Bukayo Saka needs to protect himself from roughhouse tactics but manager Mikel Arteta warned he must stay within the laws of the game.

Saka reacted angrily to a challenge from Philippe Coutinho during Arsenal's 4-2 win at Aston Villa last weekend, shoving the former Liverpool man before team-mates intervened.

Saka has been involved in 49 Premier League goals for Arsenal (26 goals, 23 assists), and could become the youngest player to reach 50 goal involvements in the competition since Cesc Fabregas in 2008 should he score or assist against Leicester City on Saturday.

With teams increasingly looking to use tough tackling to halt the 21-year-old's sparkling displays, Arteta feels Saka has a right to defend himself.

"The first one who has to protect Bukayo is himself," Arteta said. "There's many ways to do that on a football pitch, within the rules, and he needs to learn and improve that.

"He reacted in a way, but that line is extremely thin and that cannot take him out of his game and lose his focus.

"But he can help that, as well, to have more focus, more determination, more belief for the next action. It's something he needs to do."

Saka is set to make his 32nd Arsenal appearance of the season against Leicester on Saturday, while he also started four of England's five games at the World Cup in Qatar.

Arteta pointed to Saka's mentality as the reason for his ability to play so many matches, explaining: "I really see his determination and where he wants to get to.

"He really wants to get there and have that resilience and that capacity to consistently show a certain level. He has a great physical element to be able to play every three days. Hopefully he can continue to do that."

With his team top of the Premier League table, two points above closest challengers Manchester City with a game in hand on the reigning champions, Arteta is hoping he can repay the Arsenal board's faith in him by delivering the Gunners' first Premier League title since the 2003-04 'Invincibles' campaign.

The former Gunners midfielder has endured rough periods since taking over in 2019, and he is grateful the board have stuck with him.

Asked how significant trust was between ownership and manager, Arteta said: "It's extremely important, obviously. The people you work with need to have faith, but at the same time they have to see every day what you are doing.

"I think it's something that works very close together, and I was lucky to have the people and the ownership we have. They believed we could continue to do the work that we wanted to do and gave me time. Hopefully we can repay that faith."

Thomas Partey could return when Arsenal face Leicester City on Saturday and Mikel Arteta revealed Gabriel Jesus is "progressing well."

Partey missed the Gunners' defeat to Manchester City and the win at Aston Villa due to a muscle injury.

The midfielder, who has started all 18 of the league games he has been available for this season, may be back at the King Power Stadium this weekend, though, as the Gunners attempt to remain top of the Premier League table.

Arteta told reporters on Friday: "Thomas hasn't trained much, but looks like he could be available. Let's see how he trains today.

"He's a really important player for us, hopefully he can be available."

Jesus has been out since suffering a knee injury while he was on Brazil duty at the World Cup in December, but Arteta has provided an encouraging update on the striker's recovery.

"He's progressing really well. He's doing more and more on the field and he's not reacting [negatively], so that's really positive," Arteta said of Jesus.

"We want to have him as quickly as possible but also respect the timeframe we got from the doctor and the specialists. He's really pushing the boundaries right now."

Arsenal are two points clear of City with a game in hand after coming from behind twice to beat Villa 4-2 before the champions drew at Nottingham Forest.

Manchester United are only five points adrift of the Gunners, however, and Arteta does not believe it is a two-horse race for the title.

He said: "I think there are more teams involved and every day is going to be a race. Today it's how we convince those players to train better, to play better against Leicester.

"We're going to have to be really good to beat them, especially with the way they've been playing in the last few weeks."

Mikel Arteta says keeping prized assets such as Bukayo Saka is vital for Arsenal in their quest for trophies.

Saka is reported to have agreed to a new bumper contract to keep him with the Premier League leaders until 2028.

The England winger's current deal runs until June 2024, so the Gunners have been eager to ensure he remains at the club for the long term.

Saka has scored nine goals and provided eight assists for Arsenal in the Premier League as they strive to win the title for the first time since 2014.

Gabriel Martinelli recently signed a new deal, while Arsenal are also reportedly working on fresh terms for William Saliba and Aaron Ramsdale.

