Mikel Arteta has called on his Arsenal players to “give a little bit more” in their final 10 remaining Premier League games as the Gunners close in on a first league title since 2004.
Arsenal became the first side in English Football League history to win nine London derbies in a single league season – and their latest success means they head into the international break with an eight-point buffer over their title rivals Manchester City, albeit having played a game more.
Bukayo Saka once again starred in Sunday’s 4-1 win over Crystal Palace, scoring twice and set up the opener for Gabriel Martinelli, becoming the first Premier League player this season to reach double figures for both goals and assists.
Four years on since he swore at his own fans when his substitution in this fixture was cheered, Granit Xhaka’s fine season continued when he turned home the third after the interval.
“I’m really happy and really pleased with the way we started the game and how we reacted to Thursday,” said Arteta in reference to the Europa League penalty shootout exit at the hands of Sporting Lisbon.
“We took any question mark away from it. We showed a lot of determination and a lot of purpose in the way we played. I’m really happy with the way we played after playing 120 minutes, after losing two players [William Saliba and Takehiro Tomiyasu], I’m really pleased with what we showed.
When asked if Saka is the best player in the Premier League on current form, Arteta responded: “The team did really well, and of course we then have very good individuals who excel at the level that we want. But he was again really good today and he really affected the result with his contribution, especially in the opponent’s box.”
Tomiyasu left the Emirates having watched the game from the stands in a knee brace and with crutches. The Japan international is expected to undergo surgery which is likely to rule him out for the rest of the season.
It is a time for Arsenal to show their depth once more in a season where key personnel have been missing at regular intervals.
“We don’t know,” added Arteta when asked if Tomiyasu could miss the rest of the season. “The doctor is going to assess him. We’ve had one assessment and there will be another one tomorrow [Monday]. It’s not looking good, that’s for sure. He’s not someone who likes to exaggerate things so we know it is serious. He was concerned straight away and we are concerned.
“We hope that it’s going to be better news for William [Saliba]. We have to wait until tomorrow to have a better picture. We’ve lost players already this season. We’ve lost Gabby [Gabriel Jesus] for four months, Thomas Partey for one-and-a-half months, Oleksandr Zinchecnko for one-and-a-half months, we’ve lost Mohamed Elneny for six to eight months.
Arsenal’s final 10 fixtures:
- Leeds (h) – Saturday April 1, 3pm
- Liverpool (a) – Sunday April 9, 4.30pm – Live on Sky Sports
- West Ham (a) – Sunday April 16, 2pm – Live on Sky Sports
- Southampton (h) – Friday April 21, 8pm – Live on Sky Sports
- Man City (a) – Wednesday April 26, 8pm
- Chelsea (h) – Saturday April 29, 5.30pm – Live on Sky Sports
- Newcastle (a) – Saturday May 6, 3pm
- Brighton (h) – Saturday May 13, 3pm
- Nottingham Forest (a) – Saturday May 20, 3pm
- Wolves (h) – Sunday May 28, 4.30pm
“Now we’ve lost Eddie [Nketiah], Tomiyasu and Saliba.
“Everyone has to give a little bit more. It’s not a secret. If you want to maintain that level, everyone has to step in and give a little bit more. Rob [Holding] is an example of what we needed today.”
It was during the last international break that Arsenal lost Jesus to injury, and so there is naturally going to be an edginess to Arteta over the coming fortnight to ensure his international players come back unscathed from their commitments to their respective countries.
“I want to think positively and touch wood! They have to play games and they have to represent their country. They know how to look after them and hopefully everything is going to work out.
“They have to look after themselves in this period now. The players who are leaving have to come back with the same mindset of being hungry. Right now, the only important game for us is the next one against Leeds.”
McCarthy rues lack of cutting edge: When it rains it pours
Palace were inches away from taking the lead as a deflected Wilfried Zaha strike came back off a post, the ball catching goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale on the back before squirming wide.
