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Arsenal deserve to be on top of EPL, will miss Jesus — Arteta

MIKEL Arteta believes his Arsenal side have earned their place at the top of the Premier League table without any favours.

The Gunners are five points clear of champions Manchester City with 14 rounds of games played before the Qatar 2022 World Cup break.

“We have to take it game by game. Football changes so quickly and what is very good can be very different in a week’s time,” he told the Arsenal website.

“But we know our reality. We know what we are capable of. We deserve the position that we’re in right now. Now, we have to do the same for the next 24 matches and that’s a big challenge considering the level in this league.”

Arsenal return to Premier League action on Boxing Day Monday with a home clash against West Ham, and Arteta is looking forward to his first competitive fixture since November.

“It’s been an unusual period obviously with the World Cup, but a period as well that we have used well to train on certain things that we needed to train, and to spend some time on certain players that haven’t been with their national teams,” the Arsenal manager said during his pre-match press conference today.

“Now everybody is back apart from Saliba who’s going to be back tomorrow hopefully, so let’s crack on to the second part of the season which is going to be interesting and intense, and we’re really looking forward to it.

“We need to do that (recreate momentum) on the pitch. We have talked a lot about it, and we know the importance of starting strong again.

“We’re playing at home, it’s a very special day in the Premier League historically – a very special family day to play football. It’s an incredible atmosphere [on Boxing Day] and we want to make the most out of it.”

On integrating the World Cup players back into the squad, Arteta said he expected the players to be in good shape, except for Gabriel Jesus, who got injured playing for Brazil in Qatar.

“They are in a really good place. Obviously, a huge blow with Gabriel Jesus and what happened in the World Cup with his injury and we’re going to miss him for a period of time. But the season has challenges,” the Spaniard noted.

“That’s a challenge that we have to overcome as well, but if you want to be at the top you know you are going to have to face those sorts of challenges.

“The other World Cup players are all fine. They came in in good spirits, some of them came earlier than expected, but they were bursting to be back and be part of it. I feel really good energy around the place and they have got straight into the rhythm of what we want. We have a few days until Monday but we are good.”

Arteta claims he is not sure of Jesus’ estimated return date, despite speculations that the Brazilian will be out until February.

He said: “I never gave a date so that’s not the words that I used, and I haven’t used any words right now. I said that we don’t know, it will take some time for sure.

“Obviously, he’s going through surgery so that’s the extent of the injury. We’ll be in the market, always active. That’s what I said and we’ll assess the biggest opportunities that we have.”

Arteta played for Everton under current West Ham manager David Moyes and he said the Scotsman made an impression on him.

“Huge impact. I’m so grateful first off for the trust he always showed in me, for how much I learned off him on the field, off the field, about building a team, and about getting the right characters in the team to build what you want,” he explained.

“He was extremely supportive all the time and everything we did together, and I have incredible memories with him because we had a very successful time together.”

Knowing Moyes, Arteta expects a tough time against the Hammers at the Emirates Stadium on Boxing Day.

“Very dangerous. I know for sure [Moyes] has been working the team really hard since he took over,” he said.

“He absolutely maximized the potential of that team, and took them to a different level, and I’m sure they have been working really hard like we all have been in this period. It will be a very difficult contest.”

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