Mikel Arteta says he is fully focused on doing “much better” at Arsenal after he was linked with the Barcelona manager’s job.
Reports surfaced in Spain this week claiming presidential candidate Joan Laporta was eyeing a move for Gunners boss Arteta if he won the race to return to Barca.
It was during his previous spell in the role that Laporta appointed Pep Guardiola as the head coach and ushered in an era of sustained success.
Arteta went on to work under Guardiola at Manchester City and took over as Arsenal manager in December 2019.
Having come through the famed La Masia academy at Barca, Arteta is now said to be on a managerial shortlist for Laporta, should he be elected on March 7, although sources close to the campaign have reportedly distanced themselves from a move for the 38-year-old.
“There is always going to be speculation when there are elections in Barcelona, it’s a huge team,” Arteta said on Wednesday when asked about being linked to the job, currently occupied by Ronald Koeman.
“Obviously I was raised there as a player and there are always going to be links. But I am fully focused on the job that I have to do here, which we have a lot to do, and I am really enjoying it.
“What I can tell you is I feel privileged to manage this football club and that I’m extremely happy.”
Arteta won the FA Cup during his first year in charge at the Emirates Stadium and his job title changed from head coach to manager during a reshuffle of the executive team in September.
Mikel Arteta believes his Arsenal team will be facing the best side in Europe when they take on Premier League leaders Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
City have won a club-record 17 successive games across all competitions and are 10 points ahead of local rivals Manchester United at the summit of the English top-flight heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures.
Arteta knows City well after working under manager Pep Guardiola in Manchester for three years before returning to manage Arsenal, having previously played for the Gunners.
“I think they are the best team in Europe at the moment,” Arteta said of City. “The way they are performing, the football they are playing and the consistency of the results, take all that it and it makes them the best team.
“So we have a big but, as well, a very exciting challenge ahead of us on Sunday.”
City made an uncertain start to the season but are now hot favourites to win a third Premier League title in four years
Arteta said he was impressed by how they had regained their form.
“What they have done is react to a difficult moment,” the Spanish boss explained. “They reacted in a really convincing way, all united and doing what they do best — being very consistent and winning games very comfortably.”
The former Everton and Arsenal midfielder added: “They have weaknesses like every team but at the moment teams have struggled a lot to find any of that because I think first of all defensively they have been really, really strong.”
Arsenal head into the match after a 1-1 draw against Benfica in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 clash in Rome on Thursday.
Next week’s second leg, being played in Athens because of coronavirus restrictions, is followed by a daunting run of fixtures that includes matches against Leicester, Tottenham, West Ham and Liverpool, all above Arsenal in the Premier League.
“We know the margin for error is minimal with the season that we have had in previous months, so we need to kick on,” he said.
Everton piled more misery on Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta as the Toffees moved second in the Premier League with a 2-1 win in front of 2,000 delighted fans at Goodison Park on Saturday.
At the other end of the table, the Gunners remain 15th after just one win in their last 10 league games to leave Arteta’s position under mounting pressure just over four months on from winning the FA Cup.
After red cards undid Arsenal in their previous two games, much of the damage was again self-inflicted as Rob Holding’s own goal opened the scoring.
Nicolas Pepe’s penalty briefly levelled, but Yerry Mina’s header in first-half stoppage time secured a third consecutive win for Carlo Ancelotti’s men to move within five points of Merseyside rivals Liverpool at the top.
Arsenal were dealt a major blow before kick-off as captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed out due to a calf injury.
He had just refound his scoring touch with a first goal from open play in the Premier League since September in a 1-1 draw at home to Southampton on Wednesday.
That point briefly stemmed the spiral of decline at the Emirates, but Arsenal, who have been in English football’s top flight since 1919, find themselves in unchartered territory facing a relegation battle.
Should results go against them on Sunday and Monday, Arteta’s men could be just two points above the drop zone with Chelsea to come on Boxing Day.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin was usurped by Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah as the Premier League’s top scorer earlier in the day and while the England international failed to score for the third straight game, he did have a big part to play in the opening goal.
Former Arsenal winger Alex Iwobi’s cross was headed towards goal by Calvert-Lewin, but his effort was going off target until it was turned in by Holding’s thigh.
Arsenal had been thoroughly outplayed in the opening half-hour, but were gifted a route back into the game when Ainsley Maitland-Niles was fouled by Tom Davies inside the area.
In the absence of Aubameyang, Pepe took responsiblity from the spot and sent Jordan Pickford the wrong way.
However, Everton’s power from set-pieces caused problems all night for the visitors and it was from a corner that the winner arrived, as Gylfi Sigurdsson’s wicked delivery to the near post was headed home by Mina.
