Arsenal will go to promoted Brentford on the opening weekend of the 2021-22 Premier League season before the prospect of a double-header against Chelsea and Manchester City.

The Gunners endured a hugely underwhelming 2020-21 as they could only muster an eighth-placed finish in the Premier League, and they will be given an early examination to determine their level of improvement – or otherwise – as they host Chelsea on August 21 and then go to the defending champions a week later.

Coming a few weeks after that is the first north London derby of the campaign as Tottenham visit the Emirates Stadium on September 25.

A testing start to 2022 is also in store for Mikel Arteta's men as the return clash with Spurs on January 15 follows a New Year's Day visit from City.

However, Arsenal's run-in looks somewhat kinder on paper, with their final three games comprised of Newcastle United away in between home clashes with Leeds United and Everton, the latter of which is on the final day.

Arsenal's 2021-22 Premier League fixtures in full:

14/08/2021 - Brentford (a) 
21/08/2021 - Chelsea (h) 
28/08/2021 - Manchester City (a) 
11/09/2021 - Norwich City (h)
18/09/2021 - Burnley (a) 
25/09/2021 - Tottenham (h) 
02/10/2021 - Brighton and Hove Albion (a) 
16/10/2021 - Crystal Palace (h) 
23/10/2021 - Aston Villa (h) 
30/10/2021 - Leicester City (a) 
06/11/2021 - Watford (h) 
20/11/2021 - Liverpool (a) 
27/11/2021 - Newcastle (h) 
30/11/2021 - Manchester United (a) 
04/12/2021 - Everton (a) 
11/12/2021 - Southampton (h) 
14/12/2021 - West Ham (h)
18/12/2021 - Leeds United (a) 
26/12/2021 - Norwich City (a) 
28/12/2021 - Wolves (h) 
01/01/2022 - Manchester City (h) 
15/01/2022 - Tottenham (a) 
22/01/2022 - Burnley (h) 
08/02/2022 - Wolves (a) 
12/02/2022 - Chelsea (a) 
19/02/2022 - Brentford (h)
26/02/2022 - Liverpool (h) 
05/03/2022 - Watford (a) 
12/03/2022 - Leicester City (h) 
19/03/2022 - Aston Villa (a) 
02/04/2022 - Crystal Palace (a) 
09/04/2022 - Brighton and Hove Albion (h) 
16/04/2022 - Southampton (a) 
23/04/2022 - Manchester United (h) 
30/04/2022 - West Ham (a) 
07/05/2022 - Leeds United (h) 
15/05/2022 - Newcastle United (a) 
22/05/2022 - Everton (h) 

Mikel Arteta defended the Kroenke family as "passionate" about Arsenal on a day the Gunners fans again protested their ownership of the club.

The Gunners claimed a 2-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday in their final Premier League home game of the season thanks to two goals from Nicolas Pepe.

There were 10,000 fans present inside Emirates Stadium to watch the match and a number vented their feelings towards the Kroenke family.

Supporters held up pieces of paper and released balloons on to the pitch that had 'Kroenke out' on them and chanted "we hate Kroenke".

Stan Kroenke and his son Josh have been the subject of fan criticism of their ownership of Arsenal, which has heightened in the wake of their part in the failed European Super League project.

Josh Kroenke attended the match and the American met with Arteta before the game, and the Arsenal head coach defended him afterwards.

"He's very supportive, very passionate about the club," Arteta told a post-match media conference.

"He wants to take the club to a different level. That's the ambition and that's why he's here."

Arsenal's victory saw them finish in eighth in the table, behind north London rivals Tottenham, who they have not finished above since 2016.

Spurs pipped the Gunners to the Europa League Conference, which means Arsenal will be without European football for the first time since the 1995-96 season.

"I am disappointed we are not in Europe," Arteta said.

"We made progress with the number of points but it's frustrating because last season with 61 points you were fifth and now you are eighth.

"It shows you the level you need to get into. We won the last five games but it wasn't enough. 

"I leave the season sad because this club deserves to be delivered trophies and Champions League football and we haven't been able to do that. We have tried to stick together and do our best. It's not been enough.

"Now we have to be very critical with ourselves and myself. For next season prepare the best possible way and take advantage of that.

"Hopefully, we can have a pre-season because I haven't had that and have the chance to work with those players and do a better job."

