Mikel Arteta acknowledged Arsenal have endured “two difficult weeks” after securing his first away win in the Premier League with a 2-0 victory at Southampton.
Goals from Eddie Nketiah and a first Premier League goal for his fellow academy graduate Joe Willock ensured Arsenal moved back into the top half of the table with seven matches still remaining, having lost their first two matches after the restart to Manchester City and Brighton. Arteta admitted that he was relieved to end that poor sequence and praised his players for their reaction.
“I was concerned with the way we threw the game away against Brighton – it really touched the team and confidence is everything in this game,” he said. “But I could see that the reaction was really positive and we just demanded them to play together and enjoy themselves. It was an important win for us.”
Southampton’s Jack Stephens was sent off for bringing down Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang just before Willock extended Arsenal’s lead and Arteta also praised the influence of the former captain Granit Xhaka in midfield. But he also admitted his young side still have a lot to learn if they are to perform more consistently.
“We have to develop and we have to evolve as a team,” Arteta said. “There are a lot of things we have to learn. I know what this team can do but only when we are 100% focused and committed to what we do. If not, we are at the moment, average. Today we showed that when we do it we are difficult to beat and we can win on any ground.”
Nketiah said: “It was a very important three points. I thought we were unfortunate in our last two games and the results didn’t go our way so we knew we really had to roll our sleeves up and fight for the three points. Hopefully we can build on this and keep pushing forward.”