Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta insisted that his side proved their mental toughness by winning 1-0 over Sunderland and can still secure a place in the Champions League.
Arsenal vice-captain returned from a calf injury at the Stadium of Light to help Arsenal hang on with 10 men after Carl Jenkinson was sent off with 30 minutes left.
The Spanish midfielder admitted that Arsenal faced lots of criticism after an indifferent campaign, but he still believes that his side has enough quality to finish amongst the top four teams in the league table.
“You have to win games like that. In the last five or 10 minutes they were hanging balls into the box. Told Arteta in an interview given to The Mirror.
“It’s difficult to get the ball out when they do that, but we defended really well and Wojciech Szczesny made two or three outstanding saves.
“Criticism has to be constructive. We’re not as high in the table as we have the ability to be, so we know we’re there to be criticised. The only thing we can do is improve where we are in the league.
“Everyone knows we play really good football at times and create a lot of chances. Hopefully from now to the end of the season we will move upwards in the league.
“But we showed we can battle too. It’s always difficult with 10 men.
“Throw on another striker like Sunderland did, and start putting balls into the box. It puts you under pressure. But I think our centre-backs and the ‘keeper were outstanding.”
Arsene Wenger’s side is currently placed at the fifth slot of the league table with four points behind Tottenham Hotspur. Arsenal currently sits outside the Champions League qualification place but would get an opportunity to bridge the gap of four points between themselves and Tottenham at White Hart Lane in three weeks’ time.
“It’s a massive game,” Arteta said. “It could be decisive in the race for the top four. I know the manager’s record of always getting there but 10 years ago it was easier than it is now.
“Now there are so many more sides with equal spending power. There’s been a big improvement in English football.
“There is no other league in Europe where it’s as tough and no other league where the levels are as hard as here to get to the Champions League. Over here there are five or six top teams.”