Emile Smith Rowe will wear the number 10 shirt for Arsenal in 2021-22, with the midfielder having also agreed to a new contract.

Smith Rowe enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2020-21, with the 20-year-old making 33 appearances across all competitions.

In total, Smith Rowe scored four goals and contributed seven assists, the latter being a joint-high for Arsenal alongside Willian and fellow academy graduate Bukayo Saka.

Smith Rowe's big chance conversion rate of 60 per cent (3/5) also ranked him top of Arsenal's squad last term (minimum of two big chances).

Though it was his creativity that made Smith Rowe so effective. His 37 open-play key passes was only bettered by Kieran Tierney (41) and Saka (39) in the Gunners side, though both of them played at least 700 more minutes than him. The midfielder's 1.5 chances created per game was second only to Martin Odegaard (2.2 – minimum 100 minutes played).

However, his future had not been certain. With Arsenal reportedly looking to make Odegaard's move from Real Madrid permanent, Aston Villa had seen a series of bids rejected for Smith Rowe earlier in the transfer window.

But with Odegaard seemingly unobtainable, Arsenal have now tied Smith Rowe down to a new deal, though the Gunners did not specify the length of the contract.

Smith Rowe has also been given the number 10 shirt, which was last occupied by Mesut Ozil – the number is perhaps best associated in recent memory with Dennis Bergkamp, who was integral to Arsene Wenger's early success in north London.

"Everyone knows that No.10 is a big shirt and it is definitely a big position as well," Smith Rowe, who previously wore the number 35, told Arsenal's official website.

"So I'm buzzing to be honest, I can't wait to get on the pitch. It's really special – I can't explain the feeling when I found out. I've not really got the words to explain it right now!

"The legends that have played here and have worn the shirt… it's a bit too much right now but I'm sure I will calm down after a while. When I was younger I used to watch Dennis Bergkamp, and when I was going through the academy Mesut Ozil was here as well and getting the opportunity to train with him and play with him as well was unbelievable.

"I just want to keep working hard and hopefully I can play like them and replicate what they've done."

Mikel Arteta added: "As we all saw last season, Emile is an intelligent player with excellent ability. His sharpness on the turn and exceptional vision have already made him a key player for us.

"His attitude and willingness to learn have also been very impressive. Huge credit to our team in our academy who have given Emile a great education and have worked superbly to help with his development through the age groups."

Smith Rowe's signing follows on from Arsenal making two additions already this month, with Nuno Tavares having joined from Benfica and Albert Sambi Lokonga coming in from Anderlecht.

Arsenal were scheduled to appear in the Florida Cup – a pre-season tournament in Orlando – next week, but have withdrawn due to a COVID-19 outbreak within their camp.

Arsenal have withdrawn from their US tour following a number of positive COVID tests among the planned party which was set to depart on Thursday.

The Gunners were due to participate in the Florida Cup with games against Inter on July 25 and Everton or Millonarios on July 28 in Orlando.

Arsenal said in a statement that the "difficult decision" was based on ensuring the health and wellbeing of the club's players and staff.

"We fully understand what a disappointment this is for our supporters in America who were looking forward to seeing us compete in the Florida Cup as part of our pre-season build up," the statement said.

"Our apologies also go to the organisers of the Florida Cup who had done a fantastic job making the preparations and our partners who had arranged events around our participation in the competition.

"We are glad to say the members of staff are not currently displaying any COVID symptoms. They are now in self-isolation at home.

"We are now making alternative arrangements in line with the Premier League protocols to continue our preparations for the new season."

Arsenal, who drew with Rangers 2-2 and lost 2-1 to Hibernian last week in Scotland, are due to commence their Premier League season on August 22 against Brentford.

Mikel Arteta has bolstered his squad with the additions of Nuno Tavares from Benfica and Albert Sambi Lokonga from Arsenal this off-season.

David Luiz has been released while William Saliba and Matteo Guendouzi have both been loaned to Olympique Marseille.

