Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has said that his side have made “strong steps” this season, regardless of the outcome of their final two Premier League games. The Gunners were seven points clear at the top of the table on 26 December, but have since fallen four points behind Manchester City. Arteta believes that his team have built a strong core and foundation, with a lot of quality, youth and enthusiasm, as well as experienced leaders. He also believes that the demands and expectations for next season will be even higher.
Between the start of the season and February, Arsenal lost just once in the league, establishing a strong lead at the top of the table. However, three consecutive draws against Liverpool, West Ham and Southampton in April were followed by a 4-1 defeat at Manchester City. The Gunners got back to winning ways at high-flying Newcastle on 7 May, but were beaten 3-0 at home by Brighton last weekend as Guardiola’s side opened up a lead on their title rivals.
With City having played one game less than Arsenal, defeat at Forest on Saturday would confirm Guardiola’s team as champions before they host Chelsea on Sunday. A draw would keep Arteta’s team in the race mathematically – they could finish level on points with City, but the reigning champions have a far superior goal difference. When asked if how Arsenal’s season has played out was “painful”, Arteta said that pain is part of football and that it has to hurt the right way in order to become better and find solutions to help them win more.