Manager Arteta stressed that it is imperative for Arsenal to show their ambition by retaining key players.

He said ahead of Saturday's trip to Leicester City: "That's what we have to do, that's our responsibility. To keep our best players, our best people.

"Those that have the same aims and same purposes as the club."

Saka, also excellent for England at the World Cup last year, has come in for some rough treatment but Arteta believes he will learn to cope with tackles flying in.

Asked if he felt Saka was in danger of picking up a serious injury, the Spaniard replied: "Hopefully not. We have train that. When to take certain balls, when to run, when to jump."

He added: "I'm sure refs want to protect players in every game. There is a lot of focus on Bukayo, but we need to focus on what we can do as a team. Of course, also the referees have a job to do.

"We cannot control what the opponents are going to do, or the referee in a split second. We need to help him become a better player."

Arsenal were "absolutely bouncing" after Saturday's dramatic 4-2 win over Aston Villa saw them produce a morale-boosting response to defeat to Manchester City.

Mikel Arteta watched on as Arsenal were twice forced to come from behind at Villa Park in the day's early kick-off, with Ollie Watkins and Philippe Coutinho putting the hosts in front.

Bukayo Saka and Oleksandr Zinchenko got the equalisers for the Gunners, who for a while looked as though they would have to settle for a 2-2 draw, particularly when Martin Odegaard missed a glorious opportunity.

But in second-half stoppage time, Jorginho's 25-yard strike hit the crossbar and ricocheted into the goal off Emiliano Martinez's head to finally put Arsenal in front.

They finished Villa off on the break, Gabriel Martinelli putting into an empty net while Martinez was up the other end for a corner, and Arsenal's celebrations at full-time depicted intense jubilation after a run of three Premier League games without a win.

The midweek defeat to City saw Pep Guardiola's men replace Arsenal at the summit, though such a dramatic turnaround appeared to be the perfect tonic.

Asked what the mood was in the Arsenal changing rooms at full-time, Arteta told BT Sport: "It was absolutely bouncing because it was a big effort to play less than 72 hours after the [City] game that we had, and the result we had.

"That is obviously mentally tough, but I'm really pleased with the boys."

The manner of the triumph was as pleasing as anything for Arteta, who reminded his players they cannot expect to just win games in a straightforward fashion.

"When you want to be at the top, you are going to have to win games in many different ways," he continued.

"You're going to have to score goals in the 94th minute, and sometimes play with 10 men, get comeback results.

"To do it especially against this team in this stadium, a lot of credit to the boys."

Arsenal's attitude and spirit also impressed Arteta, though he was under no illusions about their performance being far from perfect.

He added: "We showed a lot of character, resilience to get back twice in the game and end up winning it.

"We have to take some lessons from today because especially in the first half we didn't do the simple things right.

"You give them the two chances to score those goals in a really simple way, but we spoke at half-time, if we raised individual standards and start to do what we have to do, we're going to win this game, and we then went out – which is difficult – and won it.

"In the second half I think we outplayed them. I think we created chance after chance, dominated the game. We needed a magic moment and Jorginho produced it."

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta questioned why his side were given the Saturday afternoon kick-off time after Wednesday's battle against Manchester City.

It will be just 63 hours between matches when Arsenal take on Aston Villa away from home, which has been outlawed when the mid-week meeting is of the Champions League variety, but there are no restrictions for domestic games.

Arsenal, with a game in-hand, need a win to reclaim top spot on the table, but they will be playing a Villa side benefitting from an extra three days of rest.

Speaking to the media, Arteta said it does not make sense to have one rule for the Champions League but to disregard the same logic for other schedule congestion.

"There are certain rules with the Champions League," he said. "When you are playing on Wednesday night and then you cannot play [Saturday lunchtime], so that should apply to any competition.

"If think you are talking physiologically, it is very difficult to turn around in that period to get the best outcome and reduce the injury risk for players.

"They put the schedule the way they did. It's a bit unusual, but it's not about being worried or not worried. We have to play. I want the players to be in the best possible mindset and physically ready to get that challenge going."

