League-leaders Arsenal have been handed a boost by the results in the week, with Manchester City and Spurs losing. However, with Liverpool and now their next opponents, Aston Villa, close on their tail, it is bound to be a narrow affair on Saturday. 

Declan Rice clinched a crucial win against Luton Town on Tuesday night, after some poor set-piece defending and an individual error from David Raya allowed the Hatters to grow back into the game. 

The former West Ham midfielder headed home in the last moment of the match, deep into an additional seventh minute of injury time, before wheeling away to celebrate with the loyal Arsenal contingent in the infamous Oak Stand. 

Meanwhile, Aston Villa had an arguably better week, dominating the reigning champions Manchester City on home turf, and sealing the win through a deflected strike from Leon Bailey. 

Mikel Arteta faced the press on Friday morning, discussing his relationship with fellow-Basque manager Unai Emery, what to expect, and his touchline ban having picked up a yellow card amidst the celebrations of Rice's winner. 

Here are three main points he touched on during the press conference:

On the impact of not being on the touchline

Arteta's yellow card in injury time means that he has picked up three yellow cards in the Premier League, hence receiving a touchline ban for the game at Villa Park. 

The suspension has stirred up a lot of debate on social media, with many arguing that the Spaniard's 'excessive celebrations' were not just of a yellow card. 

On the matter itself, Arteta responded, "We are [allowed to celebrate] but I think we have a boundary. Maybe we have to extend it. We just need a very strong rope, or we don’t move. But it means 'we' [all the managers] don’t move - all of us."

However, the Arsenal manager remained confident and reassured in his team and his backroom staff that will act in his presence during the 90 minutes he is not able to be pitch side. 

"Hopefully [they will play] better! And they will play better and they will be more positive, and I can influence with my positive mind towards them. As well, we have very experienced coaches - Albert, Carlos and Nico will be there next to them. We have done it in the past from home, so let’s do it now," Arteta said. 

On his admiration for Unai Emery

Since joining in October 2022, Emery has turned Villa into a real threat, that are even asking questions of if they could potentially fight in the title race. 

With the full backing of the fans, and a new-look super squad featuring the likes of a red-hot Ollie Watkins, Pau Torres at the back and the pace of Moussa Diaby and Leon Bailey along the wings, the Villans are not a team to take lightheartedly. 

The 52-year-old manager struggled to take control of a post-Wenger Arsenal in 2018, but his successor, Arteta, was full of praise for the man who is now running the show 100 miles north of London. 

"I followed him since he was in Almeria and for every team he has always been remarkable. He always improves the players, the team and the club.

"He's Basque like I am and he is a manager that I really admire for what he has done in the game. He has done it in various countries at different levels and always been successful. I am really happy for him."

On the goalkeeper debacle

The goalkeeper debate at Arsenal is likely to remain ongoing for the whole season, amidst individual errors from both which has had fans switch allegiances many times for their preference between the sticks. 

David Raya has undoubtedly impressed since joining on a loan-deal from Brentford, albeit likely to become permanent in January. However, late dramatics on Tuesday night at Kenilworth Road saved the Spanish international from the full force of critics, after he failed to clear a corner leading to an equaliser from Elijah Adebayo. The 28-year-old then allowed Ross Barkley to add a third for the Hatters, with the ball creeping under his hands.

However, Arteta had nothing negative to remark on Raya's performance and reassured the media that he is content with the current situation and with both goalkeepers. 

"Maybe because of the debate, but I think when you look at his form and what he’s achieved since he’s been with us, it’s been really, really impressive.

"What can I say? I have three great goalkeepers. I’m really happy. I have great wingers. Some of them are on the bench but the questions are not related to them. I have to accept that."

We have to support our players, protect them and get the best out of them. I focus more on that. All our players deserve the right love and support. He has had that for sure and will continue to," Arteta said.

 

 

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