Mikel Arteta will win three points, bragging rights and vindication if Arsenal beat Tottenham

For Arsenal and Tottenham, there is so much at stake. A Champions League place and all the benefits that come with it, three Premier League points and local bragging rights. 

For Mikel Arteta specifically, there is the additional prize of vindication.

That is what he stands on the brink of as he bids to steer Arsenal over the line and back into Europe’s top club competition, a coveted reward that will be the culmination of two-and-a-half years full of major calls.

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There is lots on the line for Arsenal in their north London derby against Tottenham on Thursday

His controversial ostracising of highest earners Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng, among others, for falling foul of his non-negotiables. Easing out other senior figures to make way for his youth revolution.

His decision to trust his small squad, bring in no January additions and complete the campaign with just two strikers. 

There have been results-related storms for Arteta to ride out too during his rollercoaster Arsenal reign but he is so close to being able to argue he was right. 

‘I don’t know, the perception probably will be that (Champions League vindicates everything),’ he said.

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‘We just try to make decisions for the best interest of the football club, the team and trying to be consistent with the things we want to achieve and how we are going to evolve, and the vision that we have for the club. Then results will dictate, more likely, whether you are right or wrong.’

Arsenal will kick off with a four-point advantage, reducing the pressure on Arteta’s side and their need for victory. They will also have opportunities against Newcastle and Everton to collect the points they require.

Still, there is no thought of playing for a draw, keeping Spurs at arms’ length and getting the job done later. 

‘We always play to win and that’s the way we will prepare this game,’ Arteta said.

Taking Champions League qualification with a win would vindicate Mikel Arteta’s methods

Having maximised not having the additional workload of European football this season and fought their way into fourth – remarkably after being bottom, pointless and goalless after three games – there is a sense this a ‘seize the moment’ opportunity for Arsenal.

‘We are in a position that probably we didn’t expect to be in this moment,’ admitted Arteta. Now there, it is a chance Arsenal need to take.

Five years out of the competition has seen Arsenal’s finances take a major hit, compounded by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, their status dented and spark significant changes on and off the pitch.

Arteta said: ‘It’s had big consequences for the club in the atmosphere and environment around it, financially. We want to put that right.’

His controversial ostracising of highest earners Mesut Ozil (centre) and Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng (right) was criticised by many but he is so close to being able to say he was right

That is underlined by the likelihood of this being one of the special occasions when Arteta will use a long-serving staff member, as he has in the past, to give a talk reiterating to his players the significance of what lies ahead.

He also has technical director Edu to call on if need be, the Brazilian being a member of Arsenal Invincibles squad that won the league at Tottenham in 2004.

Up for grabs on Thursday night is not silverware but something Arsene Wenger infamously once said should now be considered an equivalent.

Arteta added: ‘When you have the opportunity to achieve one of your objectives in the season, you just cannot wait to play the game because this is a job, and the work you have done throughout the season to try to earn it. 

‘I’m very excited about it. It’s a game that can help us move forwards quicker than expected.’

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