Mikel Arteta: Thursday’s Premier League action shows that the competition ‘is unbelievable’ this season

Mikel Arteta addressed the media at Sobha Realty Training Centre on Friday morning, ahead of Arsenal’s Premier League meeting with Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday evening. The Gunners boss addressed the press in Colney as his side gear up to face the battling Seagulls, keen to make it eleven undefeated in the league since the turn of the new year.

First addressing injury concerns off the back of Wednesday evening’s 2-0 victory over Luton Town, Arteta confirmed that the winning side all ‘seem okay’ for their seaside outing. Bukayo Saka was a notable omission from Wednesday’s match day squad, but the Gunners boss confirmed that ‘we will have a training session in a few hours and we will know whether he is fit or not‘ for Saturday’s clash.

Discounting any prospects that the English forward may be facing burnout as the season reaches its final stages, Arteta assured reporters that he is ‘positive that he [Saka] is going to fly and be so decisive.’

The midweek victory over the Hatters saw Arteta toy with team selection, making five changes from the side that battled with Manchester City at Etihad Stadium. Reflecting on the victory in N5, Arteta expressed ‘I was very pleased with the result and the performance, and the fact that everybody responded in the way that we expected. When you make changes- there is this possibility because they haven’t played that much- but I think the boys were really good.’

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Wednesday’s Premier League victory saw the Gunners garner a brace to swell the precarious position that the Hatters find themselves in, as Reiss Nelson made his way into the starting eleven following an omission from last weekend’s match day meeting with Manchester City.

Packing on the praise for Nelson’s performance, Arteta spoke with pride when expressing ‘the previous game he was not in the squad, and then the next game he’s ready to start. If you don’t react the way that he did, you’re not ready to perform, so I am really pleased with his reaction in the team.’

Hale End graduate, Emile Smith Rowe, gathered himself Player of the Match appreciation in Arsenal’s victory over Luton Town after a confident performance in the middle of the park. After what was a dynamic performance in N5, the Arsenal boss expressed the importance in Smith Rowe’s persistence through circumstantial adversity as his career continues to progress.

‘I look at him with what happened in the last two seasons, especially with him. Take all that, it’s the best thing that could have happened for him in his career, if you used it in the right way now. [Say], I had a great moment, I had a difficult moment, now I know what I want [and] how to deal with that. That’s going to make me a much better player. You can see, the hell of a player we have in him when he’s fit and playing at that level.’

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Arsenal’s latest opponents in Brighton & Hove Albion find themselves amidst the mid table scrap, as Roberto De Zerbi’s Seagulls outfit will be eagerly searching to break into the formidable fortress of the top six ahead of their meeting with the Gunners at the AMEX.

Addressing Saturday’s opponents, Arteta piled on the praise, noting: ‘[I’m] very impressed. Top manager, top coaching staff, I think they are an unbelievable football club. What they’ve done deserves incredible credit, and the way they run the football club, the decisions they’ve made, and now they have a status in the league [to be] now fighting with the top.’

On Thursday, Arteta sat at home with his metaphorical Sheffield United kit on, as the Blades battled it out with Arsenal’s title opponents – Liverpool. The Gunners boss said he spent his Thursday evening ‘watching a bit of both [games]’ as Chelsea also took Manchester United to the death at Stamford Bridge. Arteta took last night’s battle as an opportunity to reflect on the levels of the Premier League, saying ‘it’s unbelievable, the league that we find ourselves in’.

‘Every game in this league is extremely difficult. You look at last night at what happened and everybody is just suffering to win because the level is so high. We’re going to have a really tough opponent against Brighton, we know that. We know that we need to play very well, and play better than them, and try to win.’

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Arsenal’s defensive structure has proved formidable since the turn of the year, with the Gunners only conceding four goals – the least across the Premier League – in the opening months of the calendar year. Reflecting on the solidity found in the defensive areas, Arteta expressed ‘that talks about organisation around the team [and] in the defensive phase. The players have to keep clean sheets and defend well to make life difficult for the opponents.’

As the Gunners prove a fortress at the back, they have also registered the strongest attacking stat sheet presence throughout the 2024 length of the Premier League season. When asked which end of the field matters more to him, Arteta insisted that finding results triumphs both records.

‘The one that I want is the winning one. Only the process is super important, and in the end we want that to reflect in the outcome, which is what we are hoping for.’

Arsenal’s next Premier League encounter will see the Gunners travel seaside to face Brighton & Hove Albion at the AMEX this Saturday, with proceedings heading underway at 17:30 BST.