Mikel Arteta insisted that Arsenal’s victory at Newcastle was proof that their Premier League campaign was just as important as their upcoming Europa League semi-final.
Arteta made eight changes ahead of Sunday’s game at St James’ Park with perhaps an eye on Thursday’s semi-final second leg against Villarreal, where the Gunners are looking to reverse a 2-1 first-leg deficit and save their season.
The alternations proved unimportant as Mohamed Elneny’s opening Premier League goal saw Arsenal secure a dominant 2-0 victory before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ended a six-game drought to wrap up the points.
The victory lifted Arsenal to ninth place in the Premier League, on the sidelines of the race for European qualification, but ready to seize the opportunity presented by victory in the Europa League.
“This game has shown that our goal is still there in the Premier League,” said Arteta. Sky Sports. “We believe anything is possible if you earn points and we wanted to eliminate bad results.
“We refreshed the team because we played so many games. Thursday was very demanding, but the team was really engaged and focused on this game and that’s why we won.
“We had a really good attitude, some real quality moments and total control from the start. We controlled the game and accelerated when we needed to. The early goal gave us the confidence we needed after the match. Thursday’s defeat.
“We have to do our best and finish as high as possible. You need great performances and we did it today.”
Aubameyang gives Arteta food for thought
Arsenal skipper Aubameyang has given Arteta food for thought after scoring on his return to the squad ahead of the Europa League semi-final shootout on Thursday night with Villarreal.
Aubameyang only managed five minutes as a substitute in the first leg loss to the Spaniards after recovering from malaria, but he had 77 minutes under his belt and found the back of the net in the victory Sunday 2-0 in the Premier League at Newcastle to signal his readiness to play a role in the return leg.
When asked if he had played his way, Arteta said: “We thought he wasn’t going to make it. Thursday the day before he was really struggling, to be fair he couldn’t play. only 10 or 15. minutes.
“But the next day and the next day he started to feel better and it’s good to see that he was doing well today. He performed well and he scored a goal, so it’s a real stroke of luck. thumb.”
Injuries put Luiz’s season at risk
Arteta’s satisfaction with his captain’s contribution was tempered by the loss of defender David Luiz, who limped out of a St James’ Park with a hamstring problem.
While Kieran Tierney and Alexandre Lacazette have yet to train with their teammates after knee and hamstring injuries respectively and are unlikely to be available on Thursday as a result, losing Luiz would represent a blow additional.
Arteta said: “He felt something in his hamstrings so that’s not good news. He made such a change to be back with the team in recent weeks after the knee surgery and it’s a shame. “
Bruce concedes the best team won
After staging a four-game unbeaten streak that brought Newcastle closer to Premier League safety, Sunday’s abject defeat kept the Magpies 17th in the table, nine points behind safety with four games to play.
On the loss, Bruce added: “The disappointment for me today was that we could have gone 13th in the table, and we missed that opportunity. I say I missed the opportunity, we had to playing well to beat Arsenal and unfortunately we didn’t play well enough.
“The best team won, for sure. Arsenal were very good and were not quite at the level that we have been in the last few weeks.
“When you play against big teams you can’t afford to give them a goal like we did, it’s always difficult to be down after four minutes and we found that difficult.
“We stayed there, our best part of the game was right after half-time, but they scored again, and we didn’t carry the threat that we carried before, which was unfortunate.
“I can’t fault the effort and the commitment of the players, we just weren’t good enough that day to beat them.”
Bruce: Schar hard red card
Newcastle’s afternoon took a new turn for the worse in the last minute of normal time when defender Fabian Schar, who had joined the fray as a 72nd-minute substitute, was sent off for a late challenge on Martinelli, harshly in Bruce’s opinion.
“I still think it was tough because it wasn’t a real reckless challenge,” he added. “The current situation and the rules are… There is no more tackle. I don’t think he deserves a red. Maybe it’s a yellow.
“Is it dangerous? Not really. We play Arsenal so you have to get in. When it stops it gets very difficult. I have sympathy for Fabian Schar. He is trying to win the tackle. Maybe. be a yellow card but certainly not. a red one. “