Arsenal may have the youngest team in the Premier League but it’s no excuse not to perform at their best, says Mikel Arteta.
The Spaniard has regularly fielded a starting lineup with an average age under 25 and on occasion, like Monday’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace, inexperience has played a part in our ability to manage opponents.
Left frustrated by the dropped points four days ago, Arteta was delighted that his players were quick to shake off a below-par performance with a promising 3-1 victory against Aston Villa.
“I really enjoyed watching them play and the way they started right from the beginning,” the manager told Arsenal.com.
“I always said the way they were in the dressing room after Palace, I think that was when we started to win this game. They weren’t happy with some moments we had in that game and they know they have more ability, more quality to do it.
“We talked about it, they had a great reaction and they know that the age is not going to be an excuse. We cannot change it.
“We are the youngest team in the league and we can change other things, we can improve other things and it has to happen now. Today they showed the level that they can play and I think the fans enjoyed it.”
At the centre of all things good against Aston Villa was midfielder Emile Smith Rowe. On a night when the England under-21 international was full of verve and energy, he also helped himself to a fourth goal of the campaign.
Arteta is clearly over the moon by the way he’s taken on the challenge to make more decisive contributions.
“That should be a habit and he should demand that in his game, because he’s capable of doing it,” he said in his post-game press conference.
“I’m pleased he’s developing that. He still needs to develop more in other areas. The other night he wasn’t 100 per cent fit but he made a step forward and wanted to play with a difficult injury that he had.”
He added: “When you want to take the game to the next level, when you become a really important player in such a big club, that should be the only priority, and every detail is important and relevant,” he said.
“You have to make them aware of that – you cannot give percentages away that can make big differences.
“He’s changed that, and credit to him and the staff here that are monitoring and trying to build that education with him, and it will get only better.”