over 10-man Chelsea.

The striker, whose future with the Gunners remains uncertain, slotted in a first-half penalty to cancel out Christian Pulisic’s opener, before firing home a classy match-winning strike in the 67th minute.

It meant the battle of the rookie bosses was won by Mikel Arteta, with Frank Lampard’s Chelsea ending the game a man down following a red card for Mateo Kovacic.

Arsenal’s success means they earn a place in next season’s Europa League, having finished a disappointing eighth in the Premier League.

An early breakthrough came after five minutes for Chelsea when Pulisic clipped in a neat close-range finish after former Arsenal battering ram Olivier Giroud cleverly eased the ball into his path.

It made Pulisic the first American to score in an FA Cup final, but his match would later end in injury agony.

Arsenal briefly thought they were level when Nicolas Pepe thrashed a fine 20-yard strike past Willy Caballero.

An offside flag saved Chelsea that time, but moments later, in the 26th minute, Arsenal had a penalty after Cesar Azpilicueta dragged down Aubameyang.

Aubameyang lashed the ball into the bottom right corner, and Chelsea captain Azpilicueta suffered a further blow five minutes later when an apparent hamstring injury ended his involvement.

Pulisic darted through in the first minute of the second half, racing from his own half to the edge of the Arsenal penalty area. Glory was again in his sights but suddenly horror entered the Pennsylvanian’s eyes, a leg injury striking just as he shaped to shoot. As well as missing the target, Pulisic’s race was run, Pedro coming off the bench.

Where Pulisic had been Chelsea’s man most likely, there was no doubting who Arsenal were looking to, and Aubameyang delivered a delicious strike in the 67th minute.

Hector Bellerin charged out of defence and Pepe picked up possession, feeding Aubameyang, who had plenty of work left to do. The former Borussia Dortmund man made it look ridiculously easy as he zig-zagged past Kurt Zouma and floated a sweet finish over the diving Caballero.

Chelsea were in all sorts of trouble moments later when Kovacic received his second yellow card and subsequent red after he and Dani Ceballos battled for the ball, their challenge fading from that point.

Pedro was carried off in stoppage time to deal Chelsea another blow ahead of their Champions League clash with Bayern Munich next weekend.

Frank Lampard selected Kepa Arrizabalaga on the Chelsea bench for the FA Cup final against Arsenal.

Willy Caballero has been Chelsea's regular cup goalkeeper and retained the responsibility, six days after he was surprisingly picked ahead of Kepa on the final day of the Premier League season.

It was no great surprise that Kepa, the world's most expensive goalkeeper, was not picked to start Saturday's match behind closed doors at Wembley as his form has underwhelmed.

And head coach Lampard named an unchanged team from last Sunday's 2-0 home win over Wolves, with N'Golo Kante only fit enough for a place among the substitutes.

It meant Olivier Giroud was picked to lead the Chelsea attack against his former club.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta made just one alteration to the side that beat Watford 3-2 at Emirates Stadium last weekend, with Hector Bellerin replacing Joe Willock.

Former Chelsea defender David Luiz was picked in their defence.

The Gunners are making a record 21st appearance in the FA Cup final, looking to add to their 13 victories.

For Lampard and Arteta it represents a first FA Cup final since they went into management, with both having won the competition in their playing days.

Arteta won with Arsenal in 2014 and 2015, while Lampard helped Chelsea to four FA Cup triumphs in five final appearances. The one defeat he experienced in an FA Cup final came in 2002 - against the Gunners.

For Arsenal, the match presented the chance to earn a place in next season's Europa League after they finished eighth in the Premier League.

Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal can learn from the winning mindset Chelsea have demonstrated amid upheaval at Stamford Bridge.

Arteta's Gunners face Frank Lampard's side in the FA Cup final on Saturday, with each looking to win the first trophy of their careers as head coaches.

Arsenal's last major trophy was the 2017 FA Cup, which they claimed after beating Chelsea 2-1 in the final, but the Blues have made more of a habit of winning silverware despite changes in management and personnel at the club.

They were Premier League champions in 2016-17, won the FA Cup a year later and beat Arsenal in the final of the Europa League last season, with Antonio Conte in charge for the first two triumphs and Maurizio Sarri the other.

