Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal's dominant 2-0 win over Newcastle United was the perfect preparation for Thursday's Europa League semi-final second leg against Villarreal.

The Gunners suffered a 2-1 defeat in the first leg in Spain on Thursday, but they returned to winning ways against Steve Bruce's side at St James' Park.

Mohamed Elneny's first Premier League goal in his 66th appearance in the competition got them on their way after just five minutes, before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sealed a sixth consecutive win against the Magpies without conceding a goal.

Aubameyang's second-half goal meant he became the first Arsenal player to score in five consecutive matches against an opponent since Olivier Giroud netted in six straight games against Aston Villa between 2013 and 2016.

The only blot on the Gunners' copybook was a hamstring injury to David Luiz, which could keep the Brazilian out for the remainder of the season.

Arteta made nine changes to the side that lost in Spain and was pleased with his side's dominance, the Gunners taking 19 shots and restricting the hosts to just a single shot on target.

"Apart from David's injury, that was all we wanted," Arteta told a media conference.

"We wanted to keep the team fresh and pick players with the right attitude to play this game. The focus was on today. It was a strong performance from the beginning.

"We dominated the game and won the three points, which we needed. It helps for Thursday as well."

Aubameyang has now scored in all three of his appearances against Newcastle this season, becoming the first Arsenal player to score in three separate matches against an opponent in a single season since Alexis Sanchez against Hull City in 2014-15.

The Gabon international, who was recently struck down with malaria, came off the bench for the final five minutes against Villarreal in Spain and proved his fitness with an impressive display on Sunday.

"We thought he wasn't going to manage it on Thursday. Two days before, he was struggling," Arteta explained. "He could only manage to play 10 or 15 minutes.

"The day after, he started to feel better. It's good to see he was fine today. He scored a goal, he played well, so it's a real boost."

Gabriel Martinelli enjoyed an eventful game, laying on Aubameyang's goal with a fine cross and drawing a foul from Fabian Schar in the 90th minute which resulted in a red card for the Newcastle defender.

"Gabi's improving every week," Arteta said. "He's taking his minutes in the right way.

"He's developing in the way we all believe he can. Today he had an assist, some good moments on the left and we're trying to play him as a number nine as well."

Arsenal returned to winning ways as goals from Mohamed Elneny and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sealed a comfortable 2-0 win over Newcastle United on Sunday. 

The Gunners had picked up just one point from their previous two Premier League games against Everton and Fulham before they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Villarreal in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final on Thursday. 

However, they sealed all three points at St James' Park thanks to Elneny's early goal and Aubameyang's second-half finish, the fifth consecutive game in which the Gabon international has scored against the Magpies. 

The result lifted Arsenal up to ninth, while Newcastle finished with 10 men after substitute Fabian Schar's rash lunge on fellow Gabriel Martinelli.

Steve Bruce's side remain 17th, nine points clear of the relegation zone with four games remaining.

Arsenal wasted little time stamping their authority on the game, opening the scoring after just five minutes through Elneny's first Premier League goal in his 66th appearance in the competition.

Aubameyang horribly miss-kicked Hector Bellerin's right-wing cross but the ball fell fortuitously to Elneny, who struck a half-volley past Martin Dubravka from 18 yards.

Mat Ryan – one of nine changes from the defeat to Villarreal – tipped over Allan Saint-Maximin's deflected effort soon after, while Dubravka pawed away Granit Xhaka's long-range drive at the other end.

Miguel Almiron denied Elneny a second shortly before the half-hour, clearing the Egyptian's header from a corner off the line.

Arsenal doubled their advantage in the 66th minute when Aubameyang showed superb athleticism to volley home Martinelli's left-wing cross inside the six-yard box. 

Any faint hopes the hosts had of setting up a grandstand finale were dashed in the 90th minute when Schar saw red, as Bruce's men fell to just a second defeat in their past nine Premier League games.
 

Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta has fiercely defended his team selection after his side's 2-1 Europa League semi-final first leg defeat away to Villarreal on Thursday.