While he acknowledges it is not an ideal situation, Arteta said it is no excuse for a poor performance.

"We knew we were going to play at that time," he said. "The players are young – they have a lot of energy.”

One of those young players Arsenal are relying on is 23-year-old Eddie Nketiah, who has now gone four games without a goal after a run of six goals in six matches.

"The most difficult thing is to score goals, but Eddie produced a penalty that could have been a goal," he said. "He could have scored a hat-trick and then we're talking about something else. 

"Unfortunately he didn't, and so we have these debates. But we have full confidence in these kids."

Mikel Arteta felt there were "a lot of positives" to take from a defeat to Manchester City but wants his Arsenal side to be more efficient.

City replaced the Gunners at the top of the Premier League table with a 3-1 win at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.

Arsenal, who have a game in hand on the champions, are without a win in four matches in all competitions and need a response when they travel for a reunion with former boss Unai Emery and his Aston Villa side on Saturday.

However, manager Arteta is confident Arsenal can rediscover the sort of form that had at one stage given them an eight-point cushion over City at the summit.

"I know the right things we have to do to continue to be there [at the top]," the Spaniard said.

"We have seen where the level is and what we have to do to be at that level. There are a lot of positive things to take, for sure, from the season so far [and the loss to City].

"We know that the level of efficiency has to be good with every single game to beat them [City] at the end.

"We are highly motivated to do that."

He added of the defeat to Pep Guardiola's men: "You have to give credit to a team when they beat you, but when you analyse the game again, I think we lost it."

Arteta says Arsenal are relishing the opportunity to return to the top of the table when they face Villa.

He said: "It is normal that you want to get maximum points, which we didn't in the last few games. We have to improve because we want to win more games.

"So we are highly motivated for tomorrow's game because we want to perform well and win the game."

Meanwhile, Arteta condemned the behaviour of fans who threw objects at City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, who opened the scoring in the blockbuster midweek clash.

"Our fans were extraordinary in the game with their level of support and the way they helped to inspire the team," he said.

"There was an incident at the end that no-one is going to tolerate within this stadium and the club is investigating."

Mikel Arteta bemoaned Arsenal's mistakes handing Manchester City a significant psychological blow in the Premier League title race.

Pep Guardiola's champions battled to a 3-1 victory at Emirates Stadium to move ahead of Arsenal, who have played a game fewer, on goal difference at the top-flight summit.

Kevin De Bruyne punished Takehiro Tomiyasu's errant pass to open the scoring before second-half goals for Jack Grealish and Erling Haaland ensured Bukayo Saka's first-half equalising penalty would prove irrelevant.

Manager Arteta, who coached City under Guardiola before taking the Arsenal role, acknowledged the Gunners were punished for their mistake-laden display in north London.

"We lost it, it was an incredible battle against two teams and we had them - but we gave them the goals," Arteta, who has lost eight of nine games against Guardiola in all competitions, told Amazon Prime Video.

"We had them in big moments, but in the big moments they were better than us. We were really imprecise, we put ourselves in trouble, in certain areas of the pitch we overplayed and we got punished.

"We had three big chances but didn't put them away and that was the difference. To beat them we have to be over our level because they are such a good team.

"The atmosphere and performance was really good, if you take away the way we gave them three goals."

Despite defeat, Arteta says the performance only served to further his belief Arsenal can claim their first title since the 2003-04 'Invincibles' campaign.

"I have more belief than I had before the game, with the performance and the level the team put in against City," he added to BBC Sport.

"They wanted to play a different game than the one we played and with the crowd we have we can do it.

"They still have it [the belief], I can sense it. They feel they can do it."

City had just 36 per cent possession in the victory, the lowest figure on the ball in a league game for a team managed by Guardiola in his top-flight managerial career.

While dominating possession, Arsenal's only shot on target in the game came from Saka's penalty after Eddie Nketiah was felled by Ederson.

Captain Martin Odegaard was far from his usual lofty standards and the Norway international lamented his side's performance at either end of the pitch.

"The game is decided in the boxes and we were not sharp enough in front of the goal and in our own [box] as well," Odegaard told Amazon Prime Video.