Arteta believes Arsenal can learn from their London rivals when it comes to making winning trophies of paramount importance to the club.

"They have some very important core players in those winning teams and it's something that has probably given them the platform to be consistent," the Arsenal boss said in a news conference.

"They obviously have some really good players, managers and a really good structure at the football club.

"But what you mentioned before, they weren't a winning team, and they managed to do that and change that mindset and convince players, and put the pressure towards everybody at the club that the only aim and the only thing that was allowed at this football club was to win. And when that happens, everybody performs better.

"I think we have some really good core players. We need to add certain things, but we have the possibility tomorrow to win a trophy, so that tells us we're close."

Arteta was captain of the Arsenal side that came from 2-0 down to beat Hull City 3-2 in the 2014 final and end a nine-year wait for silverware under Arsene Wenger.

"Probably we had too much energy on the day," Arteta recalled. "We wanted it that much that we were probably too excited and we were shocked when we started losing the game.

"When I mention Arsene [Wenger], it's because we really felt the responsibility to respond to him because he really deserved it, the way he defended us, the way he treated us and the way he protected all of the players through some difficult moments. It was a moment of gratitude towards him to say, 'He deserves it, and the best possible way to help him is to win that trophy'."

Arteta is keen not to put too much pressure on his own players ahead of Saturday's clash despite the importance of the game, with Arsenal not only seeking a trophy but also a route back into Europe next season.

"They don't need any more pressure," Arteta said. "They need to go there and enjoy the moment as well, be free in their minds. What they have to do on the pitch is be clear. Then, just go and express yourselves, compete and be a team.

"You don't need to talk to them about [Europe and the financial benefits]. They are aware of it. That's it - I don’t want to add any extra pressure to them in terms of that. They are preparing really well this week, they look ready to go, and what you have to drive them forwards [with] is the energy and the ambition to grab that cup at the end of the 90 minutes, and that's it."

With the 2020-21 Premier League season due to start on September 12, there will be little time for players to rest and recover before returning for training after the final.

Arteta says Arsenal are also in talks with league officials and the UK government about the risk of coronavirus infections if players choose to take a holiday abroad.

"It's something we're addressing with the Premier League as well – what we can do, what we cannot do – and we need to get into a common-sense situation in order to provide what we need, to value what the players have done as well and to be a little bit flexible," Arteta said. "Because we live probably in the most protected environment of any industry in the country with the amount of tests and precautions and protocols that we have in place.

"It affects everything and that's why we're in conversation with the Premier League and also the government to try to do the right thing."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has "matured" since being made captain and is "an important one to keep" for Arsenal, says former Gunners defender Kolo Toure.

Since making his Arsenal debut in February 2018, no player has scored more Premier League goals than Aubameyang, whose return of 68 is matched only by Liverpool star Mohamed Salah.

The Gabon forward's importance to the club was emphasised when former boss Unai Emery handed him the captaincy in November, a job he kept when Mikel Arteta took over a month later.

Aubameyang's long-term future at the Emirates Stadium remains shrouded in doubt with the 31-year-old into the final year of his contract and yet to commit to fresh terms, although Arteta has stated his belief their prized asset can be persuaded to stay.

Toure, a member of Arsenal's 'Invincibles' title-winning team of 2003-04, said Aubameyang has shown the qualities needed to be a leader and is crucial for the Gunners.

"He's a top player. I saw him grow. I can see that he's matured now," Toure told Stats Perform News.

"You can see as a captain he's a leader, leading by example. He's very focused. He's working hard for the team.

"He's a great captain and a great example. It's really easy to talk but what are you showing us? Are you willing to fight for every ball? That's what [Steven] Gerrard, [Patrick] Vieira, those great captains did.

"He's an important one to keep."

Arteta assumed the reigns after Emery's tenure was ended 18 months on from being chosen as the successor to Arsene Wenger.

Toure believes Arteta has changed the culture at the club and the players are knuckling down for each other.

"I watched his first games. I was intrigued to see. I had an idea. In my mind I was thinking that the players were not playing together," he said.

