Mikel Arteta refused to get carried away in the race for the Premier League top four after Arsenal beat Brentford as he admitted losing the reverse fixture had left a “scar” on his side.
The Gunners ran out 2-1 winners as a frustrating first half gave way to goals from Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, with Christian Norgaard scoring a last-gasp consolation for the visitors.
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The victory leaves Arsenal just a point off Manchester United in fourth, with Arteta’s side also having two games in hand on their rivals.
But the Spaniard is keen to keep focus on maintaining momentum, with the rescheduled home fixture against Wolves next up on Thursday night.
“There is a long way to go,” he said on Arsenal’s quest to return to Champions League football with a top-four finish.
“But we are a little bit closer today because we won our game. It is what we have to do. You can see with the results how tough it is to win in this league.
“So we need to go on Thursday again, prepare very well, against Wolves it is going to be a really difficult match.
“We need to perform well to win and play better and better and better, that’s the aim. We cannot look too far. Things change very quickly. It’s really difficult to win matches in this league.”
Arteta also hailed goalscorers Smith Rowe and Saka, with the academy graduates once again serenaded by the Emirates Stadium crowd, who have tweaked Status Quo’s hit ‘Rocking All Over the World’ to praise the England pair.
“I understand the supporters love that song,” he said.
“Everybody loves that song because they are players that have been raised in our system. I am really happy that we have players that take the responsibility and they manage to win games for us. It is really impressive at that age.”
The game could not have been more different to the opening game of the season when a depleted Arsenal were well beaten at newly-promoted Brentford.
Only four players who started that day were in the XI that kicked off here and Arteta revealed the loss had a lasting impact on his players.
“That hurt and that scar was there,” he added.
“I certainly felt it. I tried to transmit it to the players that we should not forget how we felt after the game. We understood what happened and the results after that.
“We analysed it with the context we were in and it was really difficult to prepare that game. The players that we had on that pitch is nothing to do with the players that we had today. But we learned a lot as a team.”
Brentford have now won just one of their last 10 league games and, with Newcastle, Watford and Burnley all picking up points below them, head coach Thomas Frank is only keeping eyes on his own side.
“I think it is about us, what we can do,” he said.
“Focus on the next training, the next game, that is the most important thing. We have done that the whole season, it is only about us.
“Every team in the Premier League, if you are in the bottom 10, have spells like this.”