Mikel Arteta praises ‘extraordinary’ Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka after Arsenal defeat Newcastle

Saka scored from a Smith Rowe assist as the Gunners emerged 3-0 winners against the Magpies

Alex Pattle
Monday 18 January 2021 22:51 GMT
Pitchside view: Eagles draw with Arsenal at the Emirates

Mikel Arteta heaped praise on youngsters Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka after the pair’s contributions in Arsenal’s Premier League victory over Newcastle on Monday.

Arteta’s team were 3-0 winners at the Emirates, with all three goals coming in the second half. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang opened and closed the scoring in north London, netting either side of a Saka finish – the assist for which was provided by Smith Rowe.

And the Arsenal coach was keen to acknowledge the duo’s performances, while asserting that both Smith Rowe, 20, and Saka, 19, need “protecting” as they progress.

READ MORE: Premier League table and fixtures – all games by date and kick-off time

“When we are winning, they put a smile on my face," Arteta told Sky Sports after the victory, which lifted the Gunners to 10th in the Premier League table

“I know what they are capable of doing. They are developing really well, and that’s a merit to them, a merit for their team-mates and everybody that is involved to try to support them and protect them as well. 

“But the performances that they are putting in are extraordinary.”

When asked how midfielder Smith Rowe and Saka – who was deployed on the wing but can also operate as a full-back – must be protected, Arteta said: “The boys [protect them] with the personalities that we have in the dressing room, with the senior players, with the other young players that we have as well – and obviously the staff as well – which they need. 

“The expectations are gonna be high with them and we have to take them through the right path.

“I think it’s [a boost] for everyone to have that mix of energy, passion and a little bit of immaturity at times that is good.”

Arteta also noted Aubameyang’s fine showing in bagging a brace, saying of the captain: “He tried even in the first half – I thought he had two or three really big chances and didn’t score. 

“[But] he scored two today, I think it’s [going to be] really good for his confidence. Obviously it was great for the team, because it helped them to win the match. So, overall, really pleased.”

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang opened and closed the scoring against Newcastle

The forward was substituted on 79 minutes, with Arteta suggesting the Gabon international’s exit was fitness-related. 

“He had to go in, we decided to change him,” the Spaniard said, remaining vague.

Thomas Partey, meanwhile, made just his second appearance – and first start – since picking up an injury in Arsenal’s defeat by rivals Tottenham in early December.

The midfielder, a summer signing from Atletico Madrid, assisted Aubameyang’s opener with a clipped long ball before being taken off after 66 minutes of play.

“I think he got better and better as the game went on,” Arteta said. “He had a big influence, he gave us things that are different to any other player. 

“Still we have to protect him, because he has missed a lot of football in the last few months, but [I’m] really happy with the performance.”

Arsenal certainly did not miss the creativity that Mesut Ozil provided in his prime, but Arteta refrained from bidding farewell to his former team-mate ahead of a move to Fenerbahce that is all but confirmed.

“Not yet,” the Spaniard said. 

“Obviously he’s in Turkey now, he’s going through the medical, there is some paperwork still to do. 

“When the deal is finalised, we’ll make the announcement.”

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