"You could see the attacking players and midfield were trying to press, but there was a big gap between midfield and the defence. That's what he changed. When Arsenal press, they do so with high intensity.

"The back four are really high and the strikers are putting pressure to players on the ball, which is great.

"And culture – you can see every player is involved 100 per cent. They press together, when they defend deep, they defend all together. The strikers help.

"When they have the ball they can counter unbelievably with Aubameyang's speed.

"He's brought the team spirit and the mentality; 'we are in this together'. No one can cheat in the team, this is non-negotiable. That's the word he's used."

On Saturday, Arteta has the chance to win his first silverware as a head coach when Arsenal play the FA Cup final against Chelsea, for whom Frank Lampard is also aiming to end his maiden campaign in the Blues dugout with a trophy.

Toure is impressed by how both men have adapted to the touchline from their playing days.

"It's unbelievable either could win a trophy in their first year. For ex-players to do that is unbelievable," Toure said.

"Being an ex-player does not mean you are going to be a good manager. Their intelligence and understanding of the game, it's different to being a player.

"Where you are on the pitch, you have to make quick decisions. The touchline is different. You have to analyse the game and be able to see things to improve your team.

"You have to plan and spot weaknesses. They are an inspiration for us. It gives me the belief that when you've been a player you can make a career as a manager."

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has dismissed the notion he and Frank Lampard could be considered the next Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.

Arteta and Lampard go head to head at Wembley on Saturday in the FA Cup final, hoping to win the first trophies of their coaching careers.

Arsenal managed only to finish eighth in the Premier League this season but have won praise for positive signs of progress in their play, most notably in the FA Cup semi-final win over Manchester City.

Lampard, who took charge of Chelsea last year, steered the Blues to a top-four finish despite the restrictions of a one-window transfer ban and is now looking to lift a trophy he won four times for the London club in his playing days.

Arteta is full of admiration for Lampard but is not yet prepared to embrace the idea the pair are the natural successors to Klopp and Guardiola as the leading coaches in England.

"About Frank as a player, absolutely top," Arteta said on Friday. "I think the consistency he was able to play for that many years in the position he plays at such a big club and doing what he did was incredible. Big credit to him on that.

"As a manager, he has shown since Derby [County] the kind of ambition and person he has and the way he encourages his team to play. We are both young, both trying to learn our position so I wouldn't like to compare to the two managers you mention."

Arteta twice won the FA Cup as a player with Arsenal and admits victory on Saturday could prove an important step in his team's development.

"It generates trust when you're winning titles," he said. "It generates moments when together you go through good emotions. It brings everyone together, you have memories, there's a lot of things about winning a trophy that is so positive for any group and when you're in a process it makes it even more important. We have a great opportunity, so let's go for it."

Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud and Arsenal defender David Luiz are set to face their former clubs at Wembley.

Giroud has enjoyed a resurgence in recent weeks, scoring six goals in his past seven appearances in all competitions - including one in the 3-1 semi-final win over Manchester United.

"It's always good connections when these moments arrive," said Arteta. "You can see with Oli in the last few months, how he is performing, the amount of goals he is scoring for them. He has the experience in finals as well.

"In the case of David, such a special day for him to play his former club. Hopefully, he can do the performance he did in the semi-final against City."

Arteta has not been surprised by Giroud's strong form even though the France forward has often been compared unfavourably to great Arsenal strikers of the recent past, such as Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie.

"I'm not surprised because I know Oli and he's a fighter," he said. "When he played for Arsenal, he had some difficult moments, but he always reacted.

"Comparing him with the greatest is like always: they've done it, they did it for long periods, they were really successful at the club, so any comparison with them is always difficult. I'm glad he is doing really well and hopefully tomorrow he won't do that well."

Mikel Arteta does not believe the FA Cup final will prove to be Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's last game as an Arsenal player.

The Arsenal captain, who has one year left on his contract, hopes to help his side to a Wembley victory over rivals Chelsea on Saturday and secure his first piece of silverware since moving to London in January 2018. 

Without a win, the Gunners will miss out on European football for the first time in 25 years.

Arteta concedes continental football is essential for a club of Arsenal's size and remains optimistic that Aubameyang can be persuaded to stay, particularly if he lifts the cup.

