Mikel Arteta warns Arsenal stars against ‘big mistake’ ahead of Fulham clash


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Mikel Arteta has warned his Arsenal players that focusing all of their efforts solely on the Europa League would be a ‘big mistake’ and insists there is a lot to play for in the Premier League.

Arsenal produced one of their best performances of the season as they thrashed Slavia Prague 4-0 away from home in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final.

The 5-1 aggregate win over the Czech outfit set up a semi-final meeting with Villarreal – who are managed by former Arsenal manager Unai Emery.

If they win the competition, the Gunners will qualify for the Champions League, which would be a massive boost after a difficult season.

It’s incredibly unlikely they can seal Champions League qualification through the Premier League. They are 10 points behind fourth-placed West Ham with seven games to play, while Chelsea and Liverpool also remain in the hunt.

Europa League qualification may prove more likely, particularly with Everton and Tottenham Hotspur both dropping points already this weekend, and Arteta is confident there is a lot to play for domestically, even if there is a temptation to focus their efforts purely on winning in Europe.

‘Putting our eggs in one basket would be a big mistake,’ said Arteta ahead of Sunday’s Premier League meeting with Fulham.

‘I love that phrase. My dad has always told me that since I was 15 years old. We cannot do that.

‘The league is really important — there are a lot of points to play for and there have been a lot of changes in recent weeks in terms of the table.

‘We want to be involved right up until the last match and the way to do it is to put a run together ourselves.’

Arteta feels his side set a bar for themselves against Slavia Prague and hopes they will find the consistency that has been lacking this season.

‘If you look at the performances and results we have had against some of the more difficult opponents, you would say, “How is that possible?”

‘But then for different reasons, some in details, some our own mistakes, we have conceded and given away a lot of points.

‘That has put our season under scrutiny and put ourselves in a position we are not comfortable with.

‘The form we have had in the Europa League has been very, very positive — we have earned a place in the semi-finals and are really optimistic about the opportunity to get into that final.

‘After the positive performance and result we got against Sheffield United, to do it again the way we did it in Prague is reassuring.

‘It breeds confidence. There’s a level we can reach, and when we play at that level, we are a really difficult team to play against. That is the bar that we have to set ourselves.’

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