Mikel Arteta admits he still has something to prove as a manager in European competition as he aims to lead Arsenal into the Champions League knockout stages on Wednesday night.
The Gunners host Lens at the Emirates Stadium knowing a point would secure safe passage into the last 16 while victory will seal top spot in Group B.
Arteta led Arsenal back into the Champions League after a seven-year absence but – other than a run to the semi-finals in 2020-21 – he struggled in Europa League knockout games earlier in his tenure.
Asked if he has something to prove in Europe, he replied: “For sure.
“I think it is not that we have to prove, we had to come back into Europe being the club we want to be, have that presence and the results that tell them we are back in a strong way, we haven’t done that yet and it needs to be done.”
While Arsenal are on the verge of qualifying for the latter rounds, Premier League rivals Manchester United and Newcastle are still uncertain if their European campaigns will extend beyond Christmas this season.
“100 per cent not,” Arteta replied when asked if qualification should be taken for granted.
“You have to sweat, dig in a lot and play well in games to deserve to win them. We are playing against really tough opponents.
“PSV have won all of their games in their league, they have only lost against us. Sevilla is a very tough place to go and tomorrow is going to be a really difficult game but hopefully we can be better than them.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) November 28, 2023
“I am enjoying it, is a great feeling. It makes you proud, it makes you feel that it is the level the club should be at and we are competing really well so let’s continue to do so.”
With Arsenal on the cusp of making the knockout rounds, Arteta could be tempted to shuffle his pack against their Ligue 1 opposition.
Kai Havertz will be pushing for a start after coming off the bench to score a late winner at Brentford on Saturday to send Arsenal top of the Premier League.
Others will also be knocking on the door but one player who will definitely not feature is Fabio Vieira.
Arteta revealed the midfielder has gone under the knife to fix a niggling groin issue and could not offer a return date when pressed.
“Yes, we’ve got a problem with him,” he said.
“He’s been having some discomfort. We tried to have some conservative treatment with him.
“It wasn’t improving so we sent him to see a specialist and the advice was to have an operation in his groin. We expect him to be out for weeks now.
“We don’t expect him to (be back before January). Let’s see how he evolves. The job it was done yesterday so we’ll have to wait and see. It will take weeks I think.”
Vieira joins Thomas Partey, Jurrien Timber and Emile Smith Rowe on the sidelines with the potential that the quartet all miss the busy festive schedule.