"They were better [in the boxes]. Apart from that, we played a good game, did many good things and had many good periods, but we have to be better in the boxes.

"It is football. Sometimes chances go in, sometimes not. But that is where we need to improve and be more clinical. And [we must] defend our box. That is not just about one player, but the whole team.

"As we have said all season, work hard and take it game by game. It is the same now.

"It is one game we have lost here and now we look to the next one.

"It was an unbelievable atmosphere and we are so grateful to everyone who came here and made the game special. We will work hard to give them something to make them happy about."

After going three straight Premier League games without a win, Arsenal travel to play Aston Villa on Saturday.

Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Erling Haaland all scored to put Manchester City top of the Premier League with a vital 3-1 victory against title rivals Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal headed into Wednesday's top-two clash with a three-point lead, but De Bruyne ruthlessly punished Takehiro Tomiyasu's error for the opener,

Bukayo Saka's penalty looked to have maintained Arsenal's advantage at the summit, only for Grealish to strike in the 72nd minute before Haaland added a third to make it seven straight away victories for City against the Gunners.

Arsenal drop points for a third game in a row, though they do hold a game in hand over City as they look to win their first title since the 2003-04 'Invincibles' campaign.

Eddie Nketiah missed a golden early opportunity when he headed Oleksandr Zinchenko's pinpoint cross wide, and Arsenal were made to pay moments later, De Bruyne latching onto Tomiyasu's shocking backpass before lofting first-time into the net.

After Tomiyasu skied a decent chance to atone for his mistake by volleying over, the Gunners were awarded a penalty when Nketiah was wiped out by Ederson, who avoided a second yellow having been previously booked for time-wasting.

Saka stepped up, and coolly stroked into the bottom-left corner to restore parity heading into the break, though City did hit the bar in added-time when Rodri's header deflected off Nathan Ake and onto the woodwork.

The hosts received a huge let-off after the interval when a penalty was awarded for Gabriel hauling down Haaland, with a VAR review adjudging the City striker to have been offside before the foul had taken place.

Grealish, having been fed by Ilkay Gundogan, excellently buried a low effort into the bottom corner to restore City's advantage, before Haaland expertly drilled past Aaron Ramsdale having been teed up by De Bruyne eight minute from time to secure what could prove to be a vital triumph.

Manchester City make the trip to Arsenal on Wednesday with the opportunity to move top of the Premier League table at the expense of their opponents for the first time in over three months.

Not since November 6, when Arsenal beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge with another statement victory, has a side other than the Gunners led the way at the summit.

But after only two wins in their past five matches for Arsenal, and three wins in four for City, a gap that stood at eight points less than a month ago has been cut to just three ahead of their showdown at Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal still have a game in hand, while the sides also still have to face off again at the Etihad Stadium in April, but the signs are pretty ominous as City chase down a fifth league title in six seasons.

A positive result for Arsenal in midweek in front of their supporters would change that perspective, but meetings between these sides over the past five seasons have only gone one way.

Ahead of their top-of-the-table tussle in north London, Stats Perform looks at Arsenal's terrible record in this fixture in more detail and whether another defeat would pave the way for yet another City title.



Not since Arsenal's most recent title tilt, back in 2015-16 when Leicester City pulled off the shock of all shocks, have they defeated Manchester City in the Premier League.

The fact Theo Walcott was on target for Arsenal in that December 2015 win, along with the evergreen Olivier Giroud, with Mesut Ozil the man pulling the strings in midfield, goes a long way to highlighting just how long ago that rare triumph was.

Since then, Arsenal have failed to beat City in 13 attempts in the top flight, losing the past 10 of those. Needless to say, that stretch of defeats is their worst run against any opponent in the competition's history.

Indeed, should they lose again on Wednesday, only four teams in Premier League history will have lost more times on the bounce against a single opponent.

That is not to say Arsenal haven't had any joy in this fixture in recent years, having defeated City en route to winning the FA Cup in the 2016-17 and 2019-20 campaigns.

Normal service was resumed, though, when the Citizens saw off a much-changed Arsenal 1-0 in last month's fourth-round tie.