Arteta also claimed Arsenal is a "good place" for Martin Odegaard but said he did not know if the club can make the on-loan Real Madrid player's switch a permanent one.

Odegaard has one goal and two assists in 14 Premier League appearances this season.

He added: "We have a very clear and strong opinion on what we would like to do, but he's not our player.

"We will have to discuss [the situation] in the next few weeks what and respect [his position] first of all because he's a Real Madrid player and [then] have those communications.

"We tried to make everything that we could to get Martin performing for the team, which I think he's done. He has adapted really well to our way of playing and to our football club.

"Hopefully we have given him as well the hope and the feeling that it could be a good place for him."

Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal's biggest success this season has been maintaining unity and remove those who are "trying to hurt the club", while insisting winning the Champions League has to be the Gunners' ultimate long-term aim.

It has been a challenging campaign for Arsenal, who can still finish seventh by winning their final Premier League game against Brighton and Hove Albion.

But there have been 13 top-flight defeats this term for a side sitting ninth heading into Sunday's finale, and their Europa League quest – and last route back to Europe's top table next term – was ended by Villarreal at the semi-final stage.

Things on the pitch may not have always been how Arteta envisaged for his first full season in charge, but for the Spaniard ensuring the squad stayed together when he felt internal and external sources were trying to create a rift has been the most crucial aspect of the campaign.

"The best thing has been to keep a team, a staff, employees and everybody together," Arteta said.

"In those circumstances when you are not winning and when there are so many people, some inside and some outside, that are trying to hurt [you]. 

"And to keep them together and block that and be so strong, I think that is some achievement. As normally when that happens [makes a cracking sound], that cracks and everything falls, and it didn't."

The likes of Mesut Ozil, Shkodran Mustafi and Sead Kolasinac were among those to depart Arsenal in January as Arteta significantly trimmed an inflated squad, though he did not point the finger of blame at any former player.

However, when asked if anyone on the inside he felt was trying to cause damage was still at the club, he replied: "No."

Arsenal are eight points adrift of the top-four spots, and need Tottenham and Everton to drop points to play in the inaugural Europa Conference League.

Despite their struggles, Arteta still has lofty long-term ambitions for the Gunners including conquering Europe's greatest prize.

"There cannot be any other ambition at this football club, it cannot be. If you don't have that you can't achieve it," he added.

"There is only one winner in the Champions League and there is only one winner in the Premier League. The rest of the teams have failed. For any of the other teams finishing second or third is not a big achievement.

"Now the perception is different, now it's an achievement to be third or fourth in this league. Would the fans agree with that? Probably no, but for the people internally that are working every day and knows the standards that have been set it's so different.

"Last year with 61, 62 points you were fifth in the league and almost in the Champions League. 

"This season you won't be there and next season you won't be there because the level is increasing all of the time."

Joe Willock has a bright future at Arsenal on the back of prolific loan spell at Newcastle United, says Gunners boss Mikel Arteta.

Willock headed the only goal as Newcastle beat Sheffield United 1-0 in midweek, becoming the youngest player in Premier League history to score in six consecutive appearances.

Those exploits mean he is the joint-top scorer in the division since the return from the March international break, alongside Chris Wood, Mason Greenwood, Matheus Pereira and Kelechi Iheanacho.

Newcastle are reportedly looking to make the move permanent, with a £20million fee mooted, while Willock said after Wednesday's win: "Hopefully there's more to continue in the future.

"I'm not going to promise anything, but the conversation is going to be held."

But Arteta, asked whether the attacking midfielder had a future to look forward to at Emirates Stadium, told a news conference: "Yes, and I'm really happy that things have gone so well for him because of the potential that he has.

"It was great for him to go away and have a different experience. He has grabbed that opportunity in a really positive and remarkable way.

"He will be back with us, we will have those conversations with him and plan the next step then."

Arsenal conclude a fairly forgettable campaign at home to Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday, while the curtain on the Premier League career of one of the competition's all-time greats will come down elsewhere.

Arteta worked on the Manchester City coaching staff under Pep Guardiola for three-and-a-half seasons and paid a glowing tribute to Sergio Aguero, who is set to play his final league match as the division's all-time leading goalscorer from oversees when Everton visit the Etihad Stadium.