The Eagles, who sacked former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira on Friday, at least got themselves on the scoresheet as Jeffrey Schlupp’s second-half consolation under caretaker boss Paddy McCarthy ended a near seven-hour scoreless run.
“It’s been hectic,” interim boss McCarthy said of the past few days. “But we’ve tried to shield the players from that as much as possible. The start of the game was really encouraging and we had chance to go ahead. We knew we had to be on our game today to stop a very good Arsenal side.
“Had we taken one of those earlier chances, it might have been a different outcome today.
“I’ve not had any time to think about anything other than preparing the team for today’s game. My only focus has been on this. There hasn’t been any conversations had. I’m interested in doing whatever the football club want me to do. I’ve been here for 15 years. Whatever this club needs me to do at this moment in time, I’ll do it.”
Palace remain in 12th position, but are just three points off the relegation zone as their wait for a Premier League win in 2023 goes on.
Chairman Steve Parish, who was in attendance at the Emirates, will spend the next two weeks seeking Vieira’s successor, and McCarthy has not ruled himself out of taking the position on a permanent basis.
When asked what Palace need to arrest the slide, McCarthy said: “Belief. They’ve got so much quality in there and they’ve just got to believe in themselves. The chances we created today was a positive aspect of our game. With the defending, Arsenal are always going to create chance.
“The fourth goal was disappointing as we were in the game at 3-1. It’s a completely different story but 4-1 makes it look a bit worse than it actually was.
“We’ve proven today we can create chances against one of the defences in the division so they’ll take positives from that. Joachim [Andersen] has a calf injury. He felt a twinge in his calf just before kick off. When it rains it pours.
“When you’re in this predicament, you need players who have gone through the mill. Tomks [James Tomkins] had 15 minutes warming up on the side to start and I thought he did brilliant given the circumstances.
“We will need the experience to help us. Players who have gone through experiences like this are going to play a big role in the coming weeks.”
Hits and misses: Swaggering Arsenal storm on towards the title
Sky Sports’ Adam Bate:
Arsenal exuded confidence and calm at the Emirates Stadium. This was the performance of a team that believes they are marching towards the Premier League title. The mood could easily have been different, nerves jangling, but that is not Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal now.
That penalty shootout defeat to Sporting in the Europa League, which featured extra-time, of course, was not the ideal build-up to this fixture against Crystal Palace. It was an awkward start too, the away team having the first two shots, Wilfried Zaha striking the post.
But Arsenal showed again that they can go through the gears. Gabriel Martinelli, who missed the crucial kick on Thursday, is the in-form goalscorer in the Premier League with six goals in his last six games. Nobody else, not even Erling Haaland, comes close. He scored the first and Palace were overwhelmed.
The brilliant Bukayo Saka’s partnership with Ben White on the right has blossomed. Both were outstanding. But there are partnerships all over the pitch for Arsenal now, new ones emerging all the time. The third goal saw Leandro Trossard feed Granit Xhaka.
An eight-point lead at the top, albeit with Manchester City having a game in hand, feels big for one very simple reason – Arsenal look the best team in this Premier League. The idea that City will rein them in is predicated on the notion that their supposed superiority will tell.
What if that needs to be recalibrated? In the first 28 games of the Premier League, there has been little sign of Arsenal’s fragility. The fixtures are being ticked off, the challenges overcome. Ten games to go and while the fans may be on edge, this Arsenal team is not.
Arsenal continue their title quest when they host relegation-threatened Leeds on Saturday April 1 at 3pm. They then head to Liverpool on Sunday April 9, live on Sky Sports.
When Crystal Palace return after the March international break, their next six fixtures are against teams below them in the table.
The last time the Eagles played a team below them in the league was against Bournemouth on New Year’s Eve in 2022, which was Vieira’s last win in charge.
Palace face relegation rivals Leicester at home on Saturday April 1 at 3pm before heading to Leeds on Sunday April 9. More big games follow at Southampton and at home to Everton.