City's remarkable run in this fixture includes six straight wins at Emirates Stadium in all competitions – as many victories as in their previous 61 visits to Arsenal and one short of setting an outright record for most wins in a row away to the Gunners by any club.

But exactly why is it that Arsenal have fared so badly against City, despite having Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery, Freddie Ljungberg and now Arteta in the dugout across their 10-game losing run?

The Gunners were on the end of a 5-0 thrashing in their last league visit to the Etihad Stadium in August 2021, though they put up far more of a fight in losing 'only' 2-1 when the sides met in London on New Year's Day last year.

That game is best remembered for Rodri scoring a winner in the third minute of stoppage time for City, a dramatic end to an incident-packed encounter after Arsenal had Gabriel Magalhaes dismissed for an avoidable red card.

Even then it was clear Arteta's patient work was paying off at Arsenal; though despite performing well, a fifth successive loss against his former club had a sense of inevitability about it for the Spaniard.

Gabriel's sending-off changed the complexion of that contest, while Granit Xhaka's dismissal opened the floodgates for City in their five-goal hammering in last season's other encounter.


Keeping 11 players on the field will be a good start for Arsenal if they are to finally take a point or more off City, but will Arteta be tempted to – as we have seen countless times from his mentor Guardiola – change things up?

That might make sense after going two games without a Premier League win for the first time this season, especially considering Arteta has named an unchanged team for six straight games.

Never before have Arsenal stuck with the same line-up for seven games in the competition, and with January recruits Leandro Trossard and Jorginho among those pushing for starts, maybe that record will stay intact for a bit longer.

Perhaps this goes beyond personnel and formation, though. For if Arsenal are to end their City jinx, they need to overcome a mental barrier that's seen Guardiola have his own way for the past five years in league meetings.

Given the fine margins, it's difficult to bill the two meetings between the sides over the next 10 weeks as anything other than title deciders.

Unbeaten in 13 home league matches – their best run since the 2018-19 season – and up against a City side on a two-game losing streak on their travels, it really does feel like now or never for Arsenal.

"The conditions next season won't be as favourable for Arsenal," legendary former Gunners boss Arsene Wenger said in the days leading up to the biggest Premier League game of the season. "So let's not waste this opportunity."

Overcome their City hoodoo on Wednesday and Arsenal truly will be favourites to land a first title since 2003-04 under Wenger; suffer another defeat and City's ascent towards another title under Guardiola will be in full swing.

Mikel Arteta hopes to see Arsenal rise to the challenge set for them by Manchester City on Wednesday as they aim to reach the Premier League champions' standard.

Arsenal are three points clear of City at the top of the table heading into their crunch clash at Emirates Stadium.

The match was originally scheduled for October and postponed, meaning this is the first time the top two have faced one another in the league this season, though they did face off in the FA Cup fourth round last month, with City winning 1-0.

City can leapfrog Arsenal with a victory and have a clear advantage in terms of title-winning experience, but manager Arteta sees this as an important hurdle for his players to get over.

"What [City] have done the last six years, they absolutely merit it, they merit it on the pitch, the way they play, the way they have competed, the way they have gone through difficulties," said Arteta, a former City coach who again refused to discuss their alleged breaches of financial regulations.

"For us, the challenge is to get to that level. We need to use that challenge and that energy. This is what we want to be. This is the level and we are heading towards it."

Arteta, who spent much of his pre-match news conference instead discussing Saturday's VAR controversy against Brentford, anticipates motivation being no issue for his side against City.

"There is great energy," he said. "I sensed it since I arrived from after the Brentford game.

"From the staff and everyone at the club, there was a mixture of anger and desire to play the next game. We need to use that."

The Arsenal manager expects a similar attitude from the supporters, adding: "We will play with 15 players. They are so into it for every single ball, giving us energy, support.

"Let's enjoy a beautiful night and a really special day."

Mikel Arteta has not accepted the VAR blunder that cost Arsenal two points against Brentford was simply "human error", even if he appreciated a "really genuine, sincere and open" apology.