"No, I don't have that feeling," he told reporters when asked if he thought it would be the Gabon international's last match for the club.

"It is a package at the end, you need to have a lot of ingredients on the table to persuade a player of his level to be at this football club.

"It is a massive day. I wouldn't like to talk or link too much these two factors but it is a reality obviously that financially it would be really helpful and obviously from the sporting side as well to play in Europe for this club is a must.

"Don't forget that he still has a contract here with us and we want to keep him and do it in a more long term but at the moment he is with us and I think he should be really proud of where he is as well.

"Winning a trophy helps to really believe and make you feel, 'Wow, I want more of those moments as well'. Absolutely [it can encourage Aubameyang to stay].

"If you are wearing the armband and you are able to lift that cup, it is such a moment and this is going to help for sure."

Aubameyang, 31, scored both goals in Arsenal's 2-0 semi-final win over Manchester City earlier this month and has been linked with a host of Europe's top clubs.

Arteta, who took over as head coach in December after Unai Emery's sacking, acknowledged the importance of lifting trophies in building relationships with key players.

He continued: "It generates the trust when you are winning titles. It generates moments when together you go through good emotions and it brings everybody together.

"There is lots of things about winning and winning a trophy which is so positive for any group and that makes it even more important. We have a great opportunity so let's go for it

"We are very excited, it is a special day in this country and in this competition and we are linked as a club by how many times we have won it.

"We want to do it again, it would be so special to do it in my first season in charge and, again, the boys are really excited and looking forward to the game."

Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka revealed he was "very, very close" to leaving the club in January and has thanked head coach Mikel Arteta for giving him a second chance.

Xhaka looked set for the exit after he was stripped of the captaincy in November for reacting angrily to supporters who jeered him when he was substituted during a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace the previous month.

The 27-year-old was also dropped from the squad for five matches, but he won back his place and, eight months on, is a regular member of the starting line-up again.

Arteta last week praised Xhaka for winning over the fanbase with his displays on the field, but the former Borussia Monchengladbach star admitted he seriously contemplated leaving.

"Everyone knows what happened with me and the fans - or the fans with me. It was not a good time. It was not a nice time," he told BT Sport.

"But maybe it was the key because I came back stronger than ever, so I learned a lot from this situation. I hope the fans have too.

"I was always saying to myself, but to the fans too, I am a guy that will go 100 per cent each game. The people start to understand me more and more now again.

"I have to be honest, I'm very honest with everyone. I was very, very close to leaving the club. I had, until this moment, had a great, great time in this football club.

"But after this, I was of course a bit down because I did not expect that from the people, from the fans.

"It was never in my mind to leave the club before, but after this happened, of course you think about it."

Switzerland international Xhaka has credited Arteta, who succeeded Unai Emery a little under two months after the incident, for turning around his career in north London.

"When Mikel arrived, I had a very good meeting with him, very good conversations," he said.

"Mikel was the guy. He turned me around and gave me a second chance, and he showed me he trusted me and I have tried to give him everything back."

Arsenal take on Chelsea in the FA Cup final on Saturday with Arteta seeking his first piece of silverware in management.

And after picking up victories over the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool in the past few weeks, Xhaka has praised the Spaniard for improving the team's fortunes.

"Since Mikel came to this club a lot of things have changed," he said. "He has changed the mentality, the spirit, not only for us players, but in the group.

"Everyone knows exactly what their job is. We have a clear gameplan.

"He prepared us really well against a lot of good teams and yeah, at the moment, it's like we are back with happiness. Coming to training with happiness, we do amazing work."

Mikel Arteta says Arsenal will need to strengthen in central defence after revealing Shkodran Mustafi will miss the start of next season through injury.

Mustafi damaged his hamstring in last weekend's FA Cup semi-final win over Manchester City and was initially considered doubtful for next week's final against Chelsea.

Arteta confirmed the full extent of the injury following Sunday's 3-2 win against Watford, however, with the Germany international ruled out for weeks rather than days.

Asked if Mustafi will miss the start of next season, which is due to begin on September 12, Arteta told reporters: "Yes, he will. 