"I know from working with him – his character, his personality, he is a lovely man," he said.

"One of the best talents that I've seen, what he has done in this league for so long, scoring the amount of goals he has done.

"He changed the perception of English football in different countries.

"For Manchester City, I think again he was a big contributor to the change in history and mentality in the winning years that they had."

Mikel Arteta described Arsenal's form in the last six months as "an incredible run" after a 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace kept their hopes of qualifying for Europe alive.

West Ham's win at West Brom means that the highest Arsenal can finish, should they beat Brighton and Hove Albion on the final day of the season and both Tottenham and Everton fail to win, is seventh.

That would earn them a place in the Europa Conference League play-off round, with West Ham's result ruling Arsenal out of both major European club competitions for the first time since 1995-96.

But Arteta recalled a run of seven winless Premier League matches towards the end of 2020 as he reflected on the improvement in their season.

"If somebody would have said to us in November or December when we were in the position that we were in that we were going to have the chance to qualify for Europe, we'd have said you are crazy," the Gunners boss said. "But we've done it.

"I think with the results and the number of points we have managed to get in the months, we have earned the right to be in that position. Now it's time to deliver on the final day but unfortunately, it's not in our hands."

Arteta praised Nicolas Pepe for his role in the win at Selhurst Park and in helping to revive Arsenal's campaign.

Pepe opened the scoring with a close-range volley and capped the victory with a mazy dribble and finish for his side's third.

Arteta said of the 25-year-old Ivorian: "It's my feeling and it's everybody's feeling in the coaching staff, and his own feeling that he's come a long way this season.

"He hasn't had the consistency sometimes in the gametime, but I think in Europe he’s been terrific and in the Premier League he's started to show much more what he's like, and he's very hungry. 

"I think he's changed a lot in his mentality and his willingness to do much more."

Mikel Arteta paid a glowing tribute to David Luiz after the Brazil defender's departure from Arsenal at the end of this season was confirmed.

The 34-year-old moved across London to join the Gunners from Chelsea in August 2019.

He has played 73 times in all competitions, scoring on four occasions and contributing to 18 clean sheets.

Arsenal have won 32 of the 69 games he has started during that time – a win percentage of 46.4 per cent – but Arteta and David Luiz mutually agreed to a parting of the ways when his contract expires at the end of his season.

"David and I, we discussed it on a few occasions and the other day we made the final decision on that," he said ahead of Wednesday's trip to Crystal Palace, which will be Roy Hodgson's final home game in charge of the Eagles.

"He's won everything in football and he has earned every right to do so because of who he is as a player and a person. I had the privilege of working with him for 18 months.

"I really enjoyed working with him, we had some great moments together and he's been really helpful. He's someone we really like and appreciate so much.

"Just to say thank you to him and wish him the best of luck in his next chapter. Knowing David, he will have many more to come – as a player and also in the future, somehow related to the game."

David Luiz's countryman and fellow former Chelsea player Willian has endured a difficult maiden season at Arsenal.

The 32-year-old belatedly scored his first Premier League goal for the Gunners in the 3-1 win over West Brom earlier this month, while five assists in the top flight is below the return from each of his last three seasons at Stamford Bridge.

Inter Miami have been linked to a move for Willian, but Arteta expects him to remain at Arsenal and will work to improve his output.

"He's a player with an incredible talent and a proven performance level in this league," he said.

"This season has been difficult and I take full responsibility because I have to be getting the best out of him.

"We had moments, but not to the level like he did before.

"These are the assessments that we are going to do individually with the players and as well, obviously, with [director of football] Edu, the board and the ownership to make the right decisions for the future.

"Every player that is under contract is very likely to be here with us next season."

Mikel Arteta hinted at dissatisfaction with some players in his Arsenal squad as he suggested only "the majority" had given their all this season.

Arteta has endured a miserable first full campaign as Arsenal manager, having won the FA Cup at the end of last season.

Next term, for the first time since 1995-96, the Gunners will almost certainly go without European competition.

Arteta's men were eliminated from the Europa League in the semi-finals and approach a midweek match with Chelsea ninth in the Premier League.

Arsenal are 12 points off Chelsea and the top four – Champions League qualification no longer a possibility with three games remaining – and four points shy of seventh, which is set to be enough to reach the Europa Conference League.