Arsenal drew 1-1 with Brentford at Emirates Stadium on Saturday after Ivan Toney's equalising goal was allowed to stand.

The goal was teed up by Christian Norgaard, who had been offside in the build-up.

Lee Mason, the VAR official working on that game, had checked for a separate offence but did not spot the offside in what the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the body responsible for referees in English football, described as a "significant" error.

Mason has not been allocated a fixture for the coming weekend as a result.

Although Arteta said it was important not to "crucify" the official, he suggested Mason had not merely made an error and instead did not know how to do his job.

Having described the "huge anger and disappointment" Arsenal felt upon reviewing the footage, Arteta added: "That was not a human error. That was a big, big, big [case of] not understanding your job.

"That's not acceptable, I'm sorry. That cost Arsenal two points, and that's not going to be restored, so we're going to have to find those two points somewhere else in the league."

Arsenal face Premier League title rivals Manchester City on Wednesday, but the pre-match news conference was dominated by discussion of the Toney goal.

Again suggesting Mason had not simply made a mistake, Arteta said: "That was something else. I wasn't having it; the club wasn't having it."

Still, Arteta welcomed the dialogue Arsenal had received around the incident, even if he was not "satisfied".

"I will be only satisfied if they give me the two points back, which is not going to be the case," he said.

"I appreciate and think they were really genuine, sincere and open apologies and explanations, which is really good, but it doesn't change the fact we have two less points than we should have in the table."

Indeed, City can now overtake Arsenal in the table with victory at Emirates Stadium, so Arteta knows how important it is to leave a frustrating episode behind them.

"That's it. We have to move on. It's certainly made our players, our staff and our fans even stronger and with more desire," he said. "We are ready."

Arteta added: "We cannot do anything about it. Don't use it as an excuse. Try to move on and face it."

Arsenal and Brighton and Hove Albion were victims of "significant" human errors during Saturday's Premier League action, according to the body responsible for match officials in English football.

Ivan Toney equalised against the Gunners at Emirates Stadium to ultimately secure Brentford a 1-1 draw, but the goal should not have stood due to Christian Norgaard – who nudged the ball across goal for the assist – having previously been in an offside position.

VAR Lee Mason failed to spot it despite the goal going to a review to check if Ethan Pinnock had been offside.

Also on Saturday, Brighton were denied a winning goal when Pervis Estupinan had his strike ruled out for offside – the VAR seemingly deemed the wrong Crystal Palace defender to be the deepest player.

The Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) admitted there were mistakes.

A statement read: "PGMOL can confirm its chief refereeing officer Howard Webb has contacted both Arsenal and Brighton and Hove Albion to acknowledge and explain the significant errors in the VAR process in their respective Premier League fixtures on Saturday.

"Both incidents, which were due to human error and related to the analysis of offside situations, are being thoroughly reviewed by PGMOL."

PGMOL did not comment on the controversy that occurred at London Stadium, however, where Chelsea were denied a late penalty when West Ham's Tomas Soucek handled the ball in the box.

Chelsea boss Graham Potter sarcastically praised Soucek for a "good save" after the game.

Mikel Arteta revealed Arsenal had lodged a complaint over an Ivan Toney equaliser they felt should have been ruled out in a 1-1 Premier League draw with Brentford on Saturday.

Arsenal missed a chance to go eight points clear of Manchester City at the top of the table as they were held by the in-form Bees in a London derby at Emirates Stadium.

January signing Leandro Trossard came off the bench to opening the scoring with his first goal for the club in the second half, but Toney denied the leaders with a header after 74 minutes.

There was a long VAR check before Toney's goal was finally allowed to stand, with Ethan Pinnock appearing to be standing in offside position as a free-kick was delivered.

Striker Toney nodded in from close range after the Gunners failed to deal with the set-piece, but Arsenal manager Arteta does not believe the Bees striker's 15th goal of the season should have been given.

The Spaniard said: "I've just looked at it back and it is offside. We will probably get an explanation later on in the week, but today we haven't got that. It’s too late – it's fine, it's a goal. It's irrelevant."

