Mikel Arteta wants the Emirates Stadium to be a fortress with return of fans

By Mark Mann-Bryans, PA
·3-min read

Mikel Arteta is aiming to turn the Emirates Stadium into a ‘fortress’ as Arsenal plan to welcome fans back for the first time in nine months.

Sunday’s Premier League visit of Wolves will still take place behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the new tier system and a change in government regulations means 2,000 supporters can attend Thursday’s Europa League clash with Rapid Vienna.

There will no doubt be a stampede for the tickets, being sold on a first-come-first-served basis to eligible supporters.

Arteta will be keen to welcome them in on the back of a return to winning ways in the league, having taken just one point from their last two fixtures.

The Gunners also need to end a run of 476 minutes without a Premier League goal from open play – and Arteta is keen for an upturn in form at the Emirates.

Asked if a win over Wolves would kick-start Arsenal’s Premier League campaign, Arteta replied: “Yes – after the disappointment result that we had at home, well the last two we had at home, we have to put that right.

“We have to make the Emirates a fortress. It’s a completely different feeling playing at home with our without fans, it’s not the same but it’s what we have at the moment and we need a win on Sunday for sure.”

Arsenal’s preparations for the game suffered a minor hiccup when their flight back from Norway on Thursday night was delayed due to fog.

Having initially planned to fly home straight after their Europa League win over Molde, players and staff stayed overnight before flying into Luton and heading to Friday training as originally planned.

The victory in Norway secured Arsenal’s progression into the knockout stages, with their free-scoring form at odds with their current domestic run.

“In the Europa we find ourselves with more flow and more creativity in the final third, I would say,” Arteta said when asked to explain the difference.

Nicolas Pepe's goal against Sheffield United on October 4 was the last time Arsenal scored from open play in the Premier League.
Nicolas Pepe’s goal against Sheffield United on October 4 was the last time Arsenal scored from open play in the Premier League. (Clive Rose/PA)

“More ‘Let’s go for it, and let’s express ourselves’. Obviously the opponent is not the same but it’s something to look at.

“It’s true that in the Premier League the teams are winning the games by very small margins apart from one or two.

“We’ve been competing in all the games apart from the last 25 minutes against Aston Villa and at the end the boxes are defining what we do in games.

“It’s true that in the opposition box we haven’t been as ruthless and resilient as we have to be. We have paid for that with some results.

“We try to encourage them to play with that freedom. We have a lot of rotation, some because of injuries, some because of their performances.

“We have played some big teams in the first nine games. That is something we obviously have to improve, and we are trying to improve.”