 

Albert Sambi Lokonga's football intelligence can be a huge asset to Arsenal after the Belgium Under-21 international won the admiration of a Premier League great.

Mikel Arteta made Lokonga his second signing of the close season on Monday - the Gunners wrapping up a deal reported to be worth an initial £15million with Anderlecht.

Lokonga was coached by Vincent Kompany at Anderlecht and Arteta, who worked with the ex-Manchester City captain when he was part of Pep Guardiola's staff, did the expected background work on the highly rated midfielder.

"Albert is a very intelligent player who has shown great maturity in his performances during his development," Arteta told his club's official website.

"He has been coached well by Vincent Kompany and his team at Anderlecht. I know Vincent very well and he talks so highly about Albert and the positive impact he had to Anderlecht in recent seasons.

"We're confident Albert's ready for the next stage in his development and we’re looking forward to welcoming a new member to our squad with his quality and presence."

Lokonga made his Belgian Pro League debut in December 2017 and Opta statistics from his performances since then measure up well to those produced by Arsenal players over the same period.

Noted for his ability to play in front of the defence, the 21-year-old made 115 tackles and won 77 in 69 league appearances.

Somewhat predictably, Granit Xhaka is the only Arsenal player to have racked up more – 195 tackles and 114 won – during this time, although the Switzerland star did so over 111 games.

Lucas Torreira, who spent last season on loan at Atletico Madrid, perhaps provides a better point of comparison. In 63 Premier League games for the Gunners, the combative Uruguay international made 98 tackles and won 70.

Of Arsenal outfield players to have featured in 30 or more league games since December 2017, only the now departed Shkodran Mustafi (64.29 per cent) has a better duel success rate than Lokonga (60.7).

Overall, he has won possession 414 times – again a figure only bettered by Xhaka on 746, with Torriera (327) off the pace set by the new signing.

Lokonga is also accomplished in possession, with 86.1 per cent passing accuracy and 67 chances created in the top-flight for Anderlecht suggesting he is not afraid of operating in a progressive manner on the ball.

Xhaka, while continuing to bear in mind his greater game time, has made 94 key passes during the time in question, with attackers Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the only other current Arsenal players to have supplied more.

Mikel Arteta confirmed Arsenal are on the verge of a transfer breakthrough after his team were held 2-2 by Rangers in their second pre-season friendly.

Nuno Tavares, the left-back acquired from Benfica, scored on his first Arsenal appearance, and striker Eddie Nketiah also netted in the draw at Ibrox.

Arsenal are thought to be close to bringing in centre-back Ben White from Brighton and Hove Albion for a fee that could be close to £50million, as Arteta looks to strengthen his defence.

An announcement of that deal may come before Arsenal head off to the United States on Wednesday for a training camp in Florida, although it has been reported that White is currently on holiday.

"We're going to have some new faces arriving probably, so very positive," Arteta said after his team's run-out in Glasgow.

White won his first two England caps last month in warm-up games for Euro 2020, and he could provide the sort of defensive leadership that Arsenal have lacked in recent seasons.

Arteta was largely impressed by Arsenal on Saturday but hinted at disappointment about the way they allowed Rangers to get on the scoresheet.

"Overall I'm really pleased with the performance. I think we dominated the game, we created so many chances – I counted about eight or 10 clear chances to score – but this game is decided in both boxes," the Arsenal manager told his club's website.

"We weren't clinical in the opponent's box and we conceded two goals from two corners, which were the only chances they had apart from the counter-attack from our own corner."

Mikel Arteta said Arsenal could not use their pre-season physical condition as an excuse for the 2-1 friendly defeat to Scottish outfit Hibernian.

Martin Boyle and Daniel Mackay put the Scottish side 2-0 up at Easter Road in Edinburgh, before Nicolas Pepe missed a penalty for Arsenal.

Emile Smith Rowe pulled a goal back in the 82nd minute but Arsenal could not find an equaliser, meaning their hopes of making a fast start ahead of the new campaign took a blow.

