Arsenal will embrace the opportunity of their title charge under Mikel Arteta, but the Spaniard has warned them to be prepared for an “unprecedented” Premier League challenge.
The Gunners sit five points clear at the top of the table, having won all but two of their top-flight games this season, to emerge as unlikely contenders.
But with the campaign having been split into two halves to accommodate a mid-season World Cup, Arsenal will return to action against West Ham on Boxing Day with the pressure on to pick up where they left off.
Arteta feels his side can thrive as they look to keep their title tilt on track, but acknowledges they are taking a step into the unknown after the Premier League break.
“We have all the red lights and alarms,” he told Sky Sports. “What is coming in the second part of the season is something unprecedented, and we need to be ready for it.
“[But] there is excitement. We should be excited. We should be embracing the opportunity that we have ahead of us, understanding we have to do much better.
“I want the team to play a certain way, and the more consistent we are on that, the more we are going to win. We have the confidence we are on the right path.”
— Arsenal (@Arsenal)
Arsenal’s main rivals this season remain reigning champions Manchester City, who have been breathing down their necks for much of the campaign.
Arteta was Pep Guardiola’s assistant before he joined the Gunners, and he acknowledges the debt he owes his countryman, while stressing he cannot be expected to deliver identical results.
“He was my idol,” he added. “He was the one to try to emulate. When you have a person that is so determined, so clear, so focused and has such strong beliefs, you just die for him.
“That’s the secret of it. It’s great to get some things from other managers or even to copy, but you cannot copy and paste. It doesn’t work, unfortunately.”