Arteta fielded Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka at left-back while he also started without a recognised striker, with Emile Smith Rowe in the most advanced role and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang coming off the bench.

The Gunners went behind 2-0 after half an hour and were reduced to 10 men after Dani Ceballos' 57th minute sending off.

But Arsenal pulled a goal back from Nicolas Pepe's 73rd minute spotkick after Bukayo Saka was tripped inside the box claiming a precious away goal.

"It's the way we prepared for the game," the Spaniard said at the post-game press conference about his selection decisions.

"It's the decision that I made, thinking that it was the best way to play, but the game was conditioned after four minutes so it was difficult to assess whether it would work or not.

"Conceding from the set piece as well also changed it and after, we had to approach it in a different way."

He added: "Obviously when you lose you always get [selection] wrong.

"When we won 4-0 away from home against Slavia Prague, they didn’t lose a home game in three years and Granit played so well, he was incredible playing there but I know that when it doesn’t happen, it’s always going to point there."

Arsenal will host Villarreal in London next Thursday with a spot in the decider on the line, against either Manchester United or Roma, with Arteta delighted with their away goal after their early deficit.

"It changes completely the tie obviously, and it makes a huge difference and we know that we have to be better than we were for 95 minutes," Arteta said.

"If we don’t do that then we won’t have the chance to be in the final."

He added: "After the story of the game, I think we have to take it because in the tie we are alive and in the circumstances that developed during the game, it put the game and the tie in real danger at some stages."

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is "feeling good" after returning home from two days in hospital with malaria, manager Mikel Arteta has confirmed.

The Gabon striker has been left out of the squad for Arsenal's last two matches and revealed on social media on Thursday that he contracted the virus during the recent international break. 

Aubameyang posted a picture of himself in a hospital bed and wearing a gown, but he has now been discharged and his health is improving.

Speaking at a news conference after Arsenal's 4-0 win over Slavia Prague on Thursday evening, which saw his side through to the Europa League semi-finals 5-1 on aggregate, Arteta said: "We just spoke with him. He's at home, he's fine.

"He had two days in hospital to get the right treatment, but he's feeling good now.

"Everybody has been in contact with him. He's been really supportive with every team-mate through messages and calls.

"He was watching the game like everybody else at Colney. David [Luiz], Martin [Odegaard], Kieran [Tierney]. Everybody who has not been able to be involved.

"It is what it is, these things happen. He travelled to his country and he picked it up and you know that these risks always exist."

Aubameyang has sat out Arsenal's wins over Sheffield United and Slavia, but he started the 3-0 loss to Liverpool on April 3 and was a second-half substitute in last week's first-leg against the Czech champions.

"When he wasn't involved against Sheffield United, two days before he wasn't feeling good, but nobody could expect that was the case," Arteta added.

"They did some more tests and that's when it came up and straight away the doctor realised very quickly what had to be done and they did a great job. He's safe and he's feeling good."

Aubameyang has not scored for Arsenal since the 1-1 draw with Burnley on March 6 in the Premier League - one of 14 goals he has managed in all competitions this season.

Arsenal host Fulham and Everton in their next two Premier League games, before the first leg of their Europa League semi-final with Villarreal on April 29.

Arteta is unsure when Aubameyang will be fit enough to return but is hopeful of having his captain back involved sooner rather than later.

"We'll see how he recovers," Arteta said. "I think he will need a few days to recover from that. He wants to back as soon as possible, that's what he said to me.

"But I don't know. If the treatment is efficient it shouldn't take too long."

Arsenal have won eight, drawn five and lost nine of the 22 Premier League games Aubameyang has started this term, compared to five wins, one draw and three losses in the nine games he has not started.

The Gunners also average more goals per game without Aubameyang in their line-up - 1.8 compared to 1.2 - while their average goals against figure rises from 1.0 to 1.2 when he is not included in the XI.

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been in hospital this week after being diagnosed with malaria, he has announced.

The Gabon striker said he picked up the virus during the recent international break.

Aubameyang was absent as Arsenal travelled to face Slavia Prague in the Europa League on Thursday.