Asked whether a lack of training might explain the loss, Arteta said: "It does but there's no excuse because we want to come here and win the match.

"They worked really hard, the boys worked really hard and you could see that some of them were not in the best condition, but we're still very early in pre-season. It was great to see some of the young lads making their debuts here. We'll keep working."

Arteta's team finished eighth in the Premier League last season, meaning they missed out on a place in Europe for the upcoming campaign.

It means a blow to their income but Arsenal may benefit from having midweeks available for training rather than travelling, with Arteta still looking to impose his methods after a tough first full season in charge.

He brought his team to Scotland with the aim of getting not only physical tests under their belt but wins, alongside the training.

"Well I'm always disappointed when we lose a football match but it is the first game, we played with many kids and we only had four training sessions," Arteta said, quoted on Arsenal's official website.

"We've trained really hard and you could see that the players were a little bit leggy. I think we conceded the first goal, an accident, and the second goal was clearly offside. We created many, many chances but we didn't score.

"That's what pre-season is for, to take the things that we haven't done well into a training session and then improve."

Pepe's penalty miss came as a surprise, with Arsenal having been proficient from the spot over the 2020-21 season, converting all eight of their spot-kicks.

Pepe scored two of those, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also netted twice and Alexandre Lacazette converted four of four in the last campaign.

Kieran Tierney has signed a new long-term contract with Arsenal after catching the eye as a leading light in an under-performing team.

The Scotland defender has impressed since joining from Celtic in a £25million deal two years ago, particularly picking up form over the past 12 months.

Mikel Arteta's team finished a disappointing eighth in the Premier League last season, and the Spanish manager is likely to be active in the transfer market before the new campaign, with players leaving as well as arriving.

But the new deal for left-back Tierney, widely reported to be a five-year commitment, means his future is at Emirates Stadium.

Tierney said in an interview on Arsenal's Facebook page: "It feels amazing. First, it was the manager who came to me and said, 'We want you to extend your deal'.

"I had a hard first season with injuries and COVID and stuff, but last season it really picked up for me and the club have been brilliant with me so I'm more than happy to extend it, delighted.

"The vision of the club and where it wants to go and the expectations of the club is where I want to be in football. There's no doubt about it, we're not where we want to be just now, but we're going in the right direction.

"The confidence the manager's given me... when I spoke to him after I signed this contract I said, 'Thank you so much'.

"He took me when my confidence was at my lowest for sure - 100 per cent the lowest my confidence has felt - after my injury, moving away from home. I was so low and he's picked me up, he helped me, him and his staff."

Tierney has already made 62 appearances for Arsenal, winning the FA Cup in 2020, and the 24-year-old brings attacking qualities that complement his defending, creating 31 chances for others in 27 league outings last season.

That was the highest number among Arsenal defenders, and only twice in the past 15 years has a Gunners defender created more scoring opportunities (Hector Bellerin 33 in 2017-18, Gael Clichy 32 in 2008-09).

Of those he created last term in the league, five were defined as 'big chances' by Opta, while Tierney also won possession 115 times, one of three Arsenal defenders to hit triple figures in that metric (Rob Holding 138, Gabriel Magalhaes 118).

Coming off a group-stage exit with Scotland at Euro 2020, Tierney can find solace in his club seeing him as a cornerstone of their future.

Arteta said: "This is great news for us today. As manager of the club, speaking on behalf of the coaching staff and the entire staff, it's a pleasure to work with KT. His quality, energy, commitment and professionalism, not only on matchdays, but every day in training are always at such a high level.

"KT gives us so much extra strength both defensively and offensively and it's great to know that he'll be with us for the long term. Since his move from Celtic, his work ethic and quality has ensured that he is already one of most exciting players in the Premier League and a hugely important part of our team, both on and off the pitch."

Arsenal will go to promoted Brentford on the opening weekend of the 2021-22 Premier League season before the prospect of a double-header against Chelsea and Manchester City.

