Mikel Arteta insists Arsenal are heading in the right direction following their 0-0 draw with Manchester United.
The Gunners, who were without arguably three of their best players in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bukayo Saka and Kieran Tierney, had their chances against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side at the Emirates Stadium.
Alexandre Lacazette hit the crossbar in the second half, while Emile Smith Rowe saw a shot saved by David de Gea and Nicolas Pepe went close late on, but, in the end, Arsenal had to settle for a point, which sees them extend their unbeaten run in the league to seven.
Despite the result, Arteta, who continues to turn around the fortunes of his side following a poor start to the season, was buoyant about Arsenal’s recent progress.
“I thought it was a fair result,” Arteta said.
“It was a big battle, both teams wanted to win, and it was a really competitive match. They had some moments in the first half, and we had the biggest moments in the second half, but to make the difference you need to score when we had the big chances we had.
“Both managers probably think we should have won it, it was a big game and we played face to face against each other. Three of our best players were out and that probably has an impact, but I’m really happy with the players today.”
He added: “It is [a sign of progress]. Considering the circumstances and all the players we don’t have, it was a big test for us, and I think the team turned up and showed how much they wanted to win the game.
“Everyone involved in the game tried their best and gave a really strong performance. We had some bad decisions in the first half where we lost the ball in some dangerous positions, but the moment we started to correct that and we were better in our high press, the team looked different and we were there to win the game.
“We’ve been on a really strong run and we’ve faced some difficult opponents. The schedule is crazy, and we are losing players all the time, but we are in the right direction.”
When will Aubameyang return?
While Saka and Tierney missed out as a precaution over slight knocks, Aubameyang missed his third game in a row after leaving Arsenal’s Covid-secure bubble due to his mother suffering from health issues.
It remains to be seen if he will return in time for the trip to Wolves on Tuesday night as Arteta revealed the situation is being discussed with the Government.
Asked when Aubameyang could return, the Spaniard replied: “I don’t know. We are working with the Premier League and the Government about it.
“We have to follow the rules and protocols and the protocols say he can’t be involved right now and we have to respect that.”
Did Arsenal miss Saka and Aubameyang?
Sky Sports’ Jamie Carragher:
“You think of where they had their success from last season and it was down to being really organised – like they were today – and having that x-factor on the counter-attack when the opportunities came.
“Towards the end of last season under Mikel Arteta, that was a big part of the FA Cup win and how well they finished last season, having that world-class finisher.
“But you look at the front three today. Think of Alexandre Lacazette. Think of Willian. Think of Nicolas Pepe, it has never quite happened for him really since he came to the club.
“You just think of how much they miss Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, of course. It makes a huge difference. If those two had been playing today and those chances had fallen to them, they would have taken them. That is the difference in quality.”
What is the ambition for Arsenal this season?
Sky Sports’ Jamie Carragher gives his verdict on Arsenal:
“To be playing European football next season.
“They are still in the Europa League so that is the avenue for them to get a Champions League position because there is no way they are going to get in the top four. Can they sneak into the Europa League? That usually goes down to seventh position.
“At the start of this season, I don’t think there was any hope of the title but I think they would have really wanted to challenge for the top four on the back of Mikel Arteta coming in and winning a lot of big games, winning the FA Cup.
“Well I don’t know but we’re gonna give it a real go. I think the team is in a really good moment. I think we are moving in the right direction. So when that’s the case I have to push them inch by inch and make them believe that we can finish the season in a really strong way.”
“Because they had a horrific time of it really in the first half of the season that was totally out of question. But on the result tonight and the performance, I think they will be really pleased, without their three best players, to take a point against United – four in the season.
“I think for Arsenal the aim is to finish this season really well now. There are still a lot of games to go but I think in some ways they will have an eye on next season as well.
“They have got young players in and obviously need to supplement that as well. But if they are in the Europa League next season they will have done OK considering where they were.”
Luiz: Arsenal need to have ambition
<i>Arsenal defender David Luiz speaking to Sky Sports:</i>
“You have to be humble because we are far from the first position. We have to take it game by game and try to improve. And then in the end of the season we’re going to see. The ambition is fighting for the first position. It has to be there. I never start something in my life without ambition. Until the moment it’s mathematically impossible we have to try.”