Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal – and Willian in particular – are finally heading in the right direction after an impressive 3-1 win at Leicester.
David Luiz and Nicolas Pepe scored on either side of Alexandre Lacazette’s penalty at King Power Stadium to bring the Gunners into the top half.
Youri Tielemans opened the scoring for the Foxes, but their first four hopes were marred, with Harvey Barnes now set to be out for at least six weeks with a knee injury after being swept away on a miserable afternoon .
It was also Arsenal’s first Premier League top three win since 2015, as the Gunners backed Thursday’s last Europa League win against Benfica.
“The team is clearly improving, they are taking a direction that I like. It’s a question of consistency,” said Arteta, who was able to rest Bukayo Saka and keep Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the bench until the sixth. last minutes.
“We always give things to the opposition – we did it against Benfica and we did it today. It’s something we have to stamp out to give ourselves the best possible chance.
“This is about the way we played against a top level opposition. We have to win, no matter who we play against we have to have courage. I am proud to win but obviously the way we do it. ‘Have done.
“The way we play is a lot more like what we want. The way the team is evolving, we’ve had some consistency over the last few months. I always say the same thing: it’s about consistency.”
Willian, Xhaka and Luiz praise
The much-maligned Willian has assisted two of their three goals, meaning he’s recorded more assists than any other Arsenal player this season with five.
And Arteta praised the Brazilian for his improvement both in matches and in training in recent weeks.
“He was really good, but we’ve seen him in training the last few weeks. He turns out, doesn’t accept the situation. I think it was the player who changed the game against Benfica, and still today ‘hui. “
Arteta also reserved praise for Granit Xhaka for his durability and leadership, having played 90 minutes midweek.
“Granit, a player who has played so many minutes, to play with the heart and the passion he showed in every action, I think he is a good example for the rest of the players.
“If you have to set an example on this character pitch and play every ball with that determination, it’s probably him.
“He’s played more minutes than anyone, but he keeps going even when he’s so tired and tries to help the team in the right way. And the same with David [Luiz], for someone like him at his age, playing again was difficult but he showed a real attitude, he wanted to play and that’s the best way to approach every game. “
Concern for Smith Rowe
One downside to Arsenal’s victory was an injury to Emile Smith Rowe, who had a hip injury before half-time. Arteta admitted he was concerned about the youngster, who has been a shining light for the Gunners this season.
“Yeah I’m worried because Emile comes out and says I can’t keep playing should be something. It’s something related to his hip, I don’t know how bad it is but he was. well placed after the match. “
‘Bet? I see them every day ‘
Arteta made six changes for the trip to Leicester, and although Arsenal’s priorities may lie in qualifying for the Champions League by winning the Europa League, the Spaniard said he needs to reward players with time. game to keep the team happy.
“People will probably see this as a bet, but I see them training every day. If they play, it’s because they deserve to play. I think players need to feel supported and valued and the only way to do that is to play them.
“I felt like anything could happen, but the level of performance they showed was not just a coincidence, the way they prepared and the way they prepare each day.”
Arsenal bounce back from two big comebacks
Peter Smith from Sky Sports:
Two returns in four days have transformed the atmosphere at Arsenal. Imagine if it had happened the other way around, that they were knocked out of the Europa League and then beaten by Leicester? The pressure is said to have been on Mikel Arteta as Arsenal’s season has effectively ended.
Instead, they are alive, with the late Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang winner continuing his European campaign and an impressive response to scoring a Leicester goal allowing them to seek the Premier League table.
After a trip to Burnley next weekend, back-to-back league games against Tottenham, West Ham and Liverpool appear key to determining whether the Gunners can beat the odds and close the gap on the top four. But they now at least look confident as they approach this domestic challenge and their Europa League game with Olympiakos.
The performances of Willian, Nicolas Pepe and Martin Odegaard will also relieve Arsenal supporters for this key period. Willian repaid Arteta’s confidence in him by scoring two of the goals, while Pepe, who tapped in the third, produced one of his best performances in an Arsenal shirt.
Odegaard, who replaced injured Smith Rowe, will now have to take responsibility at No 10 if the Englishman is absent but has shown his quick steps in preparation for Pepe’s strike and looks more confident and accomplished on that side . .
Arsenal still have a lot of issues to tackle – they were all over for Leicester’s opener and wasted possession in the final third for much of the first half – but with results that boost the confidence behind them , they can attack those decisive matches to come. with conviction.
Leicester are out Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Burnley, live on Sky Sports Premier League, before traveling to Brighton on Saturday 6 March at 8 p.m., live on Sky Sports Premier League.
Arsenal now head to Burnley on Saturday March 6 at 12:30 p.m. in the Premier League, before heading to Olympiakos in the Europa League’s last 16 first legs on Thursday March 11 at 8:00 p.m.