The Gunners endured a hugely underwhelming 2020-21 as they could only muster an eighth-placed finish in the Premier League, and they will be given an early examination to determine their level of improvement – or otherwise – as they host Chelsea on August 21 and then go to the defending champions a week later.

Coming a few weeks after that is the first north London derby of the campaign as Tottenham visit the Emirates Stadium on September 25.

A testing start to 2022 is also in store for Mikel Arteta's men as the return clash with Spurs on January 15 follows a New Year's Day visit from City.

However, Arsenal's run-in looks somewhat kinder on paper, with their final three games comprised of Newcastle United away in between home clashes with Leeds United and Everton, the latter of which is on the final day.

Arsenal's 2021-22 Premier League fixtures in full:

14/08/2021 - Brentford (a) 
21/08/2021 - Chelsea (h) 
28/08/2021 - Manchester City (a) 
11/09/2021 - Norwich City (h)
18/09/2021 - Burnley (a) 
25/09/2021 - Tottenham (h) 
02/10/2021 - Brighton and Hove Albion (a) 
16/10/2021 - Crystal Palace (h) 
23/10/2021 - Aston Villa (h) 
30/10/2021 - Leicester City (a) 
06/11/2021 - Watford (h) 
20/11/2021 - Liverpool (a) 
27/11/2021 - Newcastle (h) 
30/11/2021 - Manchester United (a) 
04/12/2021 - Everton (a) 
11/12/2021 - Southampton (h) 
14/12/2021 - West Ham (h)
18/12/2021 - Leeds United (a) 
26/12/2021 - Norwich City (a) 
28/12/2021 - Wolves (h) 
01/01/2022 - Manchester City (h) 
15/01/2022 - Tottenham (a) 
22/01/2022 - Burnley (h) 
08/02/2022 - Wolves (a) 
12/02/2022 - Chelsea (a) 
19/02/2022 - Brentford (h)
26/02/2022 - Liverpool (h) 
05/03/2022 - Watford (a) 
12/03/2022 - Leicester City (h) 
19/03/2022 - Aston Villa (a) 
02/04/2022 - Crystal Palace (a) 
09/04/2022 - Brighton and Hove Albion (h) 
16/04/2022 - Southampton (a) 
23/04/2022 - Manchester United (h) 
30/04/2022 - West Ham (a) 
07/05/2022 - Leeds United (h) 
15/05/2022 - Newcastle United (a) 
22/05/2022 - Everton (h) 

Mikel Arteta defended the Kroenke family as "passionate" about Arsenal on a day the Gunners fans again protested their ownership of the club.

The Gunners claimed a 2-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday in their final Premier League home game of the season thanks to two goals from Nicolas Pepe.

There were 10,000 fans present inside Emirates Stadium to watch the match and a number vented their feelings towards the Kroenke family.

Supporters held up pieces of paper and released balloons on to the pitch that had 'Kroenke out' on them and chanted "we hate Kroenke".

Stan Kroenke and his son Josh have been the subject of fan criticism of their ownership of Arsenal, which has heightened in the wake of their part in the failed European Super League project.

Josh Kroenke attended the match and the American met with Arteta before the game, and the Arsenal head coach defended him afterwards.

"He's very supportive, very passionate about the club," Arteta told a post-match media conference.

"He wants to take the club to a different level. That's the ambition and that's why he's here."

Arsenal's victory saw them finish in eighth in the table, behind north London rivals Tottenham, who they have not finished above since 2016.

Spurs pipped the Gunners to the Europa League Conference, which means Arsenal will be without European football for the first time since the 1995-96 season.

"I am disappointed we are not in Europe," Arteta said.

"We made progress with the number of points but it's frustrating because last season with 61 points you were fifth and now you are eighth.

"It shows you the level you need to get into. We won the last five games but it wasn't enough. 

"I leave the season sad because this club deserves to be delivered trophies and Champions League football and we haven't been able to do that. We have tried to stick together and do our best. It's not been enough.

