‘If we look to chase down Celtic, it will also keep the other teams behind us in the league’ – Aberdeen’s Arnason

Aberdeen's Kari Arnason after scoring against St Johnstone.

Icelandic international Kari Arnason has vowed to chase down Celtic and not look over his back at Rangers.

Aberdeen trail the defending champions by eight points coming out of the Premiership winter break.

At the same time last season that gap was an 18-point chasm.

Aberdeen host St Mirren in the Scottish Cup fourth round on Saturday before facing third-placed Rangers at Ibrox on Wednesday.

The Reds hold a three-point lead over the Gers but have lost both games to the Govan side so far this season.

However, Arnason is more concerned about the Hoops.

Arnason said: “I always want to chase down Celtic but that is just my mentality.

“Anything is possible really.

“However, that means they (Celtic) have to drop points.

“But we have to be better as well at making Celtic drop points.

“That is the main thing that we can improve on.

“At the same time if we look to chase down Celtic, it will also keep the other teams behind us in the league. One thing goes hand in hand with the other.”

Arnason has previous of bucking the odds to shock Celtic having helped knock them out of the Champions League at the play-off stage with Swedish side Malmo in August 2015.

Last season Aberdeen went into the Premiership winter break in third spot, three points behind Rangers in second.

The roles have been reversed this campaign.

For Arnason there is a real frustration that the Reds have lost twice to both Celtic and Rangers this season.

That is something he aims to change at Ibrox next week.

He said: “I think we have a better team than the rest of the teams in the league outside Celtic.

“We just need to prove it on the day against Rangers and against Celtic.

“Against Hibs we did that when we brushed them aside at home (4-1) and also beat them away from home (1-0).

“We should also have beaten Hearts in the final game before the winter break which was quite frustrating.

“Now we just need to keep working hard and hopefully we will get that break against Celtic and Rangers in the new year.”

Arnason was one of eight new signings drafted into the Pittodrie squad during a period of reconstruction during the summer transfer window.

That squad was recently strengthened further by the return of Northern Ireland international winger Niall McGinn on a long-term deal until summer 2021.

Manchester City’s Nigerian midfielder Chidi Nwakali has also joined on a loan until the end of the season, subject to a work permit being granted.

Arnason is out of contract at the end of the season but recently confirmed he wants to sign a new Dons deal.

Defender Arnason said: “The team have improved from last year which is always a positive.

“We have more points than at this stage last year and have kept a decent difference to Celtic.

“Celtic are a difficult team to play but in the last game we did many things right.

“We kept the ball well and created chances and were unlucky not to score.

“Then they have the luck, but that is often the case with the strongest teams in the league.”

The outgoing year was an eventful one for Arnason with the move from Cypriot side AC Omonia in the summer and his wife giving birth to a baby son in the Granite City last month.

However, 2018 looks to be equally eventful as he is World Cup-bound with the Icelandic squad as they look to recreate the heroics of reaching the Euro 2016 quarter-finals.

Such was Arnason’s contribution to that tournament a T-shirt was produced by Icelandic fans saying: “Superman wears Kari Arnason pyjamas”.

New loan signing Nwakali hopes to use the Dons to force his way into the Nigerian squad for the World Cup in Russia this summer.

Should he succeed, the midfielder will come up against new team-mate Arnason, as Iceland and Nigeria are in the same World Cup group.

“I have played almost every game for Iceland, so I am hoping I get the nod to go to Russia,” said Arnason.

“There is a lot of excitement in Iceland about the World Cup. Everyone is buzzing for it and my family have already booked their flights.”

For the second time in as many months Arnason travelled out to the Middle East for a warm weather training camp.

In November he spent a week in Qatar with the Icelandic squad following their qualification for the World Cup.

He played in a 2-1 friendly loss to the Czech Republic in Doha, which is 430 miles along the Persian Gulf from Dubai, where the Reds spent a warm weather training camp last week.

Arnason said: “Being out in the sun and away from the cold is a positive thing as it gives you the chance to recharge the batteries.

“I experienced that in Doha, and going out to Dubai was a welcome break for the players as we had played a lot of games in December.

“It is a positive time away as we needed to get the chance to regroup.

“We had been in decent form and were playing some good football before the international break.

“That cannot drop and we have to improve in the second half of the season.”