They are also four short of last season's points tally, which was their lowest since 1994-95.

Arteta has discussed the need to rebuild in the transfer market, with some members of his team already performing to the extent of their underwhelming potential.

But others have let Arsenal down, the manager suggested.

Asked if his players had given their maximum, Arteta replied: "With the majority of them, yes.

"Some of them can get to a certain level and you cannot push them any further. You want to evolve them but it's not possible.

"When I said a majority, I did not say all of them. Some have a big contribution to make to those results."

Work in the window will be key to changing this, too, according to Arteta.

"Finding a different way to do it, challenging them again, putting somebody next to them to try to push them again," he said, explaining how to get more from his squad.

But there is the possibility Arsenal will have to sell players to make signings.

Last year, they sold Emiliano Martinez to Aston Villa after he had excelled in goal. Villa have kept 14 clean sheets this term to Arsenal's 10, with Martinez preventing 3.8 goals using expected goals on target data – ranking third in the top flight.

This time, Joe Willock – starring on loan at Newcastle United – has been mooted as another £20million departure.

He has five goals since his debut on Tyneside, a tally unsurpassed by Arsenal players in this time and only matched by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

Some of the bigger names within Arteta's existing XI might fetch even greater sums, although the Gunners boss is reluctant to make any moves that would weaken his hand.

"Let's see what happens," he said. "It is difficult to predict that one but, in general, we wouldn't like to do that because we are only going to be stronger [if they stay].

"It is clear we want to improve the team. We need some resources."

Mikel Arteta has told Arsenal it is "time to evolve" as he looks ahead to what could be a crucial transfer window for the club.

A 2-1 aggregate defeat to Villarreal in the Europa League semi-finals means the Gunners' season looks set to end in hugely disappointing fashion.

They are ninth in the Premier League with three games to go and could well fail to qualify for European competition for the first time since they were absent in 1995-96, with their domestic cup challenges having ended in December and January.

Pressure has been mounting on the manager given their apparent lack of progress, and Arteta accepts they must now build on the institutional changes at Emirates Stadium by creating a team capable of competing with the best again.

"We have already had an incredible amount of changes throughout the club in the last year or so. More than ever," Arteta said on Tuesday.

"We are looking to improve and we're looking to be much closer [than] where we are at the moment. I know there are certain things we have to improve.

"Now, it's how we evolve. There's a lot of things that have to be done, and they have [been] done. A lot of changes to make and a lot of them have been made. Now, it's time to evolve.

"We have made progression in many areas, I would say performance included, and that's supported by many factors we have looked at. Results-wise, to where we want to be, it has to be improved.

"We have to do better. We have to be more consistent, we have to win more games and in order to do that, there are certain things that have to improve.

"We'll see what happens in the summer."

The Gunners have faced heavy criticism from fans, pundits and ex-players this season, including recently from former defender Martin Keown, who claimed the club are "going backwards".

Arteta believes plenty of good work has been done behind the scenes but accepts he will only ever be judged on results.

He said: "I think everybody is entitled to speak their opinions. I cannot control that. If you tell me what I would like to have around the team and everything related to the football club, it's that we have the unity and stability to work, but if this is not the case, there's nothing I can do.

"The only way I can improve that is by having a team that performs on the pitch and makes them proud. That's the only thing I can do.

"The only thing I have to be judged on is: do I create the necessary environment for a top, elite team to perform at the highest level, and get everybody in the condition to do their best? And after that: do I get the best out of the players that I have? The maximum, whatever the level is – do I get the best out of that? This is how I judge myself. Outside, the way I'm going to be judged is with results, nothing else. That we've done good before in the past, with the process, it's irrelevant. It's only what you get from that result when you're on that pitch."

Arteta says he has spoken regularly with technical director Edu this season about the club's plans to strengthen the team, particularly in the coming transfer window.

"There are so many things to do because we have a lot of players on loan, a lot of players with contracts still that we have to sort, and it will depend on what happens with a lot of those players and what we are able to recruit to improve the team is going to determine where we are," Arteta said.

"We've been sitting down the whole year, we've been in constant communication, and things will change. Some things will stick to the plan that we already have and some other things will come out. But we sit down very regularly to talk about those things."

