Mikel Arteta admits that Arsenal’s reliance on Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe in recent months is something they must change.
The Hale End duo have been in superb form for Arsenal this season and were again on Thursday night as the Gunners secured a place in the Europa League semi-finals, thrashing Slavia Prague 4-0 away from home to set up a two-legged tie with Unai Emery’s Villarreal.
Saka scored the third goal on the night as Arsenal romped to victory, with Smith Rowe providing the assist for Nicolas Pepe to open the scoring, after having a goal disallowed himself early on.
This was not the first time this season Saka and Smith Rowe have been heavily involved in Arsenal’s success, in a campaign which has largely been disappointing for the Gunners, who sit ninth in the Premier League ahead of facing Fulham tomorrow.
But, statistically speaking, when Saka and Smith Rowe have both started for Arsenal in the Premier League, the Gunners have fared much better.
Indeed, in the ten games they have both started, Arsenal have amassed 22 of their 45 points so far this season, meaning they have picked up only 23 in their 21 other league fixtures this season.
However, while impressed by what Saka and Smith Rowe have done this season when they have played, Arteta has sent a warning to his other players, adding that the fact they have been so influential is a sign of the times for the Gunners.
“They are not going to play every game, it is not possible, so we have to change those stats. That’s what we have to do and we have to find solutions,” he said, speaking ahead of facing Fulham.
“But it says a lot about what has happened this season. Eight months ago, if anyone had said we were going to rely so much on these two guys to get results, you would have said that would mean we are not going to be in a really strong position, and that is our reality as well.
“We have to change that reality, because it doesn’t go in our favour.”
Meanwhile, Arteta has called on his players to pick up where they left off in Prague, with the Arsenal head coach looking for some consistency in the performance levels, after scoring seven goals without reply in their last two fixtures.
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“After the positive performance against Sheffield, to do it again against Slavia, it is reassuring and it brings confidence over the levels we can reach,” he said.
“It shows what we can do and we cannot accept less than that, that is the bar we have to set ourselves.
“We know in this league if you take the foot off the gas, what can happen. You don’t give any margins away, because you can be exposed.”