Arsenal responded with a bright start to the second half and they came close to a second equaliser when Pickford, who returned in goal after being rotated for Wednesday’s 2-0 win at Leicester, dropped a cross into the box and David Luiz’s shot came back off the post.
Thereafter, Everton were happy to let Arsenal have the ball without ever looking capable of getting back into the game until deep into stoppage time when Pickford made amends for his earlier error by saving from Bukayo Saka.
At the start of the campaign, Arsenal’s target was a return to the Champions League next season. Now they hope just not be in the Championship, while it is the Blues who are the contenders for a top-four finish.
Mikel Arteta on Wednesday backed calls for concussion substitutes after Arsenal’s David Luiz was involved in a sickening clash of heads with Raul Jimenez that left the Wolves striker with a fractured skull.
Luiz played on until half-time of Sunday’s match, with Arsenal insisting concussion protocols were followed, but was replaced as blood continued to seep through his head bandage.
He has been ruled out of Thursday’s Europa League match against Rapid Vienna but could be fit for Sunday’s north London derby at Tottenham.
“Maybe it is a moment that we can think to give these people a little bit more time and use a temporary substitution, for example, if we don’t want to find ourselves in those positions,” Arteta told reporters ahead of the Rapid match.
Arsenal faced fierce criticism for not replacing the Brazilian defender immediately after the collision, which occurred just five minutes into the Premier League match with Wolves at the Emirates.
But Arteta said that Arsenal’s club doctor Gary O’Driscoll had followed the rules.
“He knows exactly what to do,” said the Spaniard. “He did all the testing, he followed all the protocols and we were very comfortable for him (Luiz) to carry on playing.
“But obviously you have to make a decision in one minute, when somebody is bleeding, when you have someone with a massive concussion next to you — whose life is under threat.”
Arteta said it was impossible to avoid accidental clashes in football and that sometimes they would lead to serious injuries.
“Obviously, it’s never happened in football,” he added, referring to concussion substitutes. “It happens and it’s very common in other sports.
“And it’s just a suggestion. You know I want to be extra protective, which I think we have to be in certain moments when we really are considering the welfare of the players and have a fair competition while the game is still running.”
Arsenal were on Sunday held to a barren draw by Leeds United in a Premier League clash, taking the Gunners to 11th on the table.
Rodrigo, Patrick Bamford and Raphina hit the woodwork for Marcelo Bielsa’s men, who had 25 attempts on goal without success.
A point leaves both sides still in the bottom half of the table as Arsenal edge up to 11th with Leeds two points back in 14th.
Arsenal have now not scored from open play in five Premier League games.
But a point in the circumstances will be welcomed by Mikel Arteta after Pepe’s moment of madness with a headbutt on Ezgjan Alioski left his side to play out 45 minutes a man down.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started as the central striker for the first time in the league under Arteta, but the Gunners captain was starved of service as his own wait for a non-penalty goal since the opening day of the season goes on.
Conceding goals has been Leeds’ issue on their return to the top-flight after a 16-year absence.
No side had let in more in the Premier League prior to the weekend, but it was at the other end they struggled on Sunday to turn their dominance into goals.
Bamford had scored seven times in his first eight appearances of the season, but twice he was denied by smart stops by Bernd Leno.
Mateusz Klich and Stuart Dallas also fired off target when well-placed a the edge of the area, while the closest Arsenal came before half-time was a mishit Pepe cross that came back off the top of the crossbar.
The Ivorian gave his side a mountain to climb six minutes into the second-half with an unnecessary headbutt on Alioski that left referee Anthony Taylor with no option but to show a red card once he saw the incident on a VAR review.
For all Arsenal’s problems scoring goals, Arteta has concentrated on making them defensively more robust and they held out despite the numerical disadvantage.
Leno was required to make a brilliant save from Dallas before Bielsa turned to Leeds’ record signing, Rodrigo, for an extra goal threat.
The Spanish international nearly provided the moment of inspiration his side needed with a thunderous strike off the bar.
However, Arsenal also came close to a winner in the final stages as they began to counter-attack effectively.
Aubameyang had a claim for a penalty turned down when his shot struck the arm of Leeds captain Liam Cooper.
Substitute Bukayo Saka then wasted the visitors’ best chance of the game when he tried to round Illan Meslier, but the young French goalkeeper did well to stand his ground and block.
Leeds were denied twice more by the woodwork to round off a frustrating afternoon when Bamford’s header and then Raphina’s driven shot came back off the same post.
Mikel Arteta has “changed the mood” around Arsenal, according to Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp with the Gunners rejuvenated by winning the FA Cup, Community Shield and their opening two games of the Premier League season.