"It is a nasty one. He pulled the tendon of the bone of his hamstring and that's normally a lot of weeks."

Arsenal have also had to make do without fellow centre-backs Calum Chambers and Pablo Mari due to long-term injuries, with both players in a race to be fit before the end of the year.

And despite the arrival of William Saliba from Saint-Etienne, Arteta understands the need to bring in another player during the close-season.

"I already mentioned to you three central defenders that are not available and we haven't had them available for a long time anyway during this season," he said. "We will have to address that."

After concluding a disappointing Premier League campaign with three points against Watford - a result that relegated their opponents - Arsenal's focus now turns to their cup final showdown with Chelsea next Saturday.

Arteta has some big selection calls to make but has already decided Emiliano Martinez will start in goal, despite Bernd Leno's return to training this week following a month-long absence.

"Emi has earned his place with another brilliant performance again today," he said. "When the team needed him he made some fantastic saves.

"Bernd is still recovering from his injuries so Emi's the one now. Let's hope that he's available for the game and if that's the case he will start the final."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang inspired Arsenal to their victory over Watford with a couple of first-half strikes, either side of Kieran Tierney's first goal for the club.

Troy Deeney and Danny Welbeck pulled a couple of goals back for the visitors to set up a nervy finish, but Arteta is expecting a different type of performance against Chelsea.

"It was a crazy game right from the start," he said. "We allowed them too many balls in the box - this is where they're really dangerous. 

"They had some really good quality moments with the ball in the final third but we weren't at the races without the ball like we've been doing in the last few games.

"But it will be a completely different game next week. First of all from the mental side it will be equal - how much they want it and how much we want it. 

"I don't think that was the case today because of the necessity they had, the way they had to go to the game was different to ours.

"Normally you can see that when you don't have the ball. Hopefully it will be different."

Mikel Arteta acknowledged attempting to make Arsenal a force once more has been the biggest challenge of his entire career.

The Spaniard returned to the Gunners as head coach in December, taking over a side 10th in the Premier League and one that had gone three successive seasons without finishing in the top four.

Arteta had barely got his feet under the table when the coronavirus pandemic called a halt to football - and his rebuild - in March, and he, along with the other 19 top-flight bosses, has had to negotiate a packed fixture list to finish the campaign upon the resumption.

Arsenal remain 10th in the table ahead of their final league fixture against Watford on Sunday, but Arteta has an FA Cup final against Chelsea to look forward to as he attempts to win the club's first piece of silverware since 2017.

Asked if this period leading Arsenal had been the toughest challenge he had experience in football, Arteta replied: "Without a question of a doubt. I can write a book I think with the last six months. But as well I enjoy it a lot.

"The pressure that I put on myself is because I want the best.

"I know the standards of this club and for me it's very difficult to accept certain things.

"I'm very much detailed into a lot of things. I know they have to be in order to work - get to know the place better, the players, the staff, and do my best to improve in every area."

Arteta and Arsenal fans will have been encouraged by post-lockdown victories over Manchester City and Liverpool, but defeats to Aston Villa and Brighton and Hove Albion have outlined the task in hand.

A lowest league position since 1994-95 - before Arsene Wenger's long spell began - has already been assured and Arteta knows wins over the so-called 'smaller' sides in the division will help get Arsenal back up the table next term.

"If we are able to do the same next season against the top teams, and improve a little bit with the other ones, we are going to be right up there with the best teams," he added.

"But it's not as simple as that. One of the stats the guys just showed was about the difficulties that we have creating the chances is related to that as well.

"That's something that we have to focus in order to improve and be more consistent in results against any opponents."

Mikel Arteta has challenged his Arsenal players to embrace the expectations that come with playing for the club.

Arsenal conclude their Premier League campaign against relegation-threatened Watford on Sunday, sitting 10th in the Premier League.

The best they can hope for is an eighth-place finish, meaning a Europa League spot can only be claimed if they win the FA Cup final against Chelsea.

Arteta took the reins at Emirates Stadium after Unai Emery was sacked midway through this season on the back of seven winless matches in all competitions.

The early days of Emery's tenure, of "we've got our Arsenal back", had given way to the more poisonous negativity that sullied the final years of Arsene Wenger's reign.

