Arteta: I can’t wait to visit Everton
Mikel Arteta has claimed there is no reason for Everton fans to abuse him when he returns to Goodison Park next week, despite the manner of his departure to Arsenal. The Gunners midfielder ended six and a half years as a Toffees player when he submitted a transfer request an hour before the August 2011 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, something that may not have gone down well with some supporters. But Arteta hopes they will forgive and forget next Wednesday, and focus instead on all he gave to the club while there.
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."
Arteta, 29, is relishing running out at Goodison again, but admitted it would be strange to do so for a rival club.
"Visiting Everton next week will be really special for me," he told Arsenal's official website. "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."
Next week's clash will see Arsenal try to make it six Premier League wins in a row as they close in on third-placed Tottenham Hotspur. 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 have cut the gap between them to a single point.
Van Persie, Podolski futures
Overhauling Spurs could be crucial in convincing Robin van Persie to sign a new contract amid reports Manchester City would be prepared to make him the country's highest-paid player. Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood has claimed the striker and his family are "very happy in London" and that the Netherlands international 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 staff travelled to Germany to give prospective £10.9m signing Lukas Podolski a medical.
The 26-year-old Cologne attacker is said to be on the verge of signing for the Gunners and will hope to link up with Van Persie next season. Arsenal have also been linked with £30m-rated Borussia Dortmund playmaker Mario Gotze. Hill-Wood said he was prepared to pay anything but "silly prices" for the "right" players.
Arsenal announce Hong Kong trip
Meanwhile, Arsenal today announced they would play in Hong Kong for the first time in 17 years as part of the club's pre-season Asia tour. The Gunners will take on national champions Kitchee FC at the Hong Kong Stadium on 29 July. The squad will travel to Hong Kong from China PR, where they will be play Manchester City in Beijing two days earlier.
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."