Mikel Arteta refused to get carried away in the race for the Premier League top four after Arsenal beat Brentford 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners ran out 2-1 winners as a frustrating first half gave way to goals from Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, with Christian Norgaard scoring a last-gasp consolation for the visitors.
The victory leaves Arsenal just a point off Manchester United in fourth, with Arteta’s side also having two games in hand on their rivals.
But the Spaniard is keen to keep focus on maintaining momentum, with the rescheduled home fixture against Wolves next up on Thursday night.
“There is a long way to go,” he said.
“But we are a little bit closer today because we won our game. It is what we have to do. You can see with the results how tough it is to win in this league.
“So we need to go on Thursday again, prepare very well, against Wolves it is going to be a really difficult match.
“We need to perform well to win and play better and better and better, that’s the aim. We cannot look too far. Things change very quickly. It’s really difficult to win matches in this league.”
Can Arsenal make the top four?
Michael Dawson on Soccer Saturday:
“In the first half, I was saying: ‘Where is the number nine? Where is the goal scorer?’
“They were taking long-range shots and spurned a number of opportunities. They had 79 per cent possession without Raya making any clear-cut saves.
“Can Arsenal make the top four? They are in a great position, they really are, especially with two games in hand on Manchester United in fourth and only being one point behind Ralf Rangnick’s side.
“If they keep performing like this, of course they have chance. They dominated against Brentford and thoroughly deserved the victory.”
Arteta praises ‘impressive’ Smith Rowe and Saka
Arteta also hailed goalscorers Smith Rowe and Saka, with the academy graduates once again serenaded by the Emirates Stadium crowd, who have tweaked Status Quo’s hit ‘Rocking All Over the World’ to praise the England pair.
“I understand the supporters love that song,” he said.
“Everybody loves that song because they are players that have been raised in our system. I am really happy that we have players that take the responsibility and they manage to win games for us. It is really impressive at that age.”
Opta stats: Arsenal’s top boys…
- Smith Rowe netted his ninth Premier League goal this season; the only player to score more in a single campaign in the competition for Arsenal when aged 21 or younger was Nicolas Anelka in 1998-99 (17).
- Raheem Sterling (10) is the only English player with more Premier League goals this season than Smith Rowe (9).
- Saka registered his 11th goal involvement in the Premier League this season (7 goals, 4 assists), the most of any U21 player and a haul bettered only by Jarrod Bowen (16), Mason Mount (13) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (12) among English players.
‘Opening day Brentford defeat left a scar’
The game could not have been more different to the opening game of the season when a depleted Arsenal were beaten at newly-promoted Brentford.
Only four players who started that day were in the XI that kicked off on Saturday and Arteta revealed the loss had a lasting impact on his players.
“That hurt and that scar was there,” he added. “I certainly felt it. I tried to transmit it to the players that we should not forget how we felt after the game. We understood what happened and the results after that.
“We analysed it with the context we were in and it was really difficult to prepare that game. The players that we had on that pitch is nothing to do with the players that we had today. But we learned a lot as a team.”
Frank on Brentford’s troubles: ‘It’s only about us’
Brentford have now won just one of their last 10 league games and, with Newcastle, Watford and Burnley all picking up points below them, head coach Thomas Frank is only keeping eyes on his own side.
“I think it is about us, what we can do,” he said.
“Focus on the next training, the next game, that is the most important thing. We have done that the whole season, it is only about us.
“Every team in the Premier League, if you are in the bottom 10, have spells like this.”
‘Why did Brentford change things…’
Michael Dawson on Soccer Saturday:
“It wasn’t game Brentford would have looked at and thought about winning it. I know they beat Arsenal on the opening day, but they are two different sides now.
Arsenal dominated from minute one. At half-time it was 0-0 and Brentford defended for their lives. They had everyone in their own half and they held out.
“In the second half, it just seemed like Thomas Frank changed it. Aaron Ramsdale had a goal kick and they pushed up the field. Then the game got stretched and Arsenal started finding pockets of space and that’s what Arsenal wanted.
“I was so surprised he changed things. Aaron Ramsdale didn’t have much to do, but in the first half neither did David Raya.”