Mikel Arteta: Arsenal 'back to best' after easing past Chelsea to return to top spot

Mikel Arteta: Arsenal 'back to best' after easing past Chelsea to return to top spot
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta believes the "team is back to its best" after easing past rivals Chelsea on Tuesday night to return to the top of the Premier League.

Arsenal blew hapless Chelsea away inside the first 34 minutes at the Emirates Stadium, captain Martin Odegaard scoring twice before striker Gabriel Jesus made it 3-0. Noni Madueke pulled one back for the visitors in the second half but victory had long appeared assured for the Gunners. The victory moves Arsenal back to the league summit by two points, although second-placed Manchester City have two games in hand and can reclaim top spot with a win at home against West Ham United on Thursday night.

In addition to three valuable points, the result saw Arsenal end a run of four games without a win as three successive draws and a heavy defeat last time out to City handed Pep Guardiola's side the advantage in the title race.

“We wanted to have a very different approach to the game, and we did it right from the beginning,” Arteta said. “The team is back to its best. There was a lot of energy, determination, quality, movement, and we were really going for it. We connected with our crowd straight away, we scored two magnificent goals, got control of the game and fully deserved to win.

“We wanted to prove we had that fire in the belly. I could see that in the last few days, and we prepared the game well. Mentally we arrived in the right mood and with the right level of energy. Everything went for us as well, which is important.

“We’ve had a couple of difficult weeks with very different games with a lot of emotions involved. Today we’re back to the top of the league – let’s see what happens.”

Arteta reserved special praise for Odegaard following his brace which took the Norwegian midfielder's Premier League tally to 14 goals for the season.

Odegaard, 24, struggled under the weight of expectation following his highly-publicised move to Real Madrid as a 16-year-old but has been a revelation at Arsenal since an initial loan move for the second half of the 2020/21 season. His performances have hit an entirely new level this season, having been handed the captain's armband, and Arteta is convinced there is even more to come from the Norway international.

“We don’t know what the limits of the players are,” Arteta said. ”When you have a player of his quality and his eagerness to learn every single day, he accepts that there are areas he can still improve a lot. “He is constantly working on them, and in the end you get rewarded. That’s credit to him.”

Granit Xhaka has starred alongside Odegaard in the Arsenal midfield this season and assisted his captain for the opening goal.

The Switzerland international has certainly repaired his fractured relationship with the club and its fans, which reached its nadir in November 2019 when he was stripped of the captaincy after making lewd gestures and comments at fans following a substitution.

Having previously appeared destined for the exit, Xhaka has established himself as a key player under Arteta, and the 30-year-old midfielder said he was pleased with Arsenal's reaction following the defeat to City.

“We wanted to show a big reaction today, I think we did for 60 minutes,” he said. “It was a very good game and in the end, we deserved to win.

“We wanted to start with a lot of energy, and I think the first 45 minutes were nearly perfect. In the second half, we wanted to come out with a fourth and fifth [goal] as well. We were a bit disappointed with that but in the end, the three points are the most important thing.

“As a team, we put in a good effort today after the four games we didn’t win, and I think we needed the three points. It was very important. “We needed a reaction for the fans, for ourselves as well to come back with confidence and hopefully we can continue like this for the next four games.”
Source: www.thenationalnews.com
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