Arsenal face Chelsea on Wednesday knowing that a defeat could well prove a fatal blow to their chances of finishing in a Europa League spot. They are four points behind north London rivals Tottenham, who sit seventh.

Still, Arteta can see the silver lining of a season in which he will not have to prepare his team to play once every three days for months on end.

"I think having a pre-season is going to be really helpful because we haven't had any time to work together since we arrived," he said. "After that, let's see where we finish this season and how many games we have to play, but obviously, in terms of game preparation and time to coach, it's much better to be in that position."

One positive in Arsenal's season has been the progress made by young players such as Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, and Arteta has no doubt about placing them at the centre of his project.

"Absolutely. They've shown that this season they are ready to take responsibility in important moments," he said.

"They have the right senior players around them to help as well. It's about how we click, and that we are consistent because we've shown on the day that we can compete and beat the top teams, but through 38 games [in the Premier League season], we haven't done it. In the Europa League, we've done it to the point where we were so close to getting to the final, but in 38 games, that's the duty that we have and the challenge we have ahead of us: to compete with the big teams."

Mikel Arteta praised "unique" teenager Bukayo Saka after Arsenal ended a miserable week by relegating West Brom with a 3-1 Premier League victory on Sunday.

The Gunners are facing the prospect of missing out on European football for the first time in 25 years next season after they were knocked out of the Europa League at the semi-final stage by Villarreal on Thursday.

A drab goalless draw against the Spanish side – coached by former Gunners boss Unai Emery – was a new low for Arsenal and piled more pressure on Arteta, but they responded with a first home win in seven games.

Emile Smith Rowe scored his maiden Premier League goal before Nicolas Pepe added a second with a sublime finish to put Arsenal in command.

Matheus Pereira pulled a goal back midway through the second half, but Willian finally opened his Arsenal account with a brilliant late free-kick as Baggies boss Sam Allardyce suffered the agony of relegation from the top tier for the first time.

Saka laid on the opening goal for Smith Rowe and has provided 19 assists in all competitions, the most of any player for the club since making his debut in November 2018.

The 19-year-old was a constant threat, delivering five crosses and producing two key passes in a performance that Arteta was more than happy with.

He told BT Sport: "Going forward we know Saka is a threat, he gives you something unique. He adapted. We believed we were going to attack against them and he gave us a lot of joy."

Arsenal are ninth in the table with surely only pride to play for and Arteta is determined to avoid finishing such a disappointing season with a whimper.

He said: "We will try to win every match and see where we finish. The only thing we can do is win our games." 

The Spaniard added: "We needed that win. It has been a while since we won at home. We scored three fantastic goals and we had some great spells in the game. When we conceded the goal we did look nervy.

"We knew the necessity to win the game. They scored out of nothing and then throw everything at you, they know the situation they are in and we struggled to play that kind of game.

"We scored three fantastic goals but we missed some big chances too."

Mikel Arteta said Arsenal's squad requires an overhaul in the transfer market and the under-fire manager believes he will be afforded the time and funds to reverse their alarming slide.

Arsenal are set to be without European football for the first time since 1995-96 as they languish 10th in the Premier League this season.

The Gunners were sensationally upstaged by Unai Emery's Villarreal in the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday as pressure mounts on Arteta, who replaced the former in 2019.

But Arteta expects to be backed by the Kroenkes in London, where Arsenal are preparing to host second-bottom West Brom on Sunday.

"The squad needs changing," Arteta said. "There were already a lot of changes in December, something that has not been done in years, but it tells us where we were.

"Things are going to have to change and the owners are going to back it up."

Arsenal have lost seven home Premier League games in 2020-21 – they last lost more home league matches in a single campaign in 1929-30 (nine), a season in which the Gunners finished 14th in the table.

The Gunners last finished in the Premier League's top four in 2015-16, when they ended the campaign second behind surprise champions Leicester City.

Arteta added: "Time is catching up right now. It's a trend, it's years now that this has been happening. If the distance and the margins with the rest become too big, then it's almost impossible to do it.

"We are still on time and we have put some very strong pillars and foundations in the last few months to do what we have to do."

Mikel Arteta claimed he "always feels the pressure" as he seemingly conceded his position at Arsenal may well be under threat.

The Gunners slumped out of the Europa League at the semi-final stage on Thursday, with a goalless home draw against Villarreal confirming a 2-1 aggregate defeat to the Spanish side, coached by their former boss Unai Emery.