Manager Mikel Arteta said ahead of the game that Aubameyang was being monitored due to illness, and the player himself has now revealed he has been seriously unwell.

Aubameyang wrote on Instagram: "Hey guys, thanks for all the messages and calls. Unfortunately I contracted Malaria whilst being on national team duty in Gabon a few weeks ago.

"I've spent a few days in hospital this week but I'm already feeling much better every day, thanks to the great doctors that detected and treated the virus so quickly.

"I wasn't really feeling myself the last couple weeks but will be back stronger than ever soon! Will be watching my boys now, huge game for us! Let‘s go and get it @arsenal."

The 31-year-old posted a picture of himself, seemingly in a hospital bed and wearing a gown.

Aubameyang was used as a substitute in last Thursday's first leg of the quarter-final tie with Slavia, but he missed the 3-0 win at Sheffield United on Sunday.

He has not scored for Arsenal since the 1-1 draw with Burnley on March 6 in the Premier League.

Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe will be available for Arsenal for their Europa League quarter-final second leg against Slavia Prague.

Saka has been struggling with a thigh problem and was taken off in the second half of the Gunners' 3-0 Premier League win at Sheffield United on Sunday.

Smith Rowe missed that match at Bramall Lane after spraining his ankle in the 1-1 first-leg draw with Slavia, but he and Saka have recovered fully for the return fixture at Sinobo Stadium.

Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who also missed the win over the Blades due to illness, will be assessed ahead of the Slavia clash.

Martin Odegaard is also battling to be fit after injuring his ankle during the international break, but the match will come too soon for Kieran Tierney and David Luiz.

Mikel Arteta's side are bidding to reach the Europa League semi-finals for the third time in four seasons, although they have failed to progress from their previous three European knockout ties after drawing the first leg.

Mikel Arteta stood by his decision to drop Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Arsenal's Europa League tie with Slavia Prague and backed his side to progress, despite a disappointing 1-1 draw in Thursday's quarter-final first leg.

Club captain Aubameyang was named among the substitutes on the back of Saturday's 3-0 loss to Liverpool and was not introduced until the 78th minute against Slavia with the game still goalless. 

The Gabon international made an impact by playing in Nicolas Pepe for Arsenal's opener eight minutes later - his 100th goal involvement for Arsenal in all competitions since joining from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018.

Arsenal failed to see out the victory on home soil, however, with Tomas Holes heading in a 93rd-minute equaliser that leaves the Gunners requiring at least one goal in next week's return leg in the Czech capital.

But despite Alexandre Lacazette missing a glorious chance when played clean through on goal and Bukayo Saka also failing to convert from a good position, Arteta felt he picked the right starting line-up against Slavia.

"I think the players I selected stepped in and gave absolutely everything," he said at his post-match news conference. "We managed the game really well. We were much more aggressive today and we created some big chances.

"When I made the substitutions I felt it was the right time to do so. Whether I should have done it earlier or not, who knows?"

Arteta confirmed ahead of the game that Aubameyang was left out for tactical reasons and he was pleased with the response shown by the striker, who has 14 goals in 33 appearances this season.

"When he came on he showed the right attitude," the Spaniard said. "I cannot talk with everybody individually every week, but we try to be as transparent as possible."

Holes' late leveller was his first goal in major European competition in his 14th such appearance and leaves Arsenal with work to do in what is a make-or-break clash in Prague next week.

Arsenal are now winless in four matches and have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last 14 games in all competitions, but Arteta has full confidence his side will reach the semi-finals for a third time in four seasons.

"I totally believe that we can go there and win the match," he told BT Sport. "We need to win the game. The mindset is to win the game. We need to score. We've done it before and we need to do it again."

Thursday's draw was the first time Arsenal have failed to beat a Czech side at home, but visiting boss Jindrich Trpisovsky accepted that Slavia had to ride their luck, even if they managed four attempts on target to their opponents' two.

"We weren't ourselves tonight. We gave them the ball very often without fight," Trpisovsky said. "We need to see how Arsenal will adapt to our pitch. Theirs is superb and ours is not so. Tonight, we were lucky. They had chances they didn't score.