However, the toughest test of what Arsenal can aim for this season comes on Monday with a trip to Anfield, where Klopp’s men have not lost in 60 league games.
Arteta described Liverpool’s home as the “toughest place in the world” to go, but Arsenal can take confidence from two victories over the Premier League champions in the past three months.
AFP Sports looks at three key battles where the game will be won and lost.
Trent Alexander-Arnold v Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Aubameyang has been the key figure in Arsenal’s revival, scoring twice in the FA Cup semi-finals and final to defeat Manchester City and Chelsea and his side’s goal plus the winning penalty in the shootout against Liverpool in the Community Shield.
Arteta has followed Klopp’s example by using his biggest goal threat cutting in from a wide area and Aubameyang will look to exploit the space left by Alexander-Arnold as he marauds forward
“With the speed they have for the counter-attack, that can cause you some trouble,” warned Klopp.
However, Liverpool could just as easily benefit from one of the league’s most creative players in Alexander-Arnold not being tracked by Aubameyang.
A minor injury meant he missed the Community Shield and Aubameyang made the most of his absence against the inexperienced Neco Williams. With the England international back, Liverpool are a different side.
Thiago v Granit Xhaka
Liverpool signalled their intent to defend their crown as champions by adding a world class talent in Thiago Alcantara to a team of winners.
The Spanish international gave a glimpse of what he will offer by completing more passes than any Chelsea player despite playing just the second-half of last weekend’s 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge.
An injury to Jordan Henderson means Thiago is likely to make his first start on Monday and Xhaka has the unenviable task of stopping him dictating the game.
The turnaround in the Swiss international’s Arsenal career is symptomatic of the changes since Arteta’s arrival.
Seemingly on his way out of the club after tearing off the armband and swearing at his own supporters when substituted against Crystal Palace just less than a year ago, Xhaka has rehabilitated his reputation among the Arsenal support by becoming the cornerstone of Arteta’s midfield.
Mohamed Salah v Kieran Tierney
Salah’s hat-trick on the opening day of the season against Leeds took his tally in Premier League games for Liverpool at Anfield to 51 in 57 home games.
That includes scoring against Arsenal in each of their previous three league trips, but Tierney is facing Liverpool away for the first time and has added more steel to the left side of the Gunners’ defence.
The Scotland international is perfectly suited to his role as the left centre-back of Arteta’s three-man defence, where he can also push into a more advanced role when in possession, like he did for Celtic prior to his £25 million ($32 million) move to the Premier League.
Salah scored six times in his first six appearances against Arsenal for Chelsea and Liverpool, but failed to find the net the last two times the sides have met up against Tierney.
Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s brace in the FA Cup final on Saturday.
Let’s look at three things we learned from the Wembley clash:
In what could be his last game for Arsenal, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang showed why the Gunners must do everything in their power to keep the Gabon forward.
The 31-year-old is out of contract at the end of next season and has been linked with a move amid reports he wants to play for a club in the Champions League.
Coach Mikel Arteta insists Aubameyang wants to stay, but he also conceded winning the FA Cup would be a useful way to show him the club are heading in the right direction.
Arsenal did their part and it was Aubameyang who provided the crucial cutting edge.
The first African player to start an FA Cup final as captain, Aubameyang became the second-oldest player to score for Arsenal in the showpiece.
With Arsenal trailing to Christian Pulisic’s early goal, Aubameyang’s blistering break left Cesar Azpilicueta trailing in his wake.
Azpilicueta responded by tugging at Aubameyang’s shoulder and the forward made the most of the contact as he tumbled in the area to win a penalty that he dispatched with ruthless efficiency.
Aubameyang won the German Cup with Borussia Dortmund in 2017, scoring the winning goal from the penalty spot.
Once again, he would be the star, but this time it was his skill and improvisation that proved decisive as he jinked past Kurt Zouma and clipped a fine finish over Willy Caballero in the 67th minute.
Chelsea hamstrung by Pulisic injury
Christian Pulisic had emerged as a key figure for Chelsea since the coronavirus hiatus, but a day that started on a high for the United States winger ended in agony.
It has been that kind of turbulent season for Pulisic, whose first year with Chelsea started slowly amid injuries and poor form before bursting into life.
He was on the scoresheet after just five minutes, with his 11th goal of the season.
Drifting into central midfield to take possession, Pulisic slipped a precise pass to Mason Mount and carried on his run into the Arsenal penalty area, where he took Olivier Giroud’s flick and slotted past Emiliano Martinez.
Pulisic was the first American to score in the FA Cup final but disaster struck in the 49th minute when he raced away for a shot that was interrupted when he felt his hamstring twang.
Immediately grabbing the injured area, Pulisic was helped off the pitch.
