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Arsenal legend Ian Wright questions Mikel Arteta’s decision to drop Emile Smith Rowe against Manchester City

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Ian Wright says Arsenal missed an opportunity with the way they played in their 1-0 defeat to Manchester City and believes Mikel Arteta should have stuck with Emile Smith Rowe in his starting XI.

Arteta opted for a midfield three of Smith Rowe, Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka in the Gunners’ previous Premier League clash with Leeds United but decided to recall Nicolas Pepe at home to the runaway Premier League leaders on Sunday.

And while the Ivorian – Arsenal’s club-record signing – will have been desperate to silence his doubters with a strong performance, he once again struggled to make an impact as Raheem Sterling’s early header extended City’s winning streak.

Club legend Wright believes it ‘didn’t work out’ for either Pepe or Odegaard at the Emirates and was disappointed to see Arteta ‘mixing up’ his midfield which had caused so many problems for Leeds just a week earlier.

‘Arsenal had three shots and one on target and didn’t look too threatening but for me it was a little bit of an opportunity missed in respects of Arsenal having a go at them,’ he told Premier League Productions.

‘There were certain opportunities where Arsenal did win the ball back but they didn’t get into them quick enough, it wasn’t intense enough. ‘Mixing up that three of Odegaard, Saka and Smith Rowe… I think they had something going.

‘It would have been brilliant to play them in a game like that to see how they get on against that kind of City side. All that does is build confidence, build momentum.

24/9/1997 FA Premiership.
                    Arsenal v West Ham United.
 Ian Wright celebrates his goal by listening to the fans.
                       Phoot: Mark Leech / Offside

‘In the end, he went with Pepe and it didn’t work out, for me, today for Pepe and I don’t think it worked for Odegaard in there either, to be honest.

‘But in the end, City were too good, closing down spaces and Arsenal couldn’t break them down.’ Wright felt Arsenal missed an opportunity at home to City.

According to Wright, Arteta deserves enormous credit for the defensive improvements he’s made since taking over the reins from Unai Emery back in December 2019.

‘When you look a couple of months back, Arsenal were 15th and people were really worried about what was going on,’ the legendary ex-Arsenal and England striker added.

‘Obviously, there was the emergence of Saka and Emile Smith Rowe and then the defensive work he’s done on that team has been brilliant because when he came in it needed doing.

‘There was so much work that needed to be done there so the defensive work I think is something that he’s put into place there. Arsenal are up there in respects of their defensive record at the moment.

 

‘Again, it’s going to come down to the creativity, the confidence and they found a little bit of confidence in the game but the last pass and final ball wasn’t good enough. ‘But I think that’s a good barometer to gauge yourself by against this City side so I don’t think it’s too disastrous.’

 

 

 

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Kieran Tierney could captain Arsenal in the future, claims Ray Parlour

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 Kieran Tierney could captain Arsenal in the future, claims Ray Parlour

Ray Parlour has praised Kieran Tierney’s attitude and desire, and believes the left-back has the credentials to captain Arsenal in the future.

The Scotland international, who joined the Gunners in the summer of 2019 from Celtic, has been one of Mikel Arteta’s side’s most consistent performers this season, with his marauding displays from full-back proving to be a useful attacking asset.

Tierney has also registered two goals across all competitions this season, including a vital left-footed strike to spark his side’s dramatic comeback against Benfica in the Europa League last week.

Kirean Tierney Celebrates after getting on the score sheet for Arsenal against Benfica in the Europa League

Tierney’s attacking impetus down the left has been vital for Arteta’s side.

And Parlour is in agreement with fellow Gunners legends such as Ian Wright and Tony Adams that Tierney could captain the club in the future.

‘I really like his attitude,’ Parlour told talkSPORT. ‘He turns up every week, you can see the desire when he’s playing; he really wants to win every game.

‘He gives 100 per cent and is fantastic down that left-hand side. That’s where Arsenal are most dangerous, that’s where the deliveries come from into the box.

‘He’s been a brilliant signing, and he’s a really good lad as well; he’s really down to earth. ‘He could probably be the Arsenal captain in the future.’

Arteta himself also recently talked up Tierney’s attributes which could lead to him eventually becoming captain.

‘I think he can be Arsenal captain as he has the respect and admiration of every member of the staff and every player,’ said the Spanish boss in January.

‘It is just the way he is. He does it in a natural way. ‘He is a really shy boy as well but he represents all of us in the club; all of the values that we want to instil and are in the DNA in this club.’

 

 

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Loan Watch: Mikel Arteta reveals ‘good news’ on Arsenal star William Saliba

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Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta says William Saliba’s loan spell at Nice is ‘good news’ for the Gunners as the club will have a ‘much better perception’ of how to use the defender next season.

The Frenchman agreed to join the club in a £30m deal in 2019 but spent a further season with Saint-Etienne before moving to the Emirates last summer.

However, while Saliba was held up as the answer to the club’s issues at centre-back, Arteta did not share the view of supporters and failed to give the 20-year-old a single start in the first team.

 

Saliba in Action For OGC Nice

After a frustrating period with the U23s, Saliba requested to leave on loan in January and he joined Ligue 1 side Nice until the end of the campaign.

Saliba’s impressed back in France, playing ten times in all competitions.

Arsenal loaned fellow youngster Konstantinos Mavropanos to Stuggart in a bid to get him first team football and Arteta says the pair’s loan spells are ‘good news’ for the Gunners moving forward.

‘We are having meetings very often to assess what they are doing,’ said Arteta when asked if he’s keeping tabs on the progress of Mavropanos and Saliba.

‘Obviously we are getting all the information and watching their games because I want to keep a very close eye on what they are doing.

‘We are in contact with the players and let’s see. It’s good news that they’re playing and good news that they have the possibility to have a lot of minutes, because that’s going to give us a much better perception of where they are and how we can use them.’

Arsenal are set to offer David Luiz a 12-month contract extension as Arteta values the veteran’s experience. Arteta has reintegrated Pablo Mari into his starting XI in recent weeks, with the Spaniard partnering Rob Holding or Gabriel in the heart of his defence.

A decision over Saliba’s future will be made at the end of the season, with Nice keen to keep the Frenchman for another season.

 

 

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Just In: Arteta provides positive Emile Smith Rowe injury update

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The midfielder was forced off in the first half against Leicester

Mikel Arteta says the muscle injury Emile Smith Rowe sustained in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Leicester City last weekend ‘doesn’t look significant’.

The 20-year-old was forced off shortly before half-time at the King Power Stadium and replaced by Martin Odegaard.

Smith Rowe has played a pivotal role in Arsenal’s attack in recent months, providing four assists in 12 Premier League games since his introduction into the first team at the end of December.

Arteta’s side head into their clash against Burnley in 10th position in the table

And speaking ahead of the Gunners’ clash against Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday, Arteta played down the severity of the midfielder’s injury despite not revealing whether he would be able to feature this weekend.

‘Emile had a scan yesterday, it doesn’t look a significant injury but he was in discomfort,’ said Arteta. ‘For the rest, hopefully everybody should be okay.’

The Gunners are currently down in 10th place in the table and eight points off the top four after losing 11 of their 26 Premier League games this season.

When asked whether his side can still secure a finish in the Champions League places, Arteta replied: ‘Well the aim is to go on and beat Burnley, we have been chasing [a top-four place] for a while but it is not in our hands.

‘The only thing we can control is our own results and performances. We are fully determined to do that better than what we have done in the past eight months.’

 

 

 

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