"Now we have to be very critical with ourselves and myself. For next season prepare the best possible way and take advantage of that.

"Hopefully, we can have a pre-season because I haven't had that and have the chance to work with those players and do a better job."

Arteta also claimed Arsenal is a "good place" for Martin Odegaard but said he did not know if the club can make the on-loan Real Madrid player's switch a permanent one.

Odegaard has one goal and two assists in 14 Premier League appearances this season.

He added: "We have a very clear and strong opinion on what we would like to do, but he's not our player.

"We will have to discuss [the situation] in the next few weeks what and respect [his position] first of all because he's a Real Madrid player and [then] have those communications.

"We tried to make everything that we could to get Martin performing for the team, which I think he's done. He has adapted really well to our way of playing and to our football club.

"Hopefully we have given him as well the hope and the feeling that it could be a good place for him."

Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal's biggest success this season has been maintaining unity and remove those who are "trying to hurt the club", while insisting winning the Champions League has to be the Gunners' ultimate long-term aim.

It has been a challenging campaign for Arsenal, who can still finish seventh by winning their final Premier League game against Brighton and Hove Albion.

But there have been 13 top-flight defeats this term for a side sitting ninth heading into Sunday's finale, and their Europa League quest – and last route back to Europe's top table next term – was ended by Villarreal at the semi-final stage.

Things on the pitch may not have always been how Arteta envisaged for his first full season in charge, but for the Spaniard ensuring the squad stayed together when he felt internal and external sources were trying to create a rift has been the most crucial aspect of the campaign.

"The best thing has been to keep a team, a staff, employees and everybody together," Arteta said.

"In those circumstances when you are not winning and when there are so many people, some inside and some outside, that are trying to hurt [you]. 

"And to keep them together and block that and be so strong, I think that is some achievement. As normally when that happens [makes a cracking sound], that cracks and everything falls, and it didn't."

The likes of Mesut Ozil, Shkodran Mustafi and Sead Kolasinac were among those to depart Arsenal in January as Arteta significantly trimmed an inflated squad, though he did not point the finger of blame at any former player.

However, when asked if anyone on the inside he felt was trying to cause damage was still at the club, he replied: "No."

Arsenal are eight points adrift of the top-four spots, and need Tottenham and Everton to drop points to play in the inaugural Europa Conference League.

Despite their struggles, Arteta still has lofty long-term ambitions for the Gunners including conquering Europe's greatest prize.

"There cannot be any other ambition at this football club, it cannot be. If you don't have that you can't achieve it," he added.

"There is only one winner in the Champions League and there is only one winner in the Premier League. The rest of the teams have failed. For any of the other teams finishing second or third is not a big achievement.

"Now the perception is different, now it's an achievement to be third or fourth in this league. Would the fans agree with that? Probably no, but for the people internally that are working every day and knows the standards that have been set it's so different.

"Last year with 61, 62 points you were fifth in the league and almost in the Champions League. 

"This season you won't be there and next season you won't be there because the level is increasing all of the time."

Joe Willock has a bright future at Arsenal on the back of prolific loan spell at Newcastle United, says Gunners boss Mikel Arteta.

Willock headed the only goal as Newcastle beat Sheffield United 1-0 in midweek, becoming the youngest player in Premier League history to score in six consecutive appearances.

Those exploits mean he is the joint-top scorer in the division since the return from the March international break, alongside Chris Wood, Mason Greenwood, Matheus Pereira and Kelechi Iheanacho.

Newcastle are reportedly looking to make the move permanent, with a £20million fee mooted, while Willock said after Wednesday's win: "Hopefully there's more to continue in the future.

"I'm not going to promise anything, but the conversation is going to be held."

But Arteta, asked whether the attacking midfielder had a future to look forward to at Emirates Stadium, told a news conference: "Yes, and I'm really happy that things have gone so well for him because of the potential that he has.

"It was great for him to go away and have a different experience. He has grabbed that opportunity in a really positive and remarkable way.

