“Of course I’m confident – it’s still in our hands. It’s not in someone else’s control. Everything is down to us, and of course we’re going to fight for it.”
Two days on from a potentially chastening, season-changing 3-0 defeat to biggest rivals Tottenham Hotspur, Mohamed Elneny is back in bullish mood.
Arsenal could have sewn up the top-four race with victory at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium that night, but instead a flawed performance saw them soundly beaten and their cushion over Spurs in fifth cut to a single point.
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That has raised the pressure on their upcoming Monday Night Football trip to Newcastle, to face a side who have won six of their last seven home games and will be in buoyant mood themselves for their final game at St James’ Park this season.
It will take a performance of self-belief from Arsenal to exorcise the memories of Thursday’s capitulation and move a step closer to Champions League qualification. Often motivation is best served through simple, attainable targets – and if you take away the noise surrounding the Premier League table, the task clear. Win two games, job done.
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“We’ve spoken about Thursday, that is behind us. It’s already gone, and we are going there on Monday to win the game. We’re focused on that 100 per cent.” Elneny tells Sky Sports. “It’s going to be tough, of course, but we’re not thinking about Newcastle’s run.
“We’re a strong team, any opponent in the Premier League is strong, it wouldn’t be different if it was another team because every team is good.
“Thursday does not change anything. We’ve got two games, if we win them, we will be in the top four, we don’t have to rely on anyone else’s results.”
Elneny’s self-belief has been tested this season. Despite playing every game as Egypt reached the African Cup of Nations final in January, he made only one Premier League start between August and April, with his contract fast running out and no clear solution in sight.
It was into its final three months by the time he made his first start of 2022 at Chelsea last month with what appeared his final season at the Emirates treading water at best. In the space of four weeks and five games, he is now expected to sign new terms in north London after keeping his position in midfield as Arsenal have surged back into fourth spot.
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In an Arsenal career lasting almost six years, the last month has suddenly become the most pivotal period of his stay to date.
“I always believed,” he says. “I do my job, I let Mikel [Arteta] do his job too and respect his decisions. He always does the right thing for the team, that’s what I believe.
Gary Neville believes Tottenham will reach the top four ahead of Arsenal after winning the North London derby as he doubts whether the Gunners can win their last two games.
“Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka were playing and doing really well, there was never anything to explain, I understood. I just knew I had to be ready, we work as a team and in football everything can change in one second.
“When you suddenly are playing and the fans can see you, when you feel you play well, when you’re winning, you feel that change. I’m really proud when I hear something good about me, and they see how hard I work for this club.”
It remains, as always, a secret whether Elneny has or has not already been offered new terms, but from the other side of any possible agreement, the Egyptian is not hiding his desire to stay at the Emirates Stadium.
“I’ve said before, if Arsenal want me, it’s my club, my family, but it’s not my decision,” he admits. “I have to wait for them to say ‘Mo, we want you’.
“Since the first day I have been here, it has felt like a family. We really work like that here, it’s such a beautiful club.”
It looks like Elneny will be staying with his adopted family for the foreseeable future if his contract talks are fruitful – but first his focus is elsewhere in the race for fourth, starting at St James’ Park on Monday night.
Watch Newcastle vs Arsenal live on Monday Night Football from 7pm; kick-off at 8pm.
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