Mikel Arteta admits Tottenham deserve to be so far ahead of Arsenal. But he insists it is too early to call them title contenders.
And defender Hector Bellerin claims criticism of the under-pressure Gunners boss is “unjust” – despite a run of five defeats in eight Premier League games.
Struggling Arsenal go into Sunday’s eagerly-awaited north London derby a massive eight points and 13 places behind table-topping Spurs.
But after Thursday night’s 4-1 Europa league win over Rapid Vienna, Arteta has challenged his players to start closing that gap as quickly as possible.
The Gunners boss said: “The table is like that because they deserve it more than us and they’ve done things better than us.
“We have to accept that. But we want to go there and make that gap three points smaller.
“It’s very early in the season to see who is title contenders or not but what you can say is they are in the position they are because they are doing things the right way.
“When they have moments of difficulty, they stick to the plan and they believe they will get the result at some stage and at the moment it’s happening for them.”
“What we have to look at is where we will be after 38 games in the league. After Sunday, we want to finish three points closer to them.”
Arteta’s job is not currently under threat because the Arsenal board have invested so much personal capital in him.
But full-back Bellerin insists it’s wrong for critics to take aim at the Gunners boss, who has already won the FA Cup and Community Shield since taking charge.
Bellerin told beIN SPORTS: “So unjust. So unjust. We have to, as players, take responsibility for this.
“We all know that Mikel and his coaching team give us all the tools that we need to win all the games.
“When you lose a game it’s always very easy to blame the coach. But we have to be the ones to step up.
“He changed the dynamic of the team and the club straight away – he was amazing to get two trophies straight away.
“There are obviously questions, and we’re not on the best run. What he’s doing, changing the identity of the team, of the club, changing the behaviours…
“He’s not trying to make changes just on the pitch but outside of it, this isn’t something you can do overnight.”
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