Mikel Arteta heaps praise on players as Arsenal pull four points clear at summit

By Isaac M December 2, 2023

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta praised his side as they scored two early goals to down Wolves and open up a four-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

With closest challengers and reigning champions Manchester City not in action until Sunday, Mikel Arteta’s side took full advantage as Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard struck in the opening 16 minutes before a nervy ending brought about by Matheus Cunha’s strike.

The Gunners ultimately ran out 2-1 winners on an afternoon where their early goals were the peak of a performance that promised more than it provided.

Having thrashed Lens here 6-0 on Wednesday to ensure safe passage into the last 16 of the Champions League, Wolves proved they were made of sterner stuff and stayed in the contest until the last.

But despite seeing his side labour after racing ahead, Arteta was still left pleased with the performance.

“I can only praise the players,” he said.

“They were excellent. We played against a really good side and generated so much and conceded almost nothing. The scoreline should have been very different. We were very unlucky because we hit the post three times I think.

“At the end we made an error close to the goal – in the Premier League you get punished big time for that. Then at the end, it’s game on. Overall I’m really happy with how he performed again.”

Arteta also backed Oleksandr Zinchenko – the full-back having made a number of minor errors during the game, including losing possession for Cunha’s consolation.

The Ukraine international had earlier set up Odegaard for the crucial second and Arteta was in no mood to criticise the former Manchester City man.

“You have to love him, how he is,” added the Spaniard.

“Every player has strengths and weaknesses. Alex has many more strengths. This happened and it can happen to any player.

“We have to learn from it because there are certain areas where it’s a big no to play, especially after certain things in the previous phase. That’s it. We will get better.”

While Wolves left north London empty-handed, manager Gary O’Neil was pleased that his team did not capitulate after such a poor start.

“When you concede two early goals, you know it might be a long afternoon,” he said.

“We knew we’d suffer against Arsenal because everybody does.

“The first goal was disappointing. There were so many bodies around Saka. For him to wriggle through and for us to look hesitant in the penalty area is disappointing.

“The second goal was a great goal. We should have prevented it, but it happens. We stuck to the plan, tried to be aggressive and maybe didn’t carry as much of a threat as we would have liked, but not many teams do against Arsenal.

“We managed to hang in and create a bit of a scare, and the lads should take a lot from that.”

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