Mikel Arteta has heaped praise on his Arsenal players for putting their Europa League disappointment “in the past” with a “dominant” 4-1 win against Crystal Palace.
The Gunners crashed out of Europe on Thursday evening after a penalty shootout defeat to Portuguese side Sporting.
It was a grueling 120 minutes, but Arteta’s men had to bounce back on Sunday when they welcomed managerless Palace to the Emirates.
Arsenal were convincing on the day, with Bukayo Saka once again starring with two goals and an assist for Gabriel Martinelli.
Saka’s assist made him the first player in the Premier League this season to both provide and score ten goals.
It would have been extremely pleasing for Arteta and the Arsenal supporters to see the Sporting defeat did not affect the players, who fired the Gunners to an eight-point lead over Premier League champions Manchester City.
“Really pleased with the performance, the energy, the determination that we showed again, the way we controlled the game,” Arteta said after the 4-1 victory.
“It was tough after playing 120 minutes in the week, wondering how the team would react but they reacted brilliantly and the crowd was at it again. Really happy.
“Some great goals, some great combinations. We were dominant and efficient, finding openings in the final third against a really compact and difficult block. We scored some beautiful goals again.”
Arteta added: “The desire and the energy that we put in right from the beginning impressed me most.
“We were really determined and focused and left Thursday in the past. After playing 120 minutes, they have to come back here and do it again against a team with a lot of needs.
“Palace have not got the results lately but they have been very tough to beat. But we were dominant and deserved to win the game.
“Today, in the box when we had those openings, we defined the game in the right way.
“It feels very good [being eight points clear], especially with the way we have played and the results we have picked up. Now we must stop and make sure everyone comes back from the internationals with the same mindset. We have Leeds next and we put the focus there.”
Arteta was high in praise of Martinelli – who missed the decisive spot-kick against Sporting – and Saka.
“The reaction he [Martinelli] had after missing a penalty [on Thursday]. There is always the question, but I asked him yesterday how he was and he said: ‘I want to be in the team’.
“He [Saka] was disappointed not to get a hat-trick. That is what we need. We need our front players firing and making the difference and today they did that again.”
William Saliba and Takehiro Tomiyasu missed the win after both going off early on against Sporting, while Eddie Nketiah remained absent.
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag claimed during the week that Arteta has had his strongest team available to him all season, which was simply wrong, and was also said a day before Arsenal lost half of his defence to injury against Sporting.
On coping with injuries, the Arsenal boss said: “We had to respond and we talked about having players out all season.
“Gabriel Jesus was out for four months, Emile Smith Rowe out for four and a half months, Kiernan Tierney, Thomas Partey, Eddie Nketiah out for two and a half months, now William Saliba and Takehiro Tomiyasu.
“We overcome those situations, Rob [Holding] came in and was brilliant today. Everyone has to give another edge to be at the same level, it’s not a secret.
“There are moments we have 14, 15 players but everyone is willing to play and put their bodies on the line and I am happy that our players are happy to do that. To be at the top you have to do that at all times.
“We can control our games, we have won six games in a row in the league which is great and that’s it.”
On conceding from a corner yet again, Arteta said: “Disappointed to concede a goal on a set play and it was poor the way we did it.
“We could have done things better in the second half when we were dominant. We could have been more respectful with the simple things but it’s normal.”
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