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By Simon Collings
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta can clinch a Champions League place against Tottenham this evening. Photo: PA Wire

Mikel Arteta has told his players that beating Tottenham tonight and qualifying for the Champions League would be the perfect way to repay fans’ faith in his Arsenal rebuild.

The Gunners endured a miserable start to the season, but supporters stuck with Arteta and his young team. Arsenal are transformed since then, and after getting their project back on track, can secure fourth place ahead of their north London rivals with a win.

Arsenal are four points ahead of Spurs with three games remaining, and even a draw would ensure they remain favourites to reach the Champions League for the first time since 2015-16.

But Arteta insists his side will play to win and is in no mood to play down the significance of the short journey to Tottenham as Arsenal look to give their fans a night to remember.

“It’s the best way to show them gratitude for the way they have behaved with the team,” said Arteta. “For me, that would be the answer: to say thank you and say we are in this together, and now the journey is going to change slightly and I think we are going to be more excited about the future.

“It’s the opportunity to achieve something we haven’t achieved for many years. We always play to win — and that’s the way we will prepare for this game.”

Arteta took charge in December 2019 following the exit of Unai Emery and a difficult few years towards the end of Arsene Wenger’s largely successful 22 years in charge.

His appointment was a gamble, given it was his first job as a manager, although he did have experience working as part of Pep Guardiola’s coaching staff at Manchester City.

After he retired as a player at Arsenal in 2016, then Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was interested in adding him to his backroom team at Spurs.

Arteta and Pochettino remain close friends since first meeting as players at Paris Saint-Germain. But asked if he was close to joining Pochettino or he could have ever worked at Spurs, Arteta said: “No. My relationship with Mauricio comes since I was 18 and I always said that for me he was like a football father. But he was coach of Spurs and I was here at the time.”

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