"We made mistakes and kept losing the ball when we were in possession but then we were lucky with the corner and snatched the draw."

Mikel Arteta wants to help Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rediscover his best form as Arsenal plan to treat every game as a final for the remainder of the season.

With the international break over, the Gunners resume their campaign on Saturday when Liverpool visit Emirates Stadium.

Both teams are desperately in need of points with just nine games remaining in the Premier League, or else run the risk of missing out on qualifying for Europe via the domestic route.

While Liverpool still have their sights set on a top-four finish, Arsenal go into the fixture well off the pace having won just three of their previous nine in the competition.

Like the team itself, Aubameyang has struggled for consistency in the competition. The Gabon international scored 22 league goals in each of the previous two seasons but has yet to reach double figures in 2020-21.

"We talked for months about the ratio of goals we need him to score to give us the best possible chance of being at the top," Arteta told the media ahead of the Liverpool game.

"He's not been what he has been in recent years, a factor that is contributed by a lot of other things that the team has to do on the pitch – it's not just his thing.

"Obviously, we need Auba in different form in the next games to give us the best chance to finish where we want to finish this season, that is clear."

Aubameyang could point to playing regularly in a wider attacking role as a reason behind the decrease in his productivity, with a nine-goal haul still one behind the total he managed in his first 13 league appearances after signing from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018.

His position in the team may also explain why his average of 2.28 shots per 90 minutes is comfortably lower than in previous seasons at the club, along with a shot conversion rate of 18.37 per cent (which is still better than Harry Kane's number of 16.67 per cent).

Yet when it comes to converting big chances – those Opta define as a situation where a player is expected to score – the 31-year-old sits at a healthy 45.4 per cent, well above his 2018-19 total of 36.1 per cent when he finished tied with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah for the Golden Boot. He is slightly outperforming his expected goals tally of 6.8 this term too, managing seven non-penalty goals from 47 shots.

Arteta recognises it is not necessarily all down to the player himself, with the Gunners manager asking for different requirements from his captain while instilling a more controlled approach to proceedings, laying the foundations for what he hopes will be long-term success under his guidance.

"He can play off the left, off the right, in the middle. He has done it, it's nothing new," Arteta replied when asked about Aubameyang's best position.

"When you look at his stats from the past, there is no difference. But it does depend [on] how we play, how much we provide for him and how efficient he is when he has these chances.

"When he has got this form of confidence, well, he is unstoppable. It is dependent on many factors."

The north London club rewarded Aubameyang for his previous exploits – including two goals to beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final last August – with a bumper new contract.

With the goals drying up since signing to stay for a further three years, questions have been raised over his commitment to the cause. He was also dropped from the starting XI prior to the derby with Tottenham in March for disciplinary reasons, though Arteta quickly drew a line under the issue in the aftermath of a much-needed 2-1 victory.

Arteta has no doubt Aubameyang remains ambitious, stating: "It's easy to connect things when they relate to it like that, but I'm not suspicious about that.

"We have had many conversations about what he wanted to do from last year's point of view with his future in the next three years. He was very ambitious with that, but to maintain that level is really complicated. He is trying hard and that's what he is aiming to do."

Arsenal could do with their captain leading from the front during the run-in, starting against Liverpool in what is the highest-scoring fixture in Premier League history.

"It's like a final every game," Arteta said ahead of the final stretch. "Three points mean a lot in the table and we need to go for them, we need to win as many games as possible. We know that."

Martin Odegaard has everything to become the "complete player" according to Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, who thinks the Norway international can add more goals to his game. 

Odegaard has impressed since joining the Gunners on loan from Real Madrid in January and followed his first goal for the club against Olympiacos last week with the equaliser in Sunday's 2-1 north London derby win over Tottenham. 

Ahead of the return clash with Olympiacos, where Arsenal hold a 3-1 advantage, Arteta warmly praised the 22-year-old playmaker. 

"He's getting better and better. I think his understanding of what we want is excellent," he told the media. 

