Mikel Arteta has said that there will be no reason for Everton fans to abuse him when he returns to Goodison Park next week, despite the manner of his move to Arsenal last summer.
The Spanish midfielder ended six and a half years as an Everton player this season, when he submitted a transfer request an hour before the August window closed. The lateness of the move prevented Everton from reinvesting the £10m they got for their star player until the turn of the year. But Arteta hopes Everton's fans will forgive and forget next Wednesday and focus instead on all that he gave to the club while he played for them.
He said: "I really can't wait to go there, and I hope I'll get a good reception because I gave Everton everything I had in my time there and I love the club. Everyone there was great to me and, even though I left, hopefully people understood. There's no reason for any of us to be unhappy with each other."
The 29-year-old told Arsenal's website: "Visiting Everton next week will be really special for me. It's going to be weird to sit in the other changing room, warming up in the opposite half of the pitch and having the crowd against us. I just want to enjoy it."
Arsenal are hoping to make it six Premier League wins in a row as they close in on third-placed Tottenham. Having been in danger of falling 13 points behind their arch-rivals during last month's north London derby, a reversal of fortunes for both clubs has cut the gap to one point. Overhauling Spurs could be crucial for Arsenal if they are to convince Robin van Persie to sign a new contract, amid reports that Manchester City would be prepared to make him the country's highest-paid player.
The Arsenal chairman, Peter Hill-Wood, has claimed that Van Persie and his family are "very happy in London" and that the Holland star is not "solely motivated by money".
Indeed, the key to avoiding Van Persie following Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri out of the club could be convincing him they are serious about signing reinforcements this summer. Arsenal declined to comment today on reports that staff members had travelled to Germany to give the prospective £10.9m signing Lukas Podolski a medical. The 26-year-old Cologne striker is said to be on the verge of signing for the Gunners, who want him to link up with Van Persie next season. Arsenal have also been linked with £30m-rated Borussia Dortmund midfielder Mario Gotze.
Hill-Wood said that he was prepared to pay anything but "silly prices" for the "right" players.
Arsenal announced yesterday that they would play in Hong Kong for the first time in 17 years, as part of a pre-season tour in Asia. The Gunners will take on the Hong Kong champions, Kitchee FC, at the Hong Kong Stadium on 29 July. The squad will travel to Hong Kong from China, where they will play against Manchester City in Beijing, two days earlier.
The Arsenal chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, said: "It's great that Arsenal Football Club is visiting Hong Kong again after 17 years. We have many followers in Hong Kong and it's wonderful that these special fans will have an opportunity to see the first team live in action. The match will follow on from our visit to Beijing, where we play Manchester City in the Bird's Nest, and is another indication of Arsenal's commitment to Asia."
The Everton defender Phil Jagielka said yesterday that the club's 3-0 defeat in the 217th Merseyside derby has cranked up the pressure ahead of Saturday's FA Cup quarter-final against Sunderland. The Everton manager, David Moyes, mindful of having to play three matches in eight days, made six changes for the short trip to Anfield and saw his side beaten by a hat-trick from the Liverpool captain, Steven Gerrard.
Moyes is celebrating a decade in charge at Goodison Park but he is still waiting for his first trophy, and he views the FA Cup as a realistic opportunity to change that.
A home quarter-final against Sunderland, however, will be no easy task and Jagielka, who against Liverpool made his first start since early January, after a knee problem, said the end of a nine-match unbeaten run had made things slightly more difficult.
"The boys have been doing really well and I am sure the gaffer will put those lads [back] in for the weekend and we will be able to continue the good cup run," he said. "But after the result it puts a bit more pressure on the cup because 3-0 isn't good enough. It was a big game for us and a lot of us got a chance to play but it didn't really work out very well. Hopefully the gaffer picks a good-enough team to win on Saturday and that will cheer the fans up."
Jagielka said that the Anfield scoreline had not truly reflected the match but he added that Everton had paid the price for being naive.
"I didn't think we did that bad, we just killed ourselves with the way we conceded goals," he said. "We conceded goals at the wrong times. We weathered the storm at the start of the first half but got done on the counter attack.
"It's always about the timing of the goals and if it is 1-0 for a while you are still in it. They scored at the start of the second half which pretty much took the wind out of our sails.
"Then we were chasing the game towards the end and we conceded a third. Maybe a little bit of inexperience crept in but 3-0 is not a good result."
- More about: