Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has urged his Premier League leaders to make the most of an “incredible opportunity” when they travel to nearest challengers Manchester City on Wednesday.
The Gunners are five points clear of second-placed City but have played two games more than the reigning champions.
Anything other than a first away win against City since 2015 would leave the destiny of the title in Pep Guardiola’s side’s hands.
Arsenal have drawn their last three league games, raising doubts over whether a youthful side can deliver the north London club’s first Premier League crown in 19 years.
But Arteta, having seen Arsenal record several notable away wins this season, told a pre-match news conference on Tuesday: “It is going to be a tough night and challenge, yes, but the opportunity is incredible for us.
“We knew from the beginning — you want to win a Premier League, you have to go to Spurs and you have to beat them, you have to go to Chelsea and you have to beat them.
“This is what we have been doing, that is why we are here and now we have to go to City and we have to beat them — you want to be champion, you have to win these matches, it is as simple as that.”
Arsenal will again be without William Saliba as the France defender has shown “no improvement” in recovering from a back injury, while Arteta also revealed Granit Xhaka is doubtful for the match at the Etihad.
The Switzerland captain missed Friday’s frantic 3-3 draw with strugglers Southampton through illness and has yet to return to training.
– ‘Massive game’ –
Arteta, who won two league titles as an assistant to Guardiola at City, played down suggestions he would need a radical rethink in tactics.
The former Gunners midfielder said it was important the team was able to adapt to changing situations within a match.
“That’s what we do every game in certain areas,” he said. “Are you talking in ball possession, out of possession, in transition, at restarts, on set pieces, emotional state?
“You have to shift it all the time. Every opponent demands and questions different things of you and gives you different opportunities.
“There’s no difference with that team (City), it’s just obviously the quality of the opponent is as good as it gets anywhere in the world.”
Arteta added he had little time for the idea that Wednesday’s match was a ‘winner-takes-all’ contest in the title race.
“If we win tomorrow night we haven’t won, for sure,” the 41-year-old Spaniard said.
“It would shift the percentage a little bit but five games in this league with the games we still have to play, it’s very tricky.
“We knew from the beginning that City was the team to beat with Liverpool because of what those teams have done in the past few years.
“We wanted to close that gap as much as we could and we’re toe-to-toe with them.
“We know it is going to be a massive game. Is it going to define the season? The answer is no.”