Arsenal have been undefeated since August to increase their chances of returning to European football, with players like Emile Smith Rowe, Aaron Ramsdale, Bakary Sako and Ben White all playing key roles
Mikel Arteta has claimed that the English backbone of his new Arsenal side is part of the modern mix that has propelled the north London club into a surprise run for the Champions League.
Emile Smith Rowe and Aaron Ramsdale followed Bakary Sako and Ben White on their England debut last week.
And they return to the club in search of a win at Anfield today to extend Arsenal’s unbeaten streak to 11 games – and hoist them above Liverpool in fourth place.
Former Arsenal big teams had a solid core of home players with Arsene Wenger’s French revolution adding top foreign stars.
And Arteta has slowly replaced the old guard with a new generation that mixes the best of the British – Kieran Tierney has been another vital signing – in a “multicultural squad” with players from the academy and around the world.
The Spaniard said: “We are an English club and now we have a lot of academies, local and English players. I think you have to respect this core, these values and this history as well. But this mix, this multicultural team that we have is very, very beneficial and very necessary also in modern football. “
And Arteta has said the performances of his Three Lions – and especially striker Smith Rowe – were further justification for Arsenal’s quiet progress.
“I saw him yesterday and he was delighted to score a goal for his country,” said the Gunners boss. “It’s always special and he made us proud. Not just him, but Bukayo and Aaron starting for the national team, I think that’s a good sign for the club.
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Liverpool at lunchtime today promises a very different challenge from the ride to San Marino. The last time Arsenal won at Anfield was in September 2012, when Arteta was still in midfield. “It’s been a while so it’s time to start over,” he smiles.
But in a Premier League ranking since Boxing Day, the Gunners would be fourth and after the worst start since 1954/55, the Champions League rather than avoiding relegation has become the goal for Arsenal fans.
“For me it’s positive,” he said. It means there is excitement and they want to push us. This club aims to be the best, not even to be fourth. So this mentality and this motivation is due to our history. “Whether we can do it or not, we’ll see what we can do. But the level of expectation must always be the highest.
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Arteta has insisted his team are in a better position to continue to challenge this season after appearing in eight domestic games without a win at this point last season. And the Spaniard also welcomed the return of the crowds to energize his young team. “I really see a big change and the impact it has on the team and the performance of the players is huge,” he said. “It increases the level of our team.
But the 10-game unbeaten streak began after a 5-0 mauling at Manchester City. And Jurgen Klopp’s side will give Arsenal’s ambitions a real test this season.
“You have to be at your best and raise the level to your maximum standards, emotionally, physically, tactically, because if you don’t you will be exposed,” Arteta said. “Going to Anfield is always a test, but if you are able to do it, there aren’t many reasons as good as there to feel that you are a good footballer.”