'Full of confidence' - Arteta on Emile Smith-Rowe performance as Arsenal go top of Premier League

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Arteta praises his number ten’s efforts as Gunners enjoy at least 24 hours at top of the Premier League

For at least 24 hours, Mikel Arteta’s squad will sit top of the Premier League following their 2-0 win over Luton which saw five changes to the starting XI to what we witnessed against Manchester City

Captain Martin Odegaard and Reiss Nelson - enjoying his first start in four years for the club - put their names on the scoreboard as Arsenal recorded yet another win in their quest for their first Premier League trophy since 2004. 

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Facing a side that are currently set for relegation, Arteta used this opportunity to rest usual starters such as Declan Rice while Bukayo Saka suffered a small injury set-back to see him out of the squad entirely. 

However, the new-look starting line-up did not disappoint with Emile Smith-Rowe contributing beautifully to both goals. 

Speaking after the match, Artet spoke to the press about the squad changes and said: “We want to utilise the squad and maximise what we have. It was the right moment to do that and I think they responded really, really well. 

“When (these players) have their moment they have to take it and they did today. I was full of confidence that they would respond.”

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It was just Smith-Rowe’s third start this season but the 23-year-old earned himself a ‘Man of the Match’ award from the Emirates club with his Spanish boss was full of praise for his efforts on the grass.

Emile Smith-Rowe contributes superbly to Arsenal's 2-0 win over LutonEmile Smith-Rowe contributes superbly to Arsenal's 2-0 win over Luton
Emile Smith-Rowe contributes superbly to Arsenal's 2-0 win over Luton | Arsenal FC via Getty Images

“I love him as a player”, Arteta continued. “He is a joy to watch. How he moves, how he changes direction and how physical he was today without the ball. He won a lot of (tackles) that way. With that killer instinct. In that moment it is impossible to stop him and today, he helped us a lot to win the game.” 

The England star was, however, far from the only stand-out performer tonight with Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard putting in an incredible shift which saw him rewarded with his eighth goal of the season. It was not just his ball-skills, however, that made him shine for the Gunners with the Norwegian’s leadership efforts coming through superbly. 

“He’s a really important player”, Arteta said. “We needed that balance and that chemistry that certain players have because that’s how they train as well. And how we build those connections and relationships. 

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“Martin connects everything in the way we play. He’s made huge steps. His presence, the way he’s behaving himself in front of the group and the standard that he sets is outstanding.”

Of course, the big news from the night, however, is that the win puts Arsenal back on top of the Premier League for at least 24 hours and - contrary to his Liverpool counterpart - Arteta has kept well-informed of his rivals schedule this season. 

Jurgen Klopp admitted earlier today that he had little idea Arsenal and Manchester City were even playing tonight. This is not a sentiment shared by the Spanish boss with Arteta confirming: “I knew that Man City was playing now! Klopp has won a lot maybe, but I know (Liverpool) are playing tomorrow at home against Sheffield and we will be watching it because I love to watch top teams play. 

The 42-year-old also spoke on the important of that top-of-the-league feeling, saying: “it means that we are there - we are really close and we are showing a lot of consistency and quality to be able to be fighting in the position that we are right now and that’s it. We sleep, eat, prepare well and now it’s Brighton.”

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