Mikel Arteta says Aston Villa were well within their rights to make an offer for Emile Smith Rowe last summer but at no point was he concerned that Arsenal might lose the midfielder.
Having accepted a £100 million bid for Jack Grealish from Manchester City, the Villans were quick out of the traps looking for replacements. They started by pipping Arsenal to Norwich midfielder Emi Buendia and then trained their sights on one of the Gunners’ own.
Two bids for Smith Rowe, the second around the £30 million mark, were rejected out of hand by Edu and Arteta before the England under-21 put pen-to-paper on a new long-term contract which included inheriting the club’s number 10 shirt.
Aston Villa went on to sign Leon Bailey from Bayer Leverkusen for £28 million and also recruited Danny Ings from Southampton for £26 million.
Ahead of Villa’s visit to N5, Arteta was asked how summer talks between the two clubs played out.
“Any club has the right to make an enquiry about a player,” said Arteta. “If they believed they had the financial power to get him, they are entitled to do that.
“There was that communication between the club, we made it really clear that Emile wasn’t for sale. That’s it.
He added: “No [I wasn’t concerned]. He [Emile] is a big part of what we’re trying to do and our future. He’s really happy where he is and I’m delighted to have him in the team.”
Put to him that Arsenal’s best players used to be a target for Europe’s biggest clubs rather than recently promoted domestic sides, Arteta said Villa’s behaviour was a sign of their ambition.
“It’s about the vision of the club and the ambition that they are showing. They are showing the right ambition and they want to take the club to a different level.”
Arteta also stressed that he’s very happy that former charge Emi Martinez has impressed for Villa since joining their project over a year ago. Having become a fixture in Argentina’s national team, it has repeatedly been suggested that the Gunners made a bad decision letting the goalkeeper leave.
“We made decisions with the best possible intentions and looking for the best interests of the club,” said Arteta.
“As well it was a very strong participant, it was Emi, who deserves all the credit for the amount of time he spent at the club and don’t forget that he had different spells in his career and he got to a point in his career when under me he started to play in important games and he did extremely well.
“His ambition, his belief and where he wants to take his career was very different and it was urgent for him because he was so patient for so long and I’m really happy that he’s doing so well.
“He’s a great keeper, I played with him, I managed him, and he has tremendous personality as well and he’s showing that at Aston Villa and the national team. I can say that I’m happy for him.”