"His work rate has been phenomenal. And then he's doing something which, in my opinion, he could improve a lot, which is getting in the opponents' box and being more decisive in the score line. 

"He's doing that. He's scored two goals, he's got some really important entrances in the zone and he looks really dangerous all the time. 

"It's something that if he adds that to his game, he becomes a real complete player." 

Odegaard's two goals in all competitions are more than any other Arsenal midfielder has managed since his debut, with only Bukayo Saka (19) having more than his 11 shots. 

He is also the best among his midfield colleagues over the same period in terms of chances created (13), while behind only Mohamed Elneny in terms of passing accuracy (92.9 versus 90.8 per cent), having played 468 more minutes than the Egypt international. 

"I think everybody has been really impressed with how quickly he adapted. How professional he is," Arteta said. 

"How quickly he adapted to try to engage with everybody at Colney [Arsenal's training ground] and then the performances he is putting in as well." 

Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang is back in contention to start after a disciplinary breach led to him being benched for the win against Spurs. 

Asked whether Aubameyang had been stripped of the Arsenal captaincy, Arteta replied: "That was dealt with on the day. It's been resolved in a really positive way and we move on." 

Fellow forward Gabriel Martinelli could get a chance for valuable first-time minutes against Olympiacos, having struggled for fitness and form this season. 

"If anything, it's my fault," Arteta said over the Brazilian youngster's lack of game time. "He's done everything perfect. He trains incredibly well every day. His attitude cannot be any better. 

"He's really disappointed that he's not playing more, obviously I have spoken to him. But he needs to be a little bit patient. 

"He had some minutes, he had some games as well and it’s true that the competition now for the front positions is very tough. He needs to be patient and he will get his chance." 

Saka, meanwhile, faces a late fitness test having made way at half-time in the game with Spurs due to a hamstring complaint.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta insisted there were no hard feelings on his part towards Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after the Gunners battled to north London derby glory without their captain.

Martin Odegaard's first Premier League goal for Arsenal and a second-half penalty from Alexandre Lacazette gave Arteta's men a 2-1 win over Tottenham, who turned in a meek display either side of a phenomenal rabona opener from Erik Lamela, who was later sent off.

Lacazette only started because Aubameyang fell foul of Arsenal's pre-match protocols, with the Gabon forward an unused substitute at Emirates Stadium.

Nevertheless, Arteta said the problem – reported to be a time-keeping issue – is already something to be forgotten about.

"He is an incredible guy and one of the most important players in the team," he told Sky Sports.

"He is our captain and these things happen. We have lots going on in our lives and people finding it hard with the restrictions.

"I will never tell anything that happens in the dressing room."

Arsenal failed to convince during the closing stages as Harry Kane had a header disallowed for offside and fired a free-kick against the post.

"Going 1-0 down the way we were playing was disappointing and worst-case scenario against a team like Spurs. But we kept playing and deserve the win," Arteta said,

"The last 10 minutes we did not manage the game and we need to improve as a team. We relied on luck. With the way we played we should have seen it out comfortably."

Arteta, who is the third consecutive Arsenal boss to win his first home league meeting with Spurs, following Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery, added: "We had some really strong performances today.

"You could see the energy they were playing with."It is about how you react. This team have the reaction in them to not give up. We kept playing and generating chances and got rewarded."

Alexandre Lacazette's second-half penalty proved decisive as Arsenal beat Tottenham 2-1 to dent the top-four hopes of Spurs, who saw goalscorer Erik Lamela sent off.

Arsenal's preparations for the game were by no means ideal as Mikel Arteta revealed pre-match that captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had been dropped for disciplinary reasons, reportedly relating to tardiness, but the Gunners were the better side from start to finish and deserved the points.

It looked like being a grating day for them after seeing Emile Smith Rowe and Cedric Soares denied by the woodwork either side of Lamela's quite remarkable breakthrough goal.

But Martin Odegaard restored parity on the stroke of half-time and Lacazette completed the turnaround from the spot in the second period to move Arsenal back to within four points of their seventh-placed rivals, with Lamela's dismissal 14 minutes from time hampering Tottenham in their late rally.

