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Arteta Rues Top-Four Blow Up As Reality of Missing UCL Emerges

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Mikel Arteta regretted Arsenal’s missed opportunity as he watched Tottenham earn a valuable Champions League draw.

Arteta claimed he was thrilled to be back on the Thursday night hamster wheel with PSV Eindhoven, FC Zurich, and Norwegian underdogs Bodo/Glimt for company. The Gunners were dealt a pretty fortunate hand, travel-wise, in the Europa League group round.

He agreed Arsenal might have – and should have – been on the lucrative ferris wheel instead of Spurs, reflecting ruefully: “We need to learn the lessons and understand why we’re not there.” They may have avoided lengthy travels to remote, backward Europe.

Arteta, presiding over the only 100 per cent record in all four divisions ahead of unbeaten Fulham’s visit to the Emirates on Saturday, has good reason to be in buoyant mood.

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New signings Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko have been a perfect fit, central defender William Saliba has been a revelation and £72million club-record flop Nicolas Pepe has been farmed out on loan to Nice, leaving scope for at least one more incoming transfer before the window closes next week. But Arteta’s excitement at the Gunners’ renewal of European orbit – they never made it past Dover last season – has been tempered by the consequences of their blow-out in May.

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Prior to their disastrous back-to-back losses to Tottenham and Newcastle in the final stretch, Arsenal was on track to return to the top four. The normally controlled Spaniard yelled at his players in the through-the-keyhole Amazon Prime video All Or Nothing: Arsenal following the devastating 2-0 loss at St. James’ Park, demanding them to “shut your mouth and eat it.”

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However, Arteta says he’s looking forward to getting his passport stamped once more since “we missed it so much in the last year – those nights at the Emirates, the atmosphere, playing against European clubs, and the preparation is amazing. Additionally, it gives players opportunities because we can rotate everyone more.

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“We could have been there, and maybe in another year with the same level of performance that we had we should be there,” conceded Arteta. “But we weren’t there so we need to learn the lessons, understand why we weren’t there and what is the level required, go to the next step and try again. It is only (a less glamorous competition) on paper – the reality is pretty different, and I think there are some good examples around of big teams who have won the competition in the last few years.”

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