Mikel Arteta was full of praise for the performance of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the striker led Arsenal to an impressive 3-1 win over Spurs at the Emirates.
The Gabon international was unrelenting in his defensive work and capped a fine afternoon with a goal and a reworking of Thierry Henry’s iconic knee slide celebration in front of the visiting fans.
Having endured a tough 12 months, the captain appears to have found his mojo again and now has five goals to his name this season.
“I’m really happy with the performance today and the performance against Burnley and with what Auba is doing,” said Arteta.
“He was getting criticised and we were asking him to do more. He stood by it and put his head down and he is working tremendously hard for the team, and now I can tell you that he is really giving.”
On the performance as a whole, he added:
“It’s a good example of the senior players showing big leadership and standing up for the team and the like of Auba scoring the goal and then two academy players.
“They’ve been raised and developed within our system. They’ve come here in a big derby and worked for the team and scored two goals.”
After the game Emile Smith Rowe, who opened the scoring, took to social media to say it was the ‘best day of my life’. Raised in the club’s academy, the 21-year-old tucked home Bukayo Saka’s cross on 12 minutes. Saka, another Hale End graduate, later added the club’s third as both ended the game with assists.
Reflecting on the work of his youngsters, Arteta said:
“They are able to trust me to get that feeling because they’ve been raised and educated really experiencing those feelings and being in the stadium as a supporter of the club.
“A lot of people that we have in our organisation have a real sense of what a derby means and I think they will be proud of what they’ve seen.”
Two weeks ago, Arsenal were bottom and Spurs topped the table. Today’s victory saw the Gunners climb above Nuno Espirito Santo’s faltering side. It’s been quite a turnaround.
“That is the beauty of this game and the danger of this game as well that things change so quickly at both ends and you always have to be alert and try to seek improvement and do better, which I believe we can still do,” said Arteta.
He also touched on what he’s been saying behind the scenes to keep spirits high during the tough opening month.
“What we did is try to explain to them what happened in the first three games, we missed nine, 10, 11 players that we could not select, they were out and the ones that were in had issues as well because they had Covid, they had injuries and we played the best two teams in the world, which you can see yesterday when they played each other.
“So we had to accept that we were bottom of the table, that was best to accept the reality, and go back to certain things we have to do better, believe in what we do, stick together and we were lucky because we had our people with us in a difficult moment, which in football is very rare to find. Then things started to get better.”