‘Arsene picked the right time to come!’: Mikel Arteta lauds Gunners for giving Wenger performance he ‘deserved’, with club’s legendary French boss back at his old stomping ground for first time since 2018 to see win over West Ham
- Arsenal fought back to beat West Ham 3-1 and maintain their title surge
- Arsene Wenger was back for the first time since leaving as the manager
- Mikel Arteta said the players gave a performance the Frenchman deserved
Mikel Arteta says his players gave Arsene Wenger the performance he ‘deserved’ after the former Arsenal manager finally returned to the Emirates Stadium for the 3-1 win over West Ham on Boxing Day.
Wenger had not visited since his departure in 2018 following 22 years at the club but he was treated to a stirring comeback as Arsenal strengthened their position at the top of the Premier League.
With fans chanting his name throughout, Wenger saw Arsenal recover from going behind to Said Benrahma’s penalty with goals from Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah.
Arsene Wenger returned to the Emirates and was given a great reception
Bukayo Saka and Co put on a superb display with Arsenal winning 3-1 over West Ham
Arteta, who marked his three-year anniversary at Arsenal with a seventh straight home win, said: ‘Arsene picked the right moment. I thought the performance today was at the level he deserved.
‘The players didn’t know. It was a special day, so thank you so much [to Arsene] for coming. Walking through stadium he’s going to feel what everyone thinks of him…he’s been such an influence.’
Arsenal’s win took them seven points clear of Newcastle and eight ahead of Manchester City, who have a game in hand. Arteta was particularly pleased with the performance of Nketiah, who has to carry striking responsibilities in the absence of the injured Gabriel Jesus.
The Arsenal manager said: ‘I just gave him a big hug because he totally deserved that with the way he played today. It was a typical Nketiah goal, it was an outstanding performance from him.
‘You could feel in the last few games he was trying and didn’t score but he has the capacity to – we saw it every game in training and that will give him confidence. He showed it at the end of last year when playing more consistently, when you look at his numbers, they are really good and I am pleased to see what he did today.
‘Gabriel is still around the team still and he’s having an impact on the pitch even though he’s not playing. He’s helping Eddie.’
Arsenal are top of the league ahead of Newcastle and lead the charge for the title
The defeat has heightened the difficulties at West Ham, who sit only one point outside the bottom three. When asked if he had a message for fans, David Moyes said: ‘Just think of how the three years have gone. The trip to Europe. Just think of the three years. It has been fantastic.’
Despite his side being outplayed by Arsenal, Moyes believes Manchester City remain favourites for the league crown. He said: ‘I think Mikel might go on to be (a title-winning manager). Do I think they’re going to win it this year? I’m not sure. I think you’d be remiss if you don’t think of Man City. You’d be doing them down. They’ve got a fantastic team and there’ll be other teams that are a bit more used to being around the top, maybe a Liverpool later on.
‘That’s not to say that Mikel isn’t building a side capable but I think he’ll know that Man City will be the ones. They’ll come here and they’ll keep the ball off Arsenal. Arsenal kept the ball off us tonight, Man City will come here and keep the ball off Arsenal and it’ll become a different type of game for them.’
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