Without the pace of Pulisic to keep Arsenal’s defense on the back foot, Frank Lampard’s side was bereft of a cutting edge in the final third as the trophy slipped from their grasp.
Arteta bolsters growing reputation
Mikel Arteta enhanced his reputation as one of the Premier League’s brightest young managers with another tactical masterclass.
Having out-witted his mentor Pep Guardiola in Arsenal’s FA Cup semi-final success against Manchester City, Arteta showed his acumen again to leave Chelsea boss Frank Lampard out of answers.
Arteta’s use of long passes into the channels behind Chelsea’s two attacking full-backs exposed the flaw in Lampard’s defensive system and led directly to Aubameyang’s equaliser.
Leading Arsenal to their 14th FA Cup success — which brings them a place in next season’s Europa League — showed the 38-year-old Spaniard is the man to restore the club’s tattered reputation.
Arsenal may have endured their lowest league finish for a quarter of a century this season as Arteta battled to steady the ship following Unai Emery’s sacking in December.
But he has won over his players with a direct approach to discipline — banishing malcontents Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi — and his astute game-plans.
Winning the FA Cup will buy Arteta time to continue his rebuild and it was fitting his first trophy as Arsenal manager came in the tournament that brought the last major silverware of Gunners legend Arsene Wenger’s reign.
Arsenal reached a record 21st FA Cup final as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s double clinched a shock 2-0 win over holders Manchester City at Wembley on Saturday.
Gunners boss Mikel Arteta outwitted City manager Pep Guardiola with an astute counter-attacking scheme and Aubameyang struck in each half as Arsenal executed the plan to perfection.
Arsenal will face Chelsea or Manchester United, who meet in the other semi-final on Sunday, in the final at Wembley on August 1.
Arteta captained Arsenal to FA Cup triumph six years ago and, in his first season in charge of the north London club, the Spaniard has led them back to the final of a competition they last won in 2017.
Just days after beating Premier League champions Liverpool, Arsenal offered further evidence that Arteta could be the man to restore them to the glory days of the Arsene Wenger era.
Arteta had fired a warning shot to Arsenal’s board in midweek when he admitted he was concerned about his club’s ability to spend enough to turn them into title contenders.
On the evidence of the canny way he got one over on Guardiola, Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke would be wise to give the man he hired in December a chance to show what he can do with a rebuilt team.
Arsenal had lost their previous seven meetings with City, including a 3-0 drubbing in their first game after the coronavirus hiatus.
City were unbeaten in their past nine matches at Wembley but, thanks to Arteta’s masterstroke, Arsenal handed Guardiola’s side a first defeat there since the 2017 FA Cup semi-final against the Gunners.
With second place in the Premier League secured, City have to focus on the resumption of their Champions League challenge in August, when they defend a 2-1 first leg lead against Real Madrid in the last 16.
City bossed the early exchanges to such an extent that they had amassed 83 percent possession after 10 minutes.
But Arteta knows City well after his time as Guardiola’s assistant and he set out to exploit their weakness against counter attacks, using Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe to get behind City’s attacking full-backs Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy.
Arsenal should have been ahead when David Luiz picked out Aubameyang, who wastefully shot straight at Ederson with only the keeper to beat.
It was a warning City failed to heed and Aubameyang made them pay in the 19th minute.
At the climax of an 18-pass move, Pepe’s deep cross caught Walker dozing and Aubameyang eluded him to slide a fine finish off the far post from a tight angle.
It was the kind of incisive, imaginative attack that City usually torment Arsenal with, but for once it was the men in red celebrating.
The Gabon striker’s 24th goal of the season was a reminder why Arsenal are so desperate to get him to sign a contract extension.
Urging Arsenal to “get the ball, get the ball” at every opportunity, Arteta’s intensity on the touchline was matched by his players.
City, unbeaten in their previous 22 domestic cup ties, were well short of their best.
Raheem Sterling wasted a golden opportunity to equalise when he shot wide from Kevin De Bruyne’s pass.
City finally tested Emiliano Martinez for the first time as Riyad Mahrez’s low strike forced an excellent one-handed stop from the Arsenal keeper.
De Bruyne’s free-kick curled just wide before VAR rejected Sterling’s penalty appeal after Mustafi appeared to trip the winger.
Defending deep, Arsenal were putting their bodies in the way of everything to keep City at bay.
Even Luiz, much maligned for a terrible display in Arsenal’s last meeting with City, was at the top of his game and Arteta’s rope-a-dope plan brought a rich reward in the 71st minute.
City left themselves open at the back and Aubameyang beat the offside trap as he accelerated onto Kieran Tierney’s sublime pass before slotting under Ederson.