Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta emphasised Arsenal's objectives are "very clear", and "people's perceptions" are not going to deter the Gunners ahead of their Premier League clash with Crystal Palace on Monday evening.
The Spaniard was responding to claims from Antonio Conte that Arsenal are the favourites for the top four. Conte's Spurs side dismantled Newcastle 5-1 on Sunday to leapfrog their north London rivals into fourth place, putting pressure back on the Gunners to respond at Selhurst Park tonight.
Ahead of the match, the Gunners boss refused to entertain the thought of mind games, preferring instead to focus on the work being done with his own squad ahead of a crucial run-in to the end of the season.
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"What we want to do is very clear and the perception of what people think is not going to change it. I do it (mind games) more with my players, I think. I do it more with the players, if I have to."
Arteta is focused on the task in hand, and is embracing having his squad back together after the international break, ahead of the all-important remaining fixtures that will make or break their hopes of Champions League football next season, starting with the tough trip to Palace.
"I will just try to refocus them. When they're on international duty all the time they're being asked to do different things, different roles, different kinds of pressures. For some of them, it was their first international, so emotionally for them as well it's very draining. [I need to] make sure that everyone is fine and look forward to the challenge we have ahead."
Arsenal will reclaim fourth spot if they avoid defeat to Patrick Vieira's Palace who have been impressive during the Frenchman's first season in charge. Arteta was quick to praise the job Vieira and his team have been doing.
"The team, especially at home, is doing really well and the coaching staff are doing a great job and we know how it is to play in their stadium."
In the reverse fixture at the Emirates, a spirited Palace were denied all three points by a 95th-minute equaliser from Alexandre Lacazette. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had given the Gunners an early lead. Christian Benteke and Odsonne Edouard turned the game around before Lacazette lashed home to send Vieira to his knees on the touchline.
Much has changed since last October; Palace have really found their feet and are currently on a four-match unbeaten run in the Premier League. Arsenal have surpassed all expectations with their charge towards the Champions League, winning four of their last five league games.

Mikel Arteta

Image credit: Getty Images

With two games in hand on Spurs, their closest challengers, the Gunners know their destiny is in their own hands. One of these matches sees the arch-rivals go head-to-head in a match that is still to be rescheduled. Arteta accepted the decision about when to play the match will be out of their hands.
"I don't think we are going to have a choice. So, whenever the Premier League decides to do that, it will be the right and only time that we are going to be playing."
With the sides neck-and-neck at the time of writing, it promises to be an exhilarating race to the finish line. Consistency will be key and when the teams eventually lock horns for one of the most eagerly-awaited north London derbies to date, points are guaranteed to be dropped which could decide the fate of one or the other.
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