"He will be back with us, we will have those conversations with him and plan the next step then."

Arsenal conclude a fairly forgettable campaign at home to Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday, while the curtain on the Premier League career of one of the competition's all-time greats will come down elsewhere.

Arteta worked on the Manchester City coaching staff under Pep Guardiola for three-and-a-half seasons and paid a glowing tribute to Sergio Aguero, who is set to play his final league match as the division's all-time leading goalscorer from oversees when Everton visit the Etihad Stadium.

"I know from working with him – his character, his personality, he is a lovely man," he said.

"One of the best talents that I've seen, what he has done in this league for so long, scoring the amount of goals he has done.

"He changed the perception of English football in different countries.

"For Manchester City, I think again he was a big contributor to the change in history and mentality in the winning years that they had."

Mikel Arteta described Arsenal's form in the last six months as "an incredible run" after a 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace kept their hopes of qualifying for Europe alive.

West Ham's win at West Brom means that the highest Arsenal can finish, should they beat Brighton and Hove Albion on the final day of the season and both Tottenham and Everton fail to win, is seventh.

That would earn them a place in the Europa Conference League play-off round, with West Ham's result ruling Arsenal out of both major European club competitions for the first time since 1995-96.

But Arteta recalled a run of seven winless Premier League matches towards the end of 2020 as he reflected on the improvement in their season.

"If somebody would have said to us in November or December when we were in the position that we were in that we were going to have the chance to qualify for Europe, we'd have said you are crazy," the Gunners boss said. "But we've done it.

"I think with the results and the number of points we have managed to get in the months, we have earned the right to be in that position. Now it's time to deliver on the final day but unfortunately, it's not in our hands."

Arteta praised Nicolas Pepe for his role in the win at Selhurst Park and in helping to revive Arsenal's campaign.

Pepe opened the scoring with a close-range volley and capped the victory with a mazy dribble and finish for his side's third.

Arteta said of the 25-year-old Ivorian: "It's my feeling and it's everybody's feeling in the coaching staff, and his own feeling that he's come a long way this season.

"He hasn't had the consistency sometimes in the gametime, but I think in Europe he’s been terrific and in the Premier League he's started to show much more what he's like, and he's very hungry. 

"I think he's changed a lot in his mentality and his willingness to do much more."

Mikel Arteta paid a glowing tribute to David Luiz after the Brazil defender's departure from Arsenal at the end of this season was confirmed.

The 34-year-old moved across London to join the Gunners from Chelsea in August 2019.

He has played 73 times in all competitions, scoring on four occasions and contributing to 18 clean sheets.

Arsenal have won 32 of the 69 games he has started during that time – a win percentage of 46.4 per cent – but Arteta and David Luiz mutually agreed to a parting of the ways when his contract expires at the end of his season.

"David and I, we discussed it on a few occasions and the other day we made the final decision on that," he said ahead of Wednesday's trip to Crystal Palace, which will be Roy Hodgson's final home game in charge of the Eagles.

"He's won everything in football and he has earned every right to do so because of who he is as a player and a person. I had the privilege of working with him for 18 months.

"I really enjoyed working with him, we had some great moments together and he's been really helpful. He's someone we really like and appreciate so much.

"Just to say thank you to him and wish him the best of luck in his next chapter. Knowing David, he will have many more to come – as a player and also in the future, somehow related to the game."

David Luiz's countryman and fellow former Chelsea player Willian has endured a difficult maiden season at Arsenal.

The 32-year-old belatedly scored his first Premier League goal for the Gunners in the 3-1 win over West Brom earlier this month, while five assists in the top flight is below the return from each of his last three seasons at Stamford Bridge.

Inter Miami have been linked to a move for Willian, but Arteta expects him to remain at Arsenal and will work to improve his output.

"He's a player with an incredible talent and a proven performance level in this league," he said.

"This season has been difficult and I take full responsibility because I have to be getting the best out of him.

"We had moments, but not to the level like he did before.

