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Arsenal Is Moving In A Good Direction – Arteta After Defeating Leicester

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Arteta
Arsenal Manager, Mikel Arteta

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said his side are “taking a direction I like” after they followed up their Europa League win over Benfica with an impressive comeback victory at high-flying .

Things started badly for a much-changed Gunners side, with poor defending allowing Youri Tielemens to run unchecked down the right before firing a low shot into the far corner with just six minutes played.

Arsenal refused to be adversely affected, though, and took control of the game with impressive attacking intent and far greater fluency than Leicester.

David Luiz headed them level from a free-kick before Alexandre Lacazette levelled from the penalty spot after the video assistant referee (VAR) judged that Wilfred Ndidi had blocked Nicolas Pepe’s shot in the box with an outstretched arm.

Pepe sealed the deserved win with a close-range finish to take the Gunners into the top half of the table.

“The way we are playing looks much closer to what we want. The way the team is evolving, we have some consistency in recent months,” said Arteta.

“We are still giving things to the opposition – we did it against Benfica and we did it today. It’s something we have to eradicate to give ourselves the best possible chance.

“It’s about how we played against top-quality opposition. We have to impose ourselves – it doesn’t matter who we play against, we have to have courage. I’m proud about winning but obviously [also] the way we’ve done it.

“The team is clearly improving. It’s taking a direction I like.”

Leicester’s loss comes three days after their disappointing Europa League exit to Slavia Prague and is a big blow to their increasingly forlorn-looking pursuit of Premier League leaders .

On a miserable afternoon at the end of a dire week for the Foxes, they also had influential winger Harvey Barnes carried off on a stretcher with his leg in a brace to add to their already considerable injury problems.

The Foxes’ sixth home loss of the campaign leaves them 10 points behind a Manchester City side who have won their past 20 games.

Arsenal move up to ninth, eight points off the top four but with a renewed interest in events above them in the table.

Arteta actually chose to rest a number of key players on Sunday, including Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whose late winner had won their Europa League tie against Benfica.

In naming a stronger side on paper for Thursday’s game and resting key players at the King Power, Arteta appeared to be suggesting that success in Europe represented his side’s best route back into the Champions League.

That may still be the case, but what the Spaniard and his squad proved on Sunday is they are far more capable than they have demonstrated for much of this season.

Granted, they got off to an appalling start, practically waving Tielemens in for his early opening goal.

But they did not allow the incident to alter the gameplan – one designed to sensibly take the game to Rodgers’ side.

They fashioned the better chances over the 90 minutes as a result.

Aside from the goals, Willian fired a low shot just past the post, Luke Thomas’s superb sliding tackle denied Pepe from close range and substitute Aubameyang curled a shot narrowly wide late on.

It also took a VAR call to overturn the on-field awarding of a penalty at 1-0 with the officials ultimately deciding the offending tackle on Pepe had taken place just outside the area.

With eight points and four other teams between themselves and fourth-placed West Ham, a late dart for the Champions League places remains a long shot for the Gunners, but with big players firing and talent in reserve they are in a good place to challenge for their ultimate goal.

Sunday’s win did come at a potential cost, though, with Emile Smith Rowe – such a bright spark in recent months – having to leave the field injured in the first half.

Samuel Nelson
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