Mikel Arteta was delighted with the contributions of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe in Arsenal‘s comprehensive 3-0 defeat of Newcastle at the Emirates on Monday night. Smith Rowe supplied the assist for fellow academy graduate Saka to double Arsenal’s lead on the hour mark against the Magpies.
Only Nicolas Anelka (30), Cesc Fabregas (28) and Theo Walcott (12) have been involved in more Premier League goals as a teenager for Arsenal than Saka.
The 19-year-old now boasts five goals and six assists in the league while Smith Rowe has supplied three assists in six games since breaking into Arteta’s starting eleven.
And the duo are providing the attacking bright spark that has helped Arsenal go six matches unbeaten and lift them into the top 10 as they recover from a gloomy few months.
The north Londoners are just six points off fifth-placed Tottenham although have played one match more than Spurs, who have been touted as title contenders this season.
And following their victory over Newcastle, Arteta picked out Saka and Smith Rowe, who is only a year older than his fellow Hale End prospect, for particular praise.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the Spanish manager said post-match: “I know what they are capable of doing. They put a smile on my face. They are developing really well and that is merit to them and their team-mates.
“We try to support them and protect them. Their performances they are putting in are extraordinary.
“The boys support them with the personalities that we have in the dressing room with the senior players and other young players we have and the staff as well, which they need.
“The expectation will be high with them so we have to take them through the right path.
“It’s a lift for everybody to have that mixture of energy, passion and a little bit of immaturity at times which is good as you don’t play as tense like the senior players. They’re doing really well.”
On Arsenal’s general performance, Arteta declared himself “really pleased” and insisted he hopes that Aubameyang’s brace will fuel his confidence in front of goal.
The Gabon international had only scored three times in his previous 16 Premier League appearances this season.
Arteta said: “In the first half it takes us a while to break a structure like this. We had big chances that we didn’t score. This is what we needed.
“We were in total control of the game, I don’t think they had any shots on target and so it was about keeping that structure right, keeping it simple and attacking the box as much as we could.
“We corrected a few things in my opinion I thought we could do better and then we produced the moments of the goals.
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“Even in the first half I thought he [Aubameyang] had two or three really big chances which he didn’t score. He scored two today which is going to be really good for his confidence.
“Obviously it was great for the team because he helped to win the match. Overall, really pleased.”
Asked why Aubameyang went down the tunnel post-match and whether he was ill, Arteta replied: “Yeah, he had to go in and we decided to change it.”
The performance of Thomas Partey was a huge plus with the returning Ghanaian, making his first Premier League start since December 6, producing a solid performance.
Partey supplied a brilliant long pass into Aubameyang for the opening goal on 50 minutes and was brilliant before he was brought off shortly after the hour mark.
“I am really happy,” Arteta said. “He got better and better as the game went on. He had a big influence and gave us things which were different to any other player.
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“We have to protect him because he’s missed a lot of football in the last few months but really happy with his performance.”
Arteta also spoke on outgoing attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil, who is set to cancel the final six months of his Arsenal contract to join Fenerbahce.
The German ends an eight-year association with the Londoners and is currently in Turkey to complete a move, having said: “I am very excited because I was always a fan of Fenerbahce. My dream comes true.
“I am very excited to wear the Fenerbahce jersey. I hope we will be very successful with my teammates.”
And Arteta said of Ozil: “He’s in Turkey now. He is going through the medical and there is some paperwork still to do. When the deal is finalised we will make an announcement.”