Mikel Arteta has hailed the unity at Arsenal, which he believes can be evidenced by their upturn in fortunes since the exit of disruptive influences at the club.
Arsenal were precariously perched just four points above the drop zone on Christmas Day and Arteta even had to countenance suggestions that a side used to competing in Europe could be dragged into a relegation battle.
Since then, though, only champions Manchester City have had a better run of form in the Premier League than Arsenal and, while the best they can hope for is a seventh-placed finish, Arteta is cautiously optimistic about the future.
“The best thing has been to keep a team, employees and everybody together,” he said. “In those circumstances, when you are not winning and when there are so many people, some inside, some outside, that are trying to hurt.
“To keep them together and block that and be so strong, I think that’s some achievement because normally when that happens, that cracks and everything falls, and it didn’t.
“(Our form) shows that we are able to do it and if we get a bit more normal situations I’m very positive about what we can do. We are judged off what we’ve done in the whole season and it’s not for sure where we want to be.”
Arsenal terminated the contracts of Mesut Ozil, Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos at the start of the year and several others, including Sead Kolasinac and William Saliba, were loaned out during the transfer window.
Arteta did not name anyone he thought had been having a negative impact but when asked whether any individuals he accused of trying to hurt Arsenal were still at the club, he said pointedly: “No.”
Victory over Brighton in Sunday’s season finale could see Arsenal leap up two places in the table to seventh, above north London rivals Tottenham, and bag a play-off spot in UEFA’s new third-tier Europa Conference League.
Arteta acknowledged the Gunners have fallen some way short of what is expected from them but the Spaniard insisted he would do everything within his power to drive the club forwards.
Asked how he would assess this campaign, he responded: “Extraordinarily challenging but incredibly stimulating… a big opportunity coming up.
“Certainly every supporter should be aiming for us to be lifting trophies. When that’s not the case they’re not going to be happy and they’ll be disappointed.
“(But) I am prepared to do anything that it takes to give the club the most success, joy and a feeling of pertinence and a feeling of being proud of what we are trying to do. I won’t stop until I do that.
“I am very competitive. I just try to be facing the challenge when it comes, I’m not hiding from it. I know how big the task is and how big and how good the level is in this league and still what the expectation is with us.
“We have to manage that and to manage that is probably the hardest thing. It shows you that with the right determination, with the right decisions, the potential that we have is huge.”