Mikel Arteta praised “unique” teenager Bukayo Saka after Arsenal ended a miserable week by relegating West Brom with a 3-1 Premier League victory on Sunday.
The Gunners are facing the prospect of missing out on European football for the first time in 25 years next season after they were knocked out of the Europa League at the semi-final stage by Villarreal on Thursday.
A drab goalless draw against the Spanish side – coached by former Gunners boss Unai Emery – was a new low for Arsenal and piled more pressure on Arteta, but they responded with a first home win in seven games.
Emile Smith Rowe scored his maiden Premier League goal before Nicolas Pepe added a second with a sublime finish to put Arsenal in command.
Matheus Pereira pulled a goal back midway through the second half, but Willian finally opened his Arsenal account with a brilliant late free-kick as Baggies boss Sam Allardyce suffered the agony of relegation from the top tier for the first time.
Saka laid on the opening goal for Smith Rowe and has provided 19 assists in all competitions, the most of any player for the club since making his debut in November 2018.
19 – Bukayo Saka has made 19 assists in all competitions for @Arsenal, the most of any player for the club since making his debut in November 2018. Resourceful.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 9, 2021
The 19-year-old was a constant threat, delivering five crosses and producing two key passes in a performance that Arteta was more than happy with.
He told BT Sport: “Going forward we know Saka is a threat, he gives you something unique. He adapted. We believed we were going to attack against them and he gave us a lot of joy.”
Arsenal are ninth in the table with surely only pride to play for and Arteta is determined to avoid finishing such a disappointing season with a whimper.
He said: “We will try to win every match and see where we finish. The only thing we can do is win our games.”
The Spaniard added: “We needed that win. It has been a while since we won at home. We scored three fantastic goals and we had some great spells in the game. When we conceded the goal we did look nervy.
“We knew the necessity to win the game. They scored out of nothing and then throw everything at you, they know the situation they are in and we struggled to play that kind of game.
“We scored three fantastic goals but we missed some big chances too.”
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