Mikel Arteta warned Arsenal they will need to get better at managing games when they are ahead, but was very pleased with their performance against Sheffield United.
Arsenal returned to winning ways after losing to Liverpool in their most recent Premier League match, with Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe scoring in a 2-1 win.
David McGoldrick restored some hope for their opponents, but the Gunners held on to claim a place in the top four.
While Arteta was disappointed that they couldn’t score a third goal while on top, the Arsenal manager was happy with how they reacted to their opponents tiring.
“I’m really pleased,” he told Sky Sports. “A really difficult opponent, for many moments in the game we had total control.
“In the first half it was tricky because they are very organised. The moment they started to fatigue and we started to understand a little bit better the spaces, we increased a little bit ball circulation, speed as well, and we started to attack with more purpose.
“We generated many issues to them. We scored two fantastic goals.
“But it’s the Premier League, and at the end, if you don’t score the third and you concede one, you are always exposed, so we had to hang in there.”
Arsenal ended the game with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in a central striking position, flanked by Willian and Pepe.
The trio looked exciting together, with Pepe scoring their second goal less than 10 minutes after coming on.
And Arteta was impressed by how he made an impact, as the manager explained why he deployed the three players at the same time.
“We have good options up front,” he said. “The way the game was developing, I believed that Auba was going to be a threat there and we could release Willian into some spaces to create issues for the opponent.
“This is what I demand to everybody in the squad who is on the bench: to come and make an impact. And Nico did it today, so I’m really happy for him as well.”
Arteta praises Saka and Bellerin
Speaking of Arsenal’s other goalscorer, Arteta admitted that he was pleasantly surprised by Saka scoring a header.
“I’m very impressed because I didn’t expect a header from him to score a goal. That’s a new thing from him, something that he needs to add to his game, so I’m really pleased with him.”
Both assists came from right-back Hector Bellerin, and Arteta hailed the improvements that his Spanish compatriot has made.
“I think he’s improving day by day. Defensively he’s doing a lot of work individually with the coaches, and with the ball in the final third he feels much more comfortable.
“It’s great, we need full-backs to add creativity in the final third and he was very helpful today.”