Mikel Arteta has insisted that Arsenal deserved their invite to the much-debated Super League because of their history and long-held values.
Arsenal were named as one of the 12 founding Super League clubs last Sunday alongside Premier League rivals Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham, despite the fact they have not competed in the Champions League since 2017.
Amid the intense backlash against the proposed breakaway it was suggested that the Gunners and fellow north London outfit Tottenham had no right to be named alongside Europe's elite, but Arteta is adamant that they fully merited their inclusion.
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What's been said?
Asked what his response would be to the critics that claim Arsenal should never have been considered for the Super League, the Spanish head coach told reporters on Friday: “That we are one of the best clubs in the world, and we could not be any prouder to represent this club, its history, and we totally understand the demands and the excellence that we have to be pursuing.
“You cannot deny the history, and that history is attached to results, it’s attached to a certain way of doing things, to certain values, to representing those in the right manner, to having the amount of support and love that we have around the world.
“And that’s not a coincidence, that’s been earned over years and years with merit to a lot of people who have been involved in the history of the football club.”
Arsenal's stance on the Super League
Arsenal and the rest of the English clubs that had originally signed up to the Super League performed a U-turn in midweek after the universal condemnation of the plans in the media.
The Gunners confirmed their withdrawal and issued an apology in an official statement, but supporters have since been calling for the Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE) group that owns the club to resign.
Although Emirates Stadium board member Josh Kroenke subsequently admitted wrongdoing at a fans forum event, he also insisted that there will be no change of ownership at Arsenal in the wake of this week's controversy.
What else has Arteta said?
Arteta has also expressed his belief that the decision-makers at the highest level of the sport will have learnt some tough lessons after witnessing the effect supporters from across the continent can have when united against the same cause.
“I think this has given big lessons and it shows the importance of football in the world," he said.
“And it shows that the soul of this sport belongs to the fans - and that’s it. During this pandemic, for a year, we have been trying to sustain this industry with no fans in the stadium.
“But, when the fans have to come out and talk, they’ve done it really loud and clear, and they sent probably the strongest message that has ever been sent in the football world.
“And every club, leaving their interests apart, has done the right thing - which is, they are the ones (the fans), we have to listen to them, we put it aside and in 24 hours we kill the project.
“So that is a massive statement for the history of football."