Spurs struggled to get out of their own half during the early exchanges and were fortunate to remain on level terms when Smith Rowe's dipping 25-yard strike hit the crossbar, while they lost Son Heung-min to injury soon after.

But Tottenham finally showed some attacking intent just past the half-hour mark and it led to their remarkable opener, Lucas Moura teeing up Lamela – Son's replacement – to produce a 'rabona' finish that went through Thomas Partey's legs and found the bottom-right corner.

Arsenal's frustration amped up as Cedric was the next Gunner to be denied by the frame of the goal, but a deserved equaliser did arrive just before the break when Odegaard turned in Kieran Tierney's cross with the aid of a deflection.

The hosts continued to control proceedings but had been struggling to break Spurs down before winning their penalty just after the hour – Davinson Sanchez clumsily fouling Lacazette after the Frenchman had unsuccessfully swiped at the bouncing ball.

Lacazette coolly converted the resulting spot-kick and Spurs' hopes suffered a major blow when Lamela caught Tierney in the face with a stray arm to earn him a second yellow card.

Late scares saw a Harry Kane header ruled out for offside and the same man hit the base of the post from a free-kick, but Arsenal held on to end their five-match winless run in the derby.

Arsenal dropped Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the north London derby on Sunday due to disciplinary reasons.

The Gunners made three changes to the side that started the 3-1 Europa League win at Olympiacos on Thursday, with Cedric Soares, Emile Smith Rowe and Alexandre Lacazette in for Hector Bellerin, Willian and captain Aubameyang.

Manager Mikel Arteta told Sky Sports: "He was going to start the game. We had a disciplinary issue. We have drawn the line and we move on. He is on the bench.

"We keep [the nature of the issue] internally. We have a process that we have to respect for every game and that's it.

"It's a decision made after evaluating everything, who Auba is and what he's done and that's it.

"We've got other players and we've changed the team recently quite a lot. There are lots of players who are willing to play and deserve the chance. I'm comfortable with that."

Jose Mourinho made six alterations to the Tottenham side that beat Dinamo Zagreb 2-0, although Harry Kane, who scored both goals in that game, was passed fit to start after some concerns over an injury.

Matt Doherty, Toby Alderweireld, Sergio Reguilon, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Lucas Moura and Gareth Bale all came into the line-up.

Arsenal went into the contest at Emirates Stadium on a five-game winless run against their local rivals.

Spurs, who were bidding to go six derbies in a row without defeat for the first time, were also seeking a third league win in succession over Mikel Arteta's side for the first time since October 1974. That would secure a first Premier League double over their neighbours since 1992-93.

Mikel Arteta insists Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang still has much more to give to Arsenal despite a recent improvement in his performances.

The Gunners captain has only scored nine times in the Premier League this season, a marked reduction from the 44 he managed across the previous two campaigns.

Aubameyang scored just twice in 14 appearances in all competitions from mid-September to the middle of December, but his form in front of goal has improved of late, the Gabon international having netted eight times in his most recent nine outings.

Manager Arteta is happy with Aubameyang's improvement but believes there is more to come from the player.

"Obviously, the stats are much better and related to who he is and what he needs to bring to the team," Arteta told reporters ahead of Thursday's Europa League last-16 first leg against Olympiacos.

"But still, I think he could score many more and he could do better in other aspects. He needs to keep having that mentality and he has that mentality.

"We need players performing at their maximum. When Auba is in a much better place, obviously the team will be in a much better place because at the end, things are decided in both boxes, and what he can produce in the opponents' box has an incredible impact for our team.

"In big moments, you need to have big players performing and making the difference. It looks like, at this moment, he's firing, he's happy, physically he's in a good moment and he's full of confidence."

With Arsenal 10th in the Premier League table and with their FA Cup defence having been ended by Southampton, the Europa League represents their best chance of a trophy and a way back into the Champions League for next season.

Having announced a £47million loss last week amid the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, European football could be critical to Arteta's chances of putting together a squad capable of challenging England's best again.

Despite the potentially tricky year to come, Arteta is confident a major turning point is coming in Arsenal's modern history.