Asked if they had made their feelings clear to the Premier League, he replied: "Yes, we did at the end of the game with them, and we said our views."

Toney hit the crossbar in the first half and Brentford were good value fo a point that extended their winning run to 10 top-flight games.

Arsenal are six points clear of City, who face Aston Villa on Sunday before a mouthwatering battle between the top two next Wednesday, and Arteta praised his players despite not being at their best again following a defeat at Everton last weekend.

He added: "I think it as a really strong performance. I think it's a really tricky team to play against. It is frustrating, but this is the Premier League.

"I'm delighted with how the boys tried, how much they want it. The reaction when they drop two points, they're in a great place."

Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Jesus are back in light training ahead of Arsenal's Premier League clash with Brentford.

Smith Rowe has missed most of the 2022-23 season with groin and thigh injuries, making just six appearances for the Gunners, all from the bench.

Speaking to the media before Saturday's game at Emirates Stadium, manager Mikel Arteta confirmed Smith Rowe is among a trio of injured players back in training, but he did say the midfielder will still not be available for the weekend.

"The ones that were [out for a] long time, like Emile, Reiss [Nelson] and Gabi [Jesus], they are closer," he said. "They started to do some work outside, but they are not ready to contribute yet."

The eventual return of Jesus will also be a boost for the league leaders, with the Brazilian having played a key role in firing Arsenal up the table earlier in the campaign, but Arteta does not want to rush him back.

"We need to respect some timelines and some processes, but he is doing really well," the manager said. "You have to see now when you put some load on that knee and put some movement and how he reacts."

Arteta also insisted his team's "only focus is on Brentford tomorrow" and refused to be drawn on the Premier League's decision to refer title rivals Manchester City to an independent commission for alleged breaches of financial regulations.

The Spaniard previously worked at City under Pep Guardiola and said he did not see anything untoward while at the club.

Meanwhile, Arteta spoke effusively about how much he values people who bring energy, referring to himself as an "energy giver".

"As a young manager, I love energy," he said. "I am an energy giver, I don't like energy suckers.

"I like people who give energy in many different ways. Sometimes it's with body language, with tone of voice, hugging people, looking for solutions and not excuses. I love energy."

Arteta also spoke of his admiration for Folarin Balogun, who is enjoying a productive loan spell in Ligue 1 this season.

The 21-year-old striker has scored 15 goals in 23 games for Reims, and the boss of his parent club explained the decision to send him to France.

"[I am] so happy for him," he said. "He's a boy with a really clear idea of what he wants to do in his career. And he's really brave. We discussed before whether it was the right place to go, and I'm really pleased for him.

"Obviously when you look at the numbers and what he's doing, it's incredible, but he's got something special, that's why we gave him a long-term contract."

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is still "so proud" of his players despite the leaders slipping to a 1-0 defeat at lowly Everton in the Premier League on Saturday.

The defeat, which came courtesy of James Tarkowski's second-half header at Goodison Park, was just Arsenal's second of the Premier League season – their first coming against Manchester United at Old Trafford in September.

The result means Manchester City can cut the Gunners' lead at the top of the table to just two points with victory over Tottenham on Sunday, although the London side will have a game in hand.

Arteta, who became the first Arsenal manager to lose three consecutive away Premier League games against the Toffees, lamented his side's inability to deal with Everton's physical threat, but hopes it will act as an important lesson for the remainder of the season. 

“We had loads of the ball and we generated many chances, but we lacked that purpose and quality in the final third," he told BT Sport.

"Then we conceded and they slowed the game down and we struggled.

"They do this to every team. Their physicality is their strength. If you want to control the game against them you have to control this. We did not do that.

"We needed more composure and to better control the game emotionally. We gave away so many unnecessary free-kicks and that's what they want.

"Today I love them much better than the week before or a month ago. It is easy to be next to someone when they are winning well. I am still so proud of all of these players, they deserve it.

"This is not going to be a rosy pathway. This is going to be tricky and we will have to dig in and play much better than we did today."

Arsenal will hope to return to winning ways against Brentford next Saturday, before a mouth-watering clash with Pep Guardiola’s City four days later.

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