Mikel Arteta praised Sead Kolasinac for his willingness to play against Manchester United even though the full-back was not fully fit following a spell on the sidelines with a hamstring problem.
The 26-year-old wasn’t expected to return to action for another couple of weeks but told the Spaniard yesterday that he felt he could play a role.
A surprise starter, he went on to put in an impressive shift, recording an assist and making it to the 69 minute-mark before being replaced by Bukayo Saka.
“I said to him, ‘thank you so much’ because today we had Bukayo who wasn’t feeling good,” Arteta told the BBC after the 2-0 win.
“He wasn’t ready to play, Kola. He was expecting to start maybe against Leeds or after Leeds and he made an incredible effort.
“He came to me yesterday and said, ‘boss, if you want me to play, I can play’. We decided to play him and that’s the attitude of the players that I want and he got rewarded.
“He made an effort, he put himself on the line and he had a great performance.”
After decent performances against Bournemouth and Chelsea but no wins, Arteta was relieved to get three points at the third time of asking. He firmly believes the players are keen on the changes he’s trying to implement, as evidenced by their efforts on the pitch.
“I think they’re buying into it, they’re enjoying it, to do it together much better,” he said.
“As well I saw, bits that give me a lot of encouragement in terms of what we’re doing with the ball and defensively in the moments we have to suffer together…how compact we were, how ruthless we were.”
He added: “Physically at the moment, they are not used to maintaining that intensity. The games are a little too long. We don’t have much time to train with the games, but I’m convincing them it’s the right way to do it. We’ll be able to do it soon for longer periods of the game.”