It is the first time Villarreal have reached a major final in their history, while Arsenal are now facing the likely prospect of missing out on Europe altogether next term.

The Gunners sit ninth in the Premier League with four games remaining, and had seemingly been banking on winning the Europa League – they would have faced Manchester United in the final – to qualify for the Champions League.

Should they fail to mount a late charge for European qualification via the league, next season will be the first since 1996-97 that the Gunners have not featured in a continental competition. 

Asked on BT Sport if he was feeling any pressure, Arteta replied: "I feel the pressure all the time because I want to do as well as I can for the team, for every supporter I have here and for the fans and today is a big disappointment, because we tried everything to win that game."

This term will be the first time Arsenal have not featured in the final of a competition since 2015-16, and Arteta was subsequently pressed on his future in his post-match news conference.

"We have to show that on the pitch. It is not about talking," he said when asked how Arsenal would prove to their fans they are making progress.

"We are hugely disappointed because we wanted to give them something special after the difficult season we've had.

"But when you play these knockout games, you need your best players at their best, and we didn't have enough of those in the best possible condition, and still we fought until the end and in the second half we deserved to win the game, 1-0, and we didn't do it.

"I think everybody's job is always under scrutiny.

"We are devastated, we had so much enthusiasm to be in that final. We know how much it meant to the club, our fans, ourselves, to have a chance to win a title and be in the Champions League next season. It's a huge blow."

When questioned if he still had faith in his own coaching ability, he abruptly responded: "Yes. I wouldn't be sitting here if I don't [think I could do it]. You will see it, it's not about talking, it's about showing it on the pitch."

Arsenal's plight was not helped by Granit Xhaka sustaining a knock in the warm-up – an injury which Arteta believes limited his team's performance in the first half.

"The night started in a difficult way, losing Granit in the warm-up and having to put in a player [Kieran Tierney] that hasn't featured in a long time, and I think in the first half we weren't good enough with the ball," he said.

"We couldn't get anything in the final third to dominate the game, have composure and a little bit of confidence. We changed it at half-time, we were much better, but in the defining moments we hit the post twice and missed an empty goal."

Despite Arteta's claims, Arsenal only managed two attempts on target, though Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang did hit the post twice, fewer than Villarreal managed (three).

Having progressed from each of their first six semi-finals in major European competition, Arsenal have now been eliminated from three of their four appearances at this stage in Europe since, with the only occasion they progressed coming in 2018-19.

Emery, who has now reached five Europa League finals, was in charge of the Gunners at the time, but his team were thrashed by Chelsea in the final.

Unai Emery insists Arsenal remain the favourites to reach the Europa League final as he prepares to return to the Emirates Stadium with Villarreal.

Former Arsenal boss Emery holds a 2-1 lead over his old club in the semi-final tie going into Thursday's second leg.

Manu Trigueros and Raul Albiol had given Villarreal a two-goal lead in the first leg and the Gunners looked doomed when Dani Ceballos was sent off.

But a controversial penalty that was won by Bukayo Saka and scored by Nicolas Pepe ensures that it is all to play for in the return fixture.

Villarreal have progressed from 15 of their 16 two-legged ties in major European competition when winning the first leg.

But the only exception was against an English club at the same stage of the same competition - in a tie against Liverpool in 2016 - and Emery feels Arsenal are the most likely team to progress.

"The first-leg result doesn’t change my initial thoughts on the competition," Emery said at his pre-match news conference.

"Arsenal started as a favourite and they are still favourites at this stage. The first-leg result is too narrow to make a big difference.

"We have to try to compete with these types of teams.

"When I analyse our opponents, the first thing I do is study them and try to prepare to play against them at their best. 

"Arsenal are structurally solid, they can keep possession, combine well, and have quick and technically-gifted players.

"We are going to see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, so we will face the best Arsenal side, both collectively and individually."

Gerard Moreno has either scored or assisted in each of his seven starts in the Europa League this season (six goals and three assists).

Arsenal, who are relying on the Europa League to salvage their campaign, know a place in next season's Champions League is the reward if they win the competition.

They have progressed from each of their last two European knockout ties where they lost the first leg.

