'Arsenal can finish in the top four' – Leno calls on Gunners to believe in Champions League qualification

Bernd Leno is convinced Mikel Arteta can still guide Arsenal to a top-four finish this season.

Arteta watched from the stands at Everton on Saturday having been named the Gunners’ new head coach less than 24 hours earlier and will take charge of his first game at Bournemouth on Boxing Day.

Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Goodison Park leaves Arsenal nine points adrift of the Champions League places following a run of form which has seen them win just one league game since early October.

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But Leno is refusing to give up on turning things round during the second half of the season.

“Of course, because I think there are still many games,” said the German keeper, when asked if he thought the top four was still a possibility.

“We play against all the top six. We have a lot of opportunities to win games against them. We still believe. It is in our hands.

“We have to show mentality, we have to play good football and I think then we will have opportunities. 

“When we just speak about tactics or quality or what was in the past, it doesn’t matter. I think the only way is that we work hard, that we get back our strong mentality and then I think I am confident we can reach our target.”

Saturday was the first time Arsenal had kept a clean sheet in 15 matches in all competitions, and it was also the first time they had kept a clean sheet on their travels in the Premier League since the opening weekend of the campaign.

Everton didn’t even have a shot on target at Goodison, meaning Leno, who has made more saves than any other keeper in the English top flight this season, was barely called into action.

“It was completely different to other games,” he admitted. “We didn’t let them have chances, like Freddie [Ljungberg] said and the new manager. 

“I think the line-up was very good because everybody was fighting for the team and we showed great mentality. Unfortunately we didn’t score, but I think at the end we were happy with our performance and especially with our mentality.”

On not having to make a single save, Leno added: “There was no time for coffee because I knew I had to be focused on the game. Maybe there could be one shot and I have to be there because Everton have good quality and good players. So I had to stay focused. 

“Of course, it was not easy, but I think the team defended very well – not only the defence but in general all my team-mates worked very hard, also the players who came in. I think this is the only way we can play.”

Although it was Ljungberg who took charge of the game on Saturday, Arteta spoke to the players before and after the match at Goodison Park.

And Leno says his message was clear.

“He didn’t speak too much about quality or about tactics, he just said he wants to see players who run, who support their team-mates, who defend the goal or in general play as a team,” said the German.

“I think this is the way he needs to push us and I think it was a good point that he pushed us on Saturday. We understood the message.”

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