"I want a sustainable club. We all want a club that can be run with their own resources. It is great we have the support from our owners," he said.

"We have had that in the summer when it was much needed because of everything that has happened with COVID and what happened at the club in the last three years without the Champions League and the hit that that took.

"But our responsibility and everything we are planning for the future is for this club to go back to being sustainable on its own and being all the time as strong as possible in every department and the financial department is crucial as well.

"I think this project is going to go 'bang'. This is where we are, but sometimes it is difficult to see the moment now but I'm sure where we are going.

"We have created a really strong group, a really strong bond with our players, with our fans, with our staff and that is going to pay big in the future.

"You need to win to convince anybody that you are doing a good job in the club and taking them in the right direction.

"If you are not inside the club every day and know exactly what is going on within the club, the only way to convince anybody is to win."

Arsenal will head into a crunch spell in their season on the back of a chaotic 1-1 Premier League draw at Burnley after Granit Xhaka's blunder on Saturday.

Mikel Arteta's side, who had an 85th-minute penalty taken away after a VAR review, face a two-legged Europa League last-16 showdown with Olympiacos either side of next Sunday's north London derby.

And they will tackle that run of games knowing their top-four hopes are all but gone, with silverware and local bragging rights providing their primary motivation.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whose own goal handed Burnley a 1-0 win over 10-man Arsenal at Emirates Stadium in December, capitalised on some slack defending to put the visitors ahead after just six minutes at Turf Moor.

Burnley drew level in fortuitous circumstances before half-time, Xhaka – the man sent off in the reverse fixture – attempting a pass inside his own area that hit Chris Wood's hip and flew in.

It was punishment for the Gunners' profligacy, with Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka having missed chances to increase their lead. Arteta was left to reflect on two points dropped after referee Andre Marriner had to reverse the decision to award a late penalty when Erik Pieters brilliantly kept out Nicolas Pepe's volley, with time still left for Dani Ceballos to hit the post.

Arsenal were quick out of the blocks and Aubameyang took full advantage of Burnley's meek resistance inside the box before his low effort beat Nick Pope at his near post despite the goalkeeper getting a hand to it.

Burnley, seeking a first league double over Arsenal since 1962-63, should have fallen two behind midway through the half but Saka, on his 50th Premier League appearance, prodded wide after the ball fell kindly for him six yards out.

Instead, Sean Dyche's side were level at the break as Arsenal's attempts to play out from the back went calamitously wrong when Xhaka tried to pick out David Luiz and instead hit the ball straight into Wood's midriff.

Ben Mee and James Tarkowski each made excellent blocks to thwart Saka in the early stages of the second half as Arsenal continued to enjoy the majority of the chances.

Seeking inspiration from his bench, Arteta brought on Alexandre Lacazette inside the final half an hour, but Burnley then went close to a winner when Pieters – who had already survived one penalty shout after an apparent handball – had a dipping volley tipped over by Bernd Leno, who then denied Wood one-on-one.

There was late drama when Pepe's strike was deflected over by the industrious Pieters, with Marriner pointing to the spot and sending off the Dutchman before a VAR review showed the defender had somehow kept the ball out with his shoulder, while Ceballos cracked a shot against the upright as the spoils were shared.

What does it mean? Gunners' top-four hopes fading

Inconsistency has plagued Arsenal this season, with 11 wins and 11 losses underlining that fact. This draw – their fifth of the top-flight campaign – leaves them nine points shy of fourth-placed Chelsea.

Arteta's men surely have little chance of overhauling that deficit, meaning the Europa League offers their best chance to earn a spot at European football's top table.

Clarets nemesis Aubameyang strikes again

This was Aubameyang's eighth goal against the Clarets, making them his favourite victims in the Premier League. Only against Hamburg (9) has he netted more league goals in the top five European leagues.

The Gabon striker also became the fifth Arsenal player to score an own goal and a regular goal against a specific team in a Premier League campaign.

Granit crumbles under pressure

It is the modern way to work the ball out diligently from the back, but it requires cool heads and smart execution, of which Xhaka showed neither when he was at fault for Burnley's farcical leveller.