And not since 1995-96 have Arsenal failed to qualify for European competition of some sort, with Mikel Arteta acknowledging the importance of keeping that run going in his own pre-match news conference.

While he thinks his side are underdogs, Emery is keen to highlight the significance of this accomplishment.

"It is a very beautiful moment for us," he said.

"We have been working throughout the year trying to build on our confidence, results and objectives, and in the Europa League we’ve had a fairly solid campaign so far.

"We are approaching the game in the same way we did the first leg. 

"We will build on our performance in the previous 90 minutes. We are 2-1 up, but that doesn’t change anything. We are going to try to be ready for whatever lies ahead."

Arsenal have lost just one of their 11 knockout games with Spanish opponents at home, with that loss coming against Barcelona in the Champions League last 16 in February 2016.

Mikel Arteta has urged his Arsenal players to ignore talk of a possible takeover at the club and "embrace the challenge" of overcoming Villarreal to reach the Europa League final.

The build-up to last week's 2-1 first-leg defeat in Spain was dominated by suggestions that Spotify CEO Daniel Ek is ready to buy out the Kroenke family.

The current owners have faced intense scrutiny in the wake of the Gunners' ill-fated involvement with the proposed European Super League, leading to a large protest two weeks ago.

Thierry Henry this week confirmed Ek has reached out to him, as well as fellow club legends Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp, to help with the takeover bid.

However, while talk of a possible new era for Arsenal continues off the field, Arteta is only concerned about what happens on it as his side prepare for Thursday's visit of Villarreal.

"We have to try to be away from all the rumours and everything that is happening around the club and focus on the pitch," Arteta said at a pre-match news conference on Wednesday.

"The best way to help the club is to win football matches and be competitive at the highest level."

More protests are expected at Emirates Stadium ahead of the Villarreal match and Arteta respects the fans' right to express their views.

"I think that they have to be able to do so," he said. "If it's done in a specific way, then they have the right to do it. We have to prepare for the game in the best possible way.

"I wouldn't like to use any excuses. I know that the only purpose of the fans is to defend the club and that they want the best for the team. We will try to do the same."

Nicolas Pepe's penalty, after Manu Trigueros and Raul Albiol had given Villarreal a two-goal lead in the first leg, ensures that it is all to play for in the return fixture.

Arsenal have progressed from each of their last two European knockout ties where they lost the first leg.

"We have to embrace the challenge, the opportunity we have ahead," Arteta said. "It is only the 10th time the club is in a European semi-final. We have to take the opportunity.

"It's a massive game for everybody but in particular for the club because we are representing the club and our fans and we want to do it in the best way by winning trophies.

"It's a big moment again. Not for me, but for the club and for everything that has happened in the last two years and the last months.

"So I think it will be really important and a big step forward if we are able to be in that final and have the opportunity to win that trophy."

Arsenal are relying on the Europa League to salvage their campaign, with a place in next season's Champions League their reward if they win the competition.

Not since 1995-96 have Arsenal failed to qualify for European competition of some sort, and Arteta has acknowledged the importance of keeping that run going.

"Not being in the Champions League is not something we want, but it's the reality. A lot of things have happened and the level has been raised to an unprecedented level," the Arsenal boss said.

"Nobody accepts the situation as it is. We want to change it straight away and this season we have the chance to change it [by winning the Europa League]."

Asked if this could be the last opportunity for the current group of players to win a trophy together, Arteta said: "I don't want to think like that.

"I want to think my players always have the hunger to win any competition. It's true for some players it might be the last season for different reasons.

"I can see how much it means for them and how much they want it."

Arsenal have lost just one of their 11 knockout games with Spanish opponents at home, with that loss coming against Barcelona in the Champions League last 16 in February 2016.

However, Villarreal have progressed from 15 of their 16 two-legged ties in major European competition when winning the first leg - the only exception being the 2016 Europa League semi-final when losing to Liverpool.

Arteta is monitoring the fitness of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Kieran Tierney, David Luiz and Alexandre Lacazette ahead of Thursday's second leg, while Dani Ceballos is suspended after being sent off in the reverse fixture.

Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal's dominant 2-0 win over Newcastle United was the perfect preparation for Thursday's Europa League semi-final second leg against Villarreal.

The Gunners suffered a 2-1 defeat in the first leg in Spain on Thursday, but they returned to winning ways against Steve Bruce's side at St James' Park.

