Sports

Arteta sees brighter future at Gunners

Mikel Arteta

LONDON. — Mikel Arteta said the prospects for Arsenal’s season are “completely different” after thrashing West Brom 4-0 to complete three English Premier League football wins in eight days on Saturday night.

Arteta said Arsenal players “took the handbrake off” in Saturday’s win against West Brom and the performance was close to what he wants from his side.

Prior to last weekend, the Gunners had gone eight league games without a win to find themselves battling at the bottom end of the table.

But nine points from nine has propelled Arsenal back into contention for the European places as they climb to 11th and within three points of the top six.

Kieren Tierney set the Gunners on their way with an excellent solo strike on 23 minutes, with Bukayo Saka doubling the lead five minutes later following an excellent team move.

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Alexandre Lacazette scored twice in quick succession just after the hour mark to secure the win, with his goals ensuring Arsenal scored four times away from home in the league for the first time in two years.

The Gunners finished the game, which was played in snowy conditions, having registered 20 shots, the most they have recorded in the Premier League this season, and produced arguably their best attacking performance of the season. Understandably, Arteta was delighted.

“It was a convincing win,” Arteta told BT Sport. “To win three on the spin over Christmas in the Premier League is not easy.

“In phases when the weather was better and the conditions were a little easier, I felt we played some excellent football.

“At the end we had to manage some moments and the conditions.

“The first two goals, the first action with Kieran was terrific, the second one with the combination play was fantastic as well.

“The clean sheet, that’s two in a row now, and that gives us a platform to win games.

“We look more of a threat, and more creative and our attacking play was much better today.”

Arsenal are now within six points of third place, despite being in 11th, and Arteta is thrilled with how his side are playing.

“I am so happy that we were able to achieve the target we had,” Arteta said. “The table looks completely different.

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“The energy around the place is much better. Wins bring a lot of confidence and you can see that in the way the team played.”

Tierney led from the front for the Gunners, scoring one goal and providing an assist for Lacazette. The Scotland international is starting to fulfil his huge potential and Arteta was delighted with the left-back’s performance.

“He has been fantastic since I’ve been here,” Arteta said. “Since he got back from his shoulder injury he’s been fantastic.

“He is a lad that gives you everything. He is improving, is willing to do better and better and brings a real energy and quality to the team.”

West Brom are yet to win in four games since Sam Allardyce took charge and the former England manager needs to quickly instil the defensive discipline he has made his trademark at previous clubs if his new team are to have any chance of survival.

The Baggies have shocked Manchester City and Liverpool by claiming 1-1 draws on the road in recent weeks, but have now conceded 12 goals in Allardyce’s first three home games.

“I think we need to work out a way to make sure we are not as sloppy as we are at conceding goals,” said Allardyce, whose side remain second bottom, six points from safety. “That seems to be by defending deeper like we did at Man City and Liverpool. It seems like when we do try and open up then we leave opportunities for the opposition and we’re not able to cope.”

Arteta’s decision to finally put faith in his crop of talented youngsters has turned his side’s season around. Bukayo Saka was again the shining light, while Tierney and Emile Smith Rowe also impressed.

Arsenal’s poor run was principally caused by a struggle to score goals, but they were a threat from the off despite the treacherous conditions on a snow covered surface.

Sam Johnstone denied Hector Bellerin and Saka inside the first 10 minutes, but he was powerless to stop Tierney’s stunning opener on 23 minutes.

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The Scotland international left Darnell Furlong trailing in his wake before cutting inside onto his weaker right foot and curling into the top corner.

Arsenal’s second was reminiscent of their flowing football at the height of the Arsene Wenger era as Saka fed Lacazette, whose brilliant pass played Smith Rowe in behind the West Brom defence and he squared for Saka to tap into an empty net.

The one way traffic continued after the break and some comical West Brom defending led to the third as Semi Ajayi smashed a dangerous cross off his own post and the ball broke to Lacazette to apply a simple finish.

Moments later another raid from Tierney down the left teed up Lacazette for another finish from point-blank range for his fourth goal in three games.

Meanwhile, Arsenal will assess the future of German playmaker Mesut Ozil at the end of the January transfer window, manager Arteta has said.

Ozil has not played for Arsenal since March and was not named in the squad lists for the first half of the Premier League season and the Europa League. The German, who is one of the highest-paid players at the club, is out of contract at the end of the campaign.

But Arsenal are looking to offload a number of players on loan in January to trim the squad, raising the possibility that Ozil could be registered for the second half of the season. When asked about a potential return for the 32-year-old German, Arteta told reporters: “We will see what happens in the transfer window and we will assess that at the end.”Arteta also said the club would not look to cut short the contracts of players that are not in his plans.

“You have to respect the players’ contracts,” he added. “What you can do is just try to be open with them, tell them your intentions, the role that they have in the team and why that is.

“They are entitled to make the decision in their lives because they have a contract here. Some would like to move because they are not playing and some would like to stay. That’s something we cannot decide by ourselves.”— AFP.

HERALD