Mikel Arteta wants Arsenal to come back from the break and fight for the title

Mikel Arteta has urged his players to return fit and hungry from the international break to continue Arsenal’s Premier League title bid.

The Gunners are eight points clear at the top of the table after a comfortable 4-1 win over the unmanaged Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium.

Bukayo Saka was the star again as he scored twice and set up the opener for Gabriel Martinelli. This made him the first Premier League player this season to have double digits in both goals and assists.

Four years later, after berating his own fans as his substitution was hailed in that game, Granit Xhaka continued his fine season as he scored the third goal after the break.

Palace, who sacked former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira as boss on Friday, at least put themselves on the scorers’ list as Jeffrey Schlupp’s consolation ended a nearly seven-hour goalless run in the second half under caretaker Paddy McCarthy.

Saka is now one of several players to leave for international duty as England begin their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign against Italy and Ukraine.

Gabriel Jesus underwent knee surgery after suffering an injury at the World Cup and at such a crucial stage in the campaign Arteta will have his fingers crossed that he returns to the international contingent unharmed.

Bukayo Saka

Bukayo Saka scored twice and set up another (John Walton/PA)

“I want to think positively. Touch wood, but I want to think positively,” he said.

“They’re going to have to play games, they’ve got to do it like they’re doing here, or possibly even better with their country.

“We are in contact with everyone, they know how to take care of them and hopefully everything will work out.

“(My message is) they really take care of themselves during this time. We will take care of the players that are here with us.

“That they come back with the same attitude and hunger from before to go to Leeds, which is the only game that matters right now. We know it.”

Saka himself admitted that the team will continue to do everything they can if they return to winning ways despite falling out of the Europa League following a penalty shoot-out loss to Sporting Lisbon three days earlier.

“Of course we’re human and we get tired,” he said.

“It’s difficult sometimes, but the price at the end is worth giving everything, giving all our energy for it.

“Today you sometimes feel and see the tiredness in our body after 120 minutes of play and then you have to come back three days later to play here.

“But we have the belief and the desire that we want to do that this year and nothing can stop us. Especially not that we are tired.”

Palace remain in the relegation battle as Paddy McCarthy took charge of the Eagles for the first time after Patrick Vieira was sacked on Friday morning.

They are without a league win in 2023 and Schlupp’s goal ended a run of almost seven hours without a goal.

Paddy McCarthy

Paddy McCarthy has taken over the interim moves at Crystal Palace (John Walton/PA)

“It was hectic,” McCarthy admitted.

“You will be called into action and have two days. The guys gave everything and I can’t fault them. They’re a great group of guys, they’re great people and I definitely think they have more than enough to get out of this situation.

“We can take a lot of positive things from the game, we worked on their goalkeeper on several occasions. We started well and created two clear chances early in the game. Certainly a lot of positives, you could see the fight as a team and they went forward and pushed it.


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