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- Mikel Arteta says clash with Crystal Palace is his most important as a manager
- Arteta wants Arsenal to respond after being knocked out of the Europa League
- Arsenal boss has described game v Palace as one of 11 ‘finals’ in their title tilt
Mikel Arteta described the Crystal Palace clash as the most important match of his managerial career, noting the bruising Europa League exit to Sporting just three days ago.
Arsenal are still sweating on the fitness of key defender William Saliba who was just one player to leave the Emirates Stadium limping after an emotionally and physically draining match.
It left the Gunners with little time to prepare for Sunday’s clash with Palace, which Arteta describes as one of 11 ‘finals’ in their Premier League title tilt. And the Spaniard agreed he faces a monumental task to re-energise his team’s bodies and minds in the short turnaround.
Asked where the match ranks, he said: ‘It’s the most important one.
‘I’s the only game we have before the (international) break now. And we will do what we have to do. If we do, we will be in a really strong position.
‘A lot of players had to play 120 minutes that we didn’t want to do, especially with the amount of minutes that some players have played, but we will see who is available and who is in what condition and put the best team out there to win.
‘If a player’s fitness is 50-50 he cannot play in the Premier League, you have to be at 90 or 100 per cent to be at the level we need in this league. There are 48 hours to recover and assess everybody, and hopefully we will recover well.’
Palace will travel across London without a manager after sacking Patrick Vieira on Friday morning. Former club captain Paddy McCarthy will take interim charge, with the Under 21s boss assisted by Darren Powell and the goalkeeping coach, Dean Kiely.
They have not won yet in 2023, in a 12-match run stretching back to New Year’s Eve. But in narrow defeats to Manchester City and Brighton in the last week, Arteta said he saw an improving team.
‘To beat them we have to be better again than we were on Thursday in many departments with the same desire and do what we have to do to win the game,’ he said.
French defender Saliba has started every league game this season and was to be assessed over a back injury, with Rob Holding expected to deputise if he is absent. Takehiro Tomiyasu also limped off on Thursday and Arteta said his injury is more serious.
Arteta added: ‘I tried to give a lot of clarity in the dressing-room and it was all about the message: accept it, swallow it, we have to learn from it but there is no point now spending one bit of energy or thought that is going to take something out of Sunday.
‘I saw a lot of things on Thursday, especially when we were giving a lot of balls away and suffering, that they did it together. The way they reacted, the way they were when we conceded a goal and how the game changed after that. It shows me a lot of positive signs.’