"These are the assessments that we are going to do individually with the players and as well, obviously, with [director of football] Edu, the board and the ownership to make the right decisions for the future.

"Every player that is under contract is very likely to be here with us next season."

Mikel Arteta hinted at dissatisfaction with some players in his Arsenal squad as he suggested only "the majority" had given their all this season.

Arteta has endured a miserable first full campaign as Arsenal manager, having won the FA Cup at the end of last season.

Next term, for the first time since 1995-96, the Gunners will almost certainly go without European competition.

Arteta's men were eliminated from the Europa League in the semi-finals and approach a midweek match with Chelsea ninth in the Premier League.

Arsenal are 12 points off Chelsea and the top four – Champions League qualification no longer a possibility with three games remaining – and four points shy of seventh, which is set to be enough to reach the Europa Conference League.

They are also four short of last season's points tally, which was their lowest since 1994-95.

Arteta has discussed the need to rebuild in the transfer market, with some members of his team already performing to the extent of their underwhelming potential.

But others have let Arsenal down, the manager suggested.

Asked if his players had given their maximum, Arteta replied: "With the majority of them, yes.

"Some of them can get to a certain level and you cannot push them any further. You want to evolve them but it's not possible.

"When I said a majority, I did not say all of them. Some have a big contribution to make to those results."

Work in the window will be key to changing this, too, according to Arteta.

"Finding a different way to do it, challenging them again, putting somebody next to them to try to push them again," he said, explaining how to get more from his squad.

But there is the possibility Arsenal will have to sell players to make signings.

Last year, they sold Emiliano Martinez to Aston Villa after he had excelled in goal. Villa have kept 14 clean sheets this term to Arsenal's 10, with Martinez preventing 3.8 goals using expected goals on target data – ranking third in the top flight.

This time, Joe Willock – starring on loan at Newcastle United – has been mooted as another £20million departure.

He has five goals since his debut on Tyneside, a tally unsurpassed by Arsenal players in this time and only matched by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

Some of the bigger names within Arteta's existing XI might fetch even greater sums, although the Gunners boss is reluctant to make any moves that would weaken his hand.

"Let's see what happens," he said. "It is difficult to predict that one but, in general, we wouldn't like to do that because we are only going to be stronger [if they stay].

"It is clear we want to improve the team. We need some resources."

Mikel Arteta has told Arsenal it is "time to evolve" as he looks ahead to what could be a crucial transfer window for the club.

A 2-1 aggregate defeat to Villarreal in the Europa League semi-finals means the Gunners' season looks set to end in hugely disappointing fashion.

They are ninth in the Premier League with three games to go and could well fail to qualify for European competition for the first time since they were absent in 1995-96, with their domestic cup challenges having ended in December and January.

Pressure has been mounting on the manager given their apparent lack of progress, and Arteta accepts they must now build on the institutional changes at Emirates Stadium by creating a team capable of competing with the best again.

"We have already had an incredible amount of changes throughout the club in the last year or so. More than ever," Arteta said on Tuesday.

"We are looking to improve and we're looking to be much closer [than] where we are at the moment. I know there are certain things we have to improve.

"Now, it's how we evolve. There's a lot of things that have to be done, and they have [been] done. A lot of changes to make and a lot of them have been made. Now, it's time to evolve.

"We have made progression in many areas, I would say performance included, and that's supported by many factors we have looked at. Results-wise, to where we want to be, it has to be improved.

"We have to do better. We have to be more consistent, we have to win more games and in order to do that, there are certain things that have to improve.

"We'll see what happens in the summer."

The Gunners have faced heavy criticism from fans, pundits and ex-players this season, including recently from former defender Martin Keown, who claimed the club are "going backwards".

Arteta believes plenty of good work has been done behind the scenes but accepts he will only ever be judged on results.

He said: "I think everybody is entitled to speak their opinions. I cannot control that. If you tell me what I would like to have around the team and everything related to the football club, it's that we have the unity and stability to work, but if this is not the case, there's nothing I can do.

