Arteta hopes maturing Arsenal not thrown off course by World Cup
LONDON – Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is hoping a six-week hiatus to the Premier League season does not come at the wrong time for his side after the Gunners moved five points clear at the top on Saturday.
Martin Odegaard scored twice as the Gunners won 2-0 at Wolverhampton Wanderers just hours after second-placed Manchester City suffered a shock 2-1 home loss to Brentford.
Arsenal have not won the league since 2003-04 and have failed to even finish in the top four for the past six seasons.
A return to the Champions League next season appears a formality with Arteta’s men eight points ahead of fourth-placed Tottenham (29), having played a game less.
And City’s unexpected first home defeat since February also sets up an intriguing title battle when the Premier League returns after the Nov 20-Dec 18 World Cup on Boxing Day.
“We showed another kind of maturity today,” said Arteta.
“In the first 20-30 minutes we struggled to break them down. We were much better in the second half and we had a bit more courage and took risks but also not allowing them to run.”
Eight of Arsenal’s starting line-up are now headed to Qatar as Arteta confirmed Granit Xhaka’s early substitution was just down to illness for the Swiss midfielder.
“I don’t know (if the World Cup will disrupt flow), I’ll touch wood and hope for the best,” he added on whether the break could count against Arsenal.
“When everyone is back we’ll assess where we are and go from there.
“I would train tomorrow but unfortunately they’re not here.
“I wish those going to the World Cup the best and they will look after themselves. I hope they enjoy it because it doesn’t get better than playing for your country.”
Despite his concerns over the mid-season break, Arteta added that it would provide Arsenal an opportunity to reflect and prepare for the second half of the season.
“It’s great to be where we are and we are enjoying that moment,” he said. “Now we have a big break and we have to reflect on what we’re doing and be prepared for after the World Cup.
“When a team is in that moment you want to carry on playing of course, but that’s not possible. We have to use that time as best as possible.”
Even with plenty of effort and passionate support from their fans at Molineux stadium, it was ultimately another miserable day for Wolves. They are bottom of the league on 10 points and have scored only eight goals this season.
The home side were watched by incoming manager Julen Lopetegui before he formally takes the reins. - REUTERS, AFP