Mikel Arteta has challenged Arsenal’s attacking players to step up in the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with the Gunners boss giving his thoughts on Eddie Nketiah’s chances.
The Gabonese forward received a red card for violent conduct during Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace in the Premier League.
It means Aubameyang, who has 16 goals in all competitions this season, will miss the club’s next three games, which includes a trip to Chelsea later this month.
Record signing Nicolas Pepe has found the net five times this term while Alexandre Lacazette has six goals to his name, but not struck for the Gunners since December 12.
“They have to make a step forward now. If he (Aubameyang) is not able to contribute to the team with goals like this, then someone else has to do it and I want to see that reaction too,” Arteta said, with the Gunners boss taking the unusual step of apologising to Crystal Palace midfielder Max Meyer after the game.
“Probably the most important player is missing so it is not nice, but we have other players who can play in that position and we will find a way and be as competitive as possible.”
Brazilian youngster Gabriel Martinelli is Arsenal’s second top goalscorer this season with a tally of eight, although the majority of them have occurred in cup competitions.
It was put to Arteta that one possible solution could be to hand Nketiah a chance up top after he returned early from his loan spell at Leeds.
He insisted: “At the moment we have to think mid-to-long term with Eddie. We have to respect his evolution and development and we don’t have to make a decision just based on two or three games.”
While it will take time for Arteta’s methods to completely get over to his players, they have markedly improved since the latter days of Unai Emery’s tenure and Freddie Ljungberg’s brief caretaker spell in charge.
A big feature is an increase in Arsenal committing tactical fouls, although that slightly tipped over the edge at Selhurst Park with the visitors making 22 – the most they have made in their five matches under the Spaniard.
“I ask them to go 100mph to chase the ball and to be very aggressive when we don’t have it and to win it as quick as possible and they try to do that,” Arteta explained.
“We need to know there are certain areas where we can do that and others against this type of team where it can be dangerous because they bring the two centre-backs up and put the ball into the box and you have to defend.
“It is a consequence and sequence of many things that happen afterwards and we need to know how to play these situations a little bit better. In terms of the effort and the spirit they show, it was top.”