"The only way I can improve that is by having a team that performs on the pitch and makes them proud. That's the only thing I can do.

"The only thing I have to be judged on is: do I create the necessary environment for a top, elite team to perform at the highest level, and get everybody in the condition to do their best? And after that: do I get the best out of the players that I have? The maximum, whatever the level is – do I get the best out of that? This is how I judge myself. Outside, the way I'm going to be judged is with results, nothing else. That we've done good before in the past, with the process, it's irrelevant. It's only what you get from that result when you're on that pitch."

Arteta says he has spoken regularly with technical director Edu this season about the club's plans to strengthen the team, particularly in the coming transfer window.

"There are so many things to do because we have a lot of players on loan, a lot of players with contracts still that we have to sort, and it will depend on what happens with a lot of those players and what we are able to recruit to improve the team is going to determine where we are," Arteta said.

"We've been sitting down the whole year, we've been in constant communication, and things will change. Some things will stick to the plan that we already have and some other things will come out. But we sit down very regularly to talk about those things."

Arsenal face Chelsea on Wednesday knowing that a defeat could well prove a fatal blow to their chances of finishing in a Europa League spot. They are four points behind north London rivals Tottenham, who sit seventh.

Still, Arteta can see the silver lining of a season in which he will not have to prepare his team to play once every three days for months on end.

"I think having a pre-season is going to be really helpful because we haven't had any time to work together since we arrived," he said. "After that, let's see where we finish this season and how many games we have to play, but obviously, in terms of game preparation and time to coach, it's much better to be in that position."

One positive in Arsenal's season has been the progress made by young players such as Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, and Arteta has no doubt about placing them at the centre of his project.

"Absolutely. They've shown that this season they are ready to take responsibility in important moments," he said.

"They have the right senior players around them to help as well. It's about how we click, and that we are consistent because we've shown on the day that we can compete and beat the top teams, but through 38 games [in the Premier League season], we haven't done it. In the Europa League, we've done it to the point where we were so close to getting to the final, but in 38 games, that's the duty that we have and the challenge we have ahead of us: to compete with the big teams."

Mikel Arteta praised "unique" teenager Bukayo Saka after Arsenal ended a miserable week by relegating West Brom with a 3-1 Premier League victory on Sunday.

The Gunners are facing the prospect of missing out on European football for the first time in 25 years next season after they were knocked out of the Europa League at the semi-final stage by Villarreal on Thursday.

A drab goalless draw against the Spanish side – coached by former Gunners boss Unai Emery – was a new low for Arsenal and piled more pressure on Arteta, but they responded with a first home win in seven games.

Emile Smith Rowe scored his maiden Premier League goal before Nicolas Pepe added a second with a sublime finish to put Arsenal in command.

Matheus Pereira pulled a goal back midway through the second half, but Willian finally opened his Arsenal account with a brilliant late free-kick as Baggies boss Sam Allardyce suffered the agony of relegation from the top tier for the first time.

Saka laid on the opening goal for Smith Rowe and has provided 19 assists in all competitions, the most of any player for the club since making his debut in November 2018.

The 19-year-old was a constant threat, delivering five crosses and producing two key passes in a performance that Arteta was more than happy with.

He told BT Sport: "Going forward we know Saka is a threat, he gives you something unique. He adapted. We believed we were going to attack against them and he gave us a lot of joy."

Arsenal are ninth in the table with surely only pride to play for and Arteta is determined to avoid finishing such a disappointing season with a whimper.

He said: "We will try to win every match and see where we finish. The only thing we can do is win our games." 

The Spaniard added: "We needed that win. It has been a while since we won at home. We scored three fantastic goals and we had some great spells in the game. When we conceded the goal we did look nervy.

"We knew the necessity to win the game. They scored out of nothing and then throw everything at you, they know the situation they are in and we struggled to play that kind of game.

"We scored three fantastic goals but we missed some big chances too."

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