Mikel Arteta says the only mind games he intends to play this season will be with his own players, dismissing the temptation to indulge in speculation with his counterparts over his outcome.
The Arsenal manager was asked if he agreed with Antonio Conte’s suggestion last month that his side were favorites to take fourth place – a statement that did not anticipate third place could also be up for grabs if Chelsea continue to stutter – and if that status would put pressure on them. He refused to be dragged in and said psychological tactics would be more effectively deployed internally.
“I don’t know, it’s a question for him,” Arteta said. “But what we want to do is very clear, and the perception of what people think is not going to change that.”
On mind games, he said: “I do it more with my players, I think. I do it more with the players, if necessary. Asked to elaborate, he joked: “No! Because they’ll know what they’re doing and that’s the whole point.
Arsenal’s horizons have changed dramatically since losing their first three games and they travel to Crystal Palace on Monday night looking for a seventh win in eight. Arteta said he had no concerns about his young side’s ability to cope with the change in expectation.
“There’s nothing different, they’ve been dealing with it for weeks already,” he said. “Because it’s a conversation we’ve had now for over six to eight weeks so they’ve been through it before and responded really well so it’s nothing new because they already have it do and are able to do it.”
Bernd Leno will continue in goal at Selhurst Park unless Aaron Ramsdale recovers from a hip injury sooner than expected. The German international has been cold this season and his appearance in the win at Aston Villa was his first in the top flight since August. Arteta hailed the 30-year-old’s attitude but doesn’t regret keeping him on the bench.
“It’s football and it’s not an individual sport,” he said. “When he’s been playing for 10 years it meant someone was waiting for that opportunity, and I have a lot of sympathy for every player who doesn’t play and don’t get the chances they probably deserve, but unfortunately that’s the game.
“He did a very similar thing to Cedric [Soares] and Nico [Pépé]. Do not accept the situation but try to improve it. And then he was consistent in the way he trained, in the way he behaved, during these months, waiting for the opportunity and, when he had it, seizing it.