Mikel Arteta says Arsenal’s performance at Leicester didn’t come as a surprise even though he rotated heavily after a busy week.
Eyebrows were raised when the Gunners’ teamsheet listed six changes from the side that started against Benfica on Thursday, however, the selected XI, which was packed full of experience, made light work of a tricky encounter even after going behind in the early stages.
Goals from David Luiz, Alex Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe secured a 3-1 win at the King Power; the Gunners first away victory against a top-three side since we beat Manchester City at the Etihad in 2015.
“Probably people will think that it was a gamble but I see them train every day and they are playing because they deserve to play,” said Arteta.
“When they deserve to play, I think players have to feel supported and valued. The only way to do it is to play them.
“In football, anything can happen but I think the performance levels they’ve shown is not a coincidence, it’s the way they’ve prepared themselves and how they’ve prepared themselves every day.”
It wasn’t just the victory, but the style of the victory that kept the boss purring. “For me it’s not only about that, it’s how we play against an opponent of top quality.
“It’s about composing ourselves, trying to be Arsenal all the time – it doesn’t matter who we play against, it’s about having the courage to do it against top-quality players. I’m proud of the win but more about the way we’ve done it.”
While Arsenal continue to labour in mid-table, the club’s form since Christmas at least highlights an upturn in fortunes. After a very tricky first third of the season, Arteta can see things are getting better even if remains wary of the silly lapses in concentration that continue to make life difficult.
“Every game is going to be different. What we’ve done today [Sunday] is not going to have a knock-on effect on the next Premier League game, but I think the team is clearly improving and is taking a direction that I like.
“Then all the time I say the same thing, about the constancy. We are still giving things to the opponent. We did it against Benfica, we did it against Benfica at home, we’ve done it today against a more dangerous team in short transitions, and that’s something that we have to eradicate to give ourselves the best possible chance.
“Everything I see, attitude-wise, what we are creating as a group, and then the way we are playing within our model, it looks much closer to what we want.”