Perhaps Leno should have cleared the ball in the first instance, but when Xhaka received the pass from his goalkeeper he had options besides booting the ball at Wood. Since the start of the 2016-17 campaign, no outfield player has made more errors leading to goals in the Premier League than Xhaka's tally of eight.

As for Burnley, they need 10 more points to hit the 40 mark that relegation battlers tend to target.

What's next?

Arsenal have a huge week ahead, with a trip to Olympiacos in the Europa League on Thursday before the north London derby with Spurs. Burnley, meanwhile, head to Everton next Saturday.

Manchester City will be looking to set a new club record for games unbeaten in all competitions when they welcome rivals Manchester United to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola's men have gone 28 matches since last tasting defeat and have won the last 21 of those, including 15 wins from their last 15 in the Premier League.

The Manchester derby undoubtedly headlines this weekend's fixtures in the English top flight, but there are plenty of other intriguing games at both ends of the division.

Players from six different clubs feature among our Opta-fuelled fantasy picks for what could be a defining few days.

EDOUARD MENDY

Mendy was the busier of the two goalkeepers in Chelsea's goalless draw with Manchester United last weekend as he notched another clean sheet.

He now has six shutouts in his first 10 home Premier League starts, which is the most of any goalkeeper after that number of games in the competition since Alisson's seven for Liverpool at Anfield in 2018.

The only Chelsea keeper with a better return after their first 10 league starts at Stamford Bridge is Petr Cech with eight.


JOHN STONES

City may have conceded in three of their last four league games but their defence remains the strongest in the division, largely thanks to the form of a resurgent Stones.

The league leaders have conceded just four goals in the 1,440 minutes Stones has been on the field in the Premier League this term - one goal every 360 minutes.

That is the joint-best ratio among defenders with more than 300 minutes of involvement in the competition this season, level with Aston Villa's Kortney Hause (one goal conceded across his 360 minutes on the field).

LUKE SHAW

Left-back Shaw is continuing to enjoy his best season for Manchester United, even if the Red Devils are badly struggling for any sort of consistency.

The England international has four Premier League assists to his name in 2021 - more than any other defender - having set up goals for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Bruno Fernandes, Edinson Cavani and Scott McTominay.

He also leads the way this calendar year for chances created by defenders with 34.

 

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG

Arsenal skipper Aubameyang appears to be returning to his best form after scoring eight goals in his last 10 matches in all competitions.

The Gabon international may have fired a blank as a late substitute against Leicester City last time out, but he will fancy his chances of finding the net in Saturday's trip to Burnley.

That is because Aubameyang has scored seven goals in his six previous Premier League meetings with the Clarets, the most he has netted against any team in the competition.

 

SON HEUNG-MIN

Crystal Palace have recorded back-to-back clean sheets in the Premier League, but if they are to extend that run they will need to keep Son quiet in Sunday's showdown with Tottenham.

The South Korea international tends to enjoy playing against the Eagles, having scored five times and assisted once in seven top-flight starts in this head-to-head.

Son's five goals against Palace is bettered only by the eight he has managed against Southampton.

CHE ADAMS

Southampton's slump continued with defeat to Everton last time out and Ralph Hasenhuttl will know the importance of bringing an end to his side's nine-game winless streak in the league.

The stuttering Saints head to bottom side Sheffield United on Saturday and that could mean a return to scoring ways for out-of-form Adams, who has scored three goals in three appearances against his former employers.

The 24-year-old, who spent two full seasons at Bramall Lane earlier in his career, has not scored more than once again any other Premier League opponent.

 

OLLIE WATKINS

Watkins has gone four matches without scoring in the league, but the statistics suggest you should not lose faith in the Aston Villa striker just yet.

He has netted seven times at home in the Premier League this season - Christian Benteke, with 11 in 2012-13, was the last Villa player to score more in a single top-flight campaign.

The last English player to net more times at Villa Park in a Premier League season, meanwhile, was Darius Vassell in 2001-02 with eight goals.

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