Mikel Arteta admitted he has an emotional connection with Everton and expects his former side to put up a battle when Arsenal travel to Goodison Park in the Premier League on Sunday.
Arsenal reignite their Premier League bid with a trip to Merseyside where they face Sean Dyche’s Everton, who are unbeaten at home against the Gunners since 2017.
Arteta praised his former side’s attributes and highlighted the special connection between himself and the Toffees.
“I’m really excited about it, the last six years we have not won there so we are going to have to earn it,” Arteta said.
“We know we are going to have to be at our best to beat them there and that’s something we haven’t managed to do so that’s where we are going to start.
“It is a big emotional connection I have to that football club with many years I spent there, the incredible memories that I have so I’m always grateful. It’s a big part of my playing career and as a coach I have to play against them and we have to beat them.
“We’ve been here and we’ve been to grounds before where we haven’t won before and we’ve done it so it’s about understanding the importance and knowing what we lacked in those games and putting it right.
“Sometimes you cannot avoid a battle (with Everton), the style of play they have is very clear and they’re very good at that.
“We have a different one and it’s about trying to impose your way of playing and the tactic is just to make sure your opponent’s strengths are hiding and that ours are coming out every single time to fulfill the potential of your players, and that’s what I think both managers and players will try to do.”
Arsenal’s Champions League opener against PSV next week is their first time back in the competition since the 2016-17 season.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) September 15, 2023
The Spaniard embraced the challenge of a difficult schedule alongside another battle with Manchester City at the summit of the Premier League this season.
“We played three games a week last year, but the Champions League is obviously different with the expectations and that we’ve been away from it for seven years,” he added.
“It’s excitement, this is where we want to be and when you look at the fixtures and the games we are going to have to play, I think everyone is really looking forward to it.”
Arsenal terminated Nicolas Pepe’s contract on Saturday after the Ivorian failed to hold down a starting role at the Emirates since his reported £72 million move – then a club-record fee – in 2019.
Arteta said: “What I can say is that he’s a phenomenal boy, he trained really hard, it’s not his fault that the amount of money we paid at the time.
“When things aren’t working out you have to move on and there’s no point when things aren’t working either way.
“The decisions has been made and I think it’s in the benefit of both parties.”