Results such as the battling 2-1 win over Premier League champions Liverpool and, in particular, the impressive FA Cup semi-final triumph over Manchester City last weekend have done much to buy Arteta time and the fan favourite is presiding over a period of cautious optimism in north London.

Nevertheless, the former midfielder is well aware of the task at hand and would be more concerned if Arsenal's fanbase stopped demanding success.

"Listen, I came here and I knew the challenge – to come in the middle of the season with all the issues that were happening," he said.

"Once you are inside, you can even dig deeper and realise and start to understand why things happen. It is the consequence of many little aspects.

"I am so convinced we are going to do it right. We need a little bit of time. The fans, when they get nervous, it's normal.

"For me, it's not that they get nerves. It's frustration that this club, with its history, is there.

"People are relating this badge with success, with joy, with emotion, with trophies. We cannot change that and we must not try to change that. It makes us big. It is the only way to think about this club and the future of it."

He added: "If we are all on the same page like that, we will make it. But we have to do it and then transmit it to the players, to every member of staff and the public and the fans.

"If we are together with that mindset, we will do it.

"The situation is what it is. Let's take it, let's embrace it but let's do something. Let's analyse why things happen and the things that are not working have to get changed.

"This beautiful game is the most unpredictable one in the world. You can do everything right or everything wrong and it can still work in both directions. But from our side we have the responsibility to do it as well as we all know."

Arteta expects to be without centre-back Shkodran Mustafi for the FA Cup final due to a hamstring injury.

Watford, who travel to Emirates Stadium with their Premier League future on the line, will be Arsenal's 12th opponents in 39 days and Arteta feels that exacting post-lockdown schedule has taken a toll.

"I'm worried. Musti's injury is related to [the fact] we had to expose our players," he said, with Mustafi joining Bernd Leno, Pablo Mari, Gabriel Martinelli and long-term victim Calum Chambers on the sidelines.

"We've had some really bad injuries in the past few weeks.

"But it's an unprecedented time with COVID. It is our responsibility to put a plan together when we don't expose them as much as we can, but sometimes it's inevitable."

Mikel Arteta congratulated Unai Emery on his appointment as Villarreal boss, while acknowledging his predecessor has left him with a considerable but "beautiful challenge at Arsenal".

Emery was appointed to replace Javier Calleja on Thursday, eight months on from a winless run of seven matches across all competitions that resulted in him being sacked by the Gunners.

Arteta was handed the reins as his permanent successor the following month and has guided Arsenal to the FA Cup final, although a midweek defeat to relegation-threatened Aston Villa showed inconsistency remains.

Nevertheless, the former Manchester City assistant was keen to thank Emery for what has often appeared to be a flawed inheritance.

"Congratulations for the new job, he's going back to Spain," he told a news conference ahead of Sunday's final Premier League match versus Watford – another game where Arsenal will have a defining say on matters in the bottom three.

"He's a manager who has a lot of experience there and has been very successful there.

"We wish him all the best from our side. There are a lot of people from our side who like him a lot and have huge respect for him.

"Thanks from my side as well for what he did here with the players, trying to improve the team and the squad.

"We wish him all the best and hopefully things will go well for him."

Arsenal head into the final matchday 10th in the table, with an eighth-place finish their best-case scenario.

Victory over Chelsea in the FA Cup final is their only remaining route into European competition and Arteta acknowledges they have fallen some way from being a Champions League fixture during his playing days.

"I don't think the league table lies at the end of 10 months and with 38 games gone," he said. "Hopefully next season will be very different.

"We have a beautiful challenge, a demanding challenge but a beautiful challenge ahead of us.

"We have to put this club back to where it belongs, which is with the top clubs in this country and Europe. In order to do that we have to make a lot of good decisions."

A 2-1 victory over Premier League champions Liverpool last week preceding a 2-0 FA Cup semi-final triumph against City has done nothing to obscure this reality.

"It hurts so much, [but] it's a beautiful challenge to bring the club into that position again," Arteta added.

"I know how difficult it is going to be, because we can see what other clubs have been doing over the last few seasons.

"But I am very positive that we are going to be able to do it."

Page 1 of 16
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.