Mohamed Elneny's first Premier League goal in his 66th appearance in the competition got them on their way after just five minutes, before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sealed a sixth consecutive win against the Magpies without conceding a goal.

Aubameyang's second-half goal meant he became the first Arsenal player to score in five consecutive matches against an opponent since Olivier Giroud netted in six straight games against Aston Villa between 2013 and 2016.

The only blot on the Gunners' copybook was a hamstring injury to David Luiz, which could keep the Brazilian out for the remainder of the season.

Arteta made nine changes to the side that lost in Spain and was pleased with his side's dominance, the Gunners taking 19 shots and restricting the hosts to just a single shot on target.

"Apart from David's injury, that was all we wanted," Arteta told a media conference.

"We wanted to keep the team fresh and pick players with the right attitude to play this game. The focus was on today. It was a strong performance from the beginning.

"We dominated the game and won the three points, which we needed. It helps for Thursday as well."

Aubameyang has now scored in all three of his appearances against Newcastle this season, becoming the first Arsenal player to score in three separate matches against an opponent in a single season since Alexis Sanchez against Hull City in 2014-15.

The Gabon international, who was recently struck down with malaria, came off the bench for the final five minutes against Villarreal in Spain and proved his fitness with an impressive display on Sunday.

"We thought he wasn't going to manage it on Thursday. Two days before, he was struggling," Arteta explained. "He could only manage to play 10 or 15 minutes.

"The day after, he started to feel better. It's good to see he was fine today. He scored a goal, he played well, so it's a real boost."

Gabriel Martinelli enjoyed an eventful game, laying on Aubameyang's goal with a fine cross and drawing a foul from Fabian Schar in the 90th minute which resulted in a red card for the Newcastle defender.

"Gabi's improving every week," Arteta said. "He's taking his minutes in the right way.

"He's developing in the way we all believe he can. Today he had an assist, some good moments on the left and we're trying to play him as a number nine as well."

Mikel Arteta acknowledged Arsenal are heading for one of their most pivotal transfer windows in recent history as he aims to get the Gunners competing back at the top of the Premier League.

It has been a campaign of inconsistency for Arsenal, who are 10th in the table and realistically will only be playing European football next season if they win the Europa League.

That route is certainly no easy path given they trail 2-1 to Villarreal after the first leg of their semi-final tie, ahead of the return clash at Emirates Stadium on Thursday.

It promises to be another close season of rebuilding for Arteta, with veteran centre-back David Luiz out of contract, Alexandre Lacazette entering the final year of his contract, and Martin Odegaard and Dani Ceballos due to return to Real Madrid when their loan deals expire.

Decisions also need to be made on the futures of Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock, who are all out on loan, while Hector Bellerin and Eddie Nketiah have been tipped for exits to raise funds.

Fan discontent with the Kroenke family, the club's owners, grew in the wake of the decision to sign up for the ill-fated Super League, and led to talk of a takeover bid from Spotify CEO Daniel Ek.

The Kroenke family responded by insisting the club is not for sale and Josh Kroenke recently said he was "excited" about plans for the forthcoming window.

For Arteta, the significance of the upcoming months is not lost.

When asked by Sky Sports if this is the most pivotal window in years, Arteta replied: "Yes, because a lot of things have happened in the last few transfer windows. There are a lot of players in various situations. 

"It's crucial. We want to go to the next level and there are a lot of things we need to do to get there."

While the futures of several players remain up in the air, Arteta has continued his show of faith in the club's young talent by tying down Bukayo Saka and Folarin Balogun to long-term deals.

Emile Smith Rowe is another who has emerged as a breakout performer for Arsenal this season and Arteta says talks will take place over an extension to a contract that expires in 2023.

"We are going to have that discussion," he said.

"I think Emile has earned the right to look at that situation because of the performances that he has produced. He's very much engaged and wants to continue with us, that's for sure."

While Arteta has an eye on the future, the amiable Spaniard is also focused on the here and now and ensuring Arsenal complete the season on a high note.

"I'm really focused on what we have to do now: finish the season as strongly as possible and try to get into that final, which is going to be key for us," he added.

"Where we want to get to will depend on a lot of things; how we end the season, where we end up, what ability and prospects we'll have for next season. Everything is a reflection of what happens now."

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