Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal fans are the soul of the club as the Premier League side seek to rebuild relationships in the aftermath of the European Super League debacle.

Arsenal were one of six English top-flight teams to sign up to the doomed breakaway project, hastily withdrawing alongside all their Premier League counterparts on Tuesday amid a backlash from fans, players, football authorities and even national governments.

Chief executive Vinai Venkatesham and director Josh Kroenke received a severe grilling when attempting to apologise to an Arsenal fans forum this week and protests outside Emirates Stadium are expected to precede Friday's game against Everton.

Arteta, a popular figure during his playing days with the Gunners, insists the fans have the respect of himself and his players after making their voices heard during a tumultuous episode.

"We want to listen to them, we totally respect them. They've been loud and clear and they've been heard," he said.

"They're going to be heard all the time because they are the soul of this football club and the soul of this industry.

"We're going to try to do the best we can to make them proud all the time and make their lives better by playing the way we want to play, winning football matches and trophies.

"That's our responsibility. If they can help in any way it is by giving support to the team because that is going to have an immense effect. It is so powerful and they have to realise that."

If anything, the spectacle of fans congregating outside stadia makes Arteta pine for a return to pre-pandemic normality, describing football behind closed doors as a "different sport".

"I want fans, I want to have that feeling that we are competing and have feeling behind us," he added.

"If not, it is a different sport. Let's get back to where we were before the pandemic and enjoy football in a different way."

Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta has applauded fans for killing the proposed European Super League with what he felt was arguably the "strongest message ever sent in the football world", likening the response to a "tsunami".

The Gunners were one of the 12 founding members of the planned Super League, a closed-shop competition that was announced on Sunday after years of speculation.

But the project never got off the ground as, within 48 hours of it being revealed, the plans were left in ruins as the six Premier League clubs pulled out.

Following an almost universal backlash, Manchester City – whose manager Pep Guardiola railed against the general concept – withdrew first, with Chelsea apparently preparing to do so at the same time.

Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham then released simultaneous statements later in the day confirming their disassociation with the tournament, which was set to rival the Champions League but guarantee participation for the founding clubs.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, who was set to front the Super League as chairman, has insisted the plans are not dead, but with the English clubs issuing apologies to their supporters, the idea will take some resurrecting.

And Arteta, addressing the media for the first time since the initial announcement, applauded the actions of supporters in forcing the U-turn.

He said: "I think this has given a big lesson. It shows the importance of football in the world, and shows that the soul of this sport belongs to the fans, and that's it.

"We've been trying to sustain this industry with no fans in the pandemic, but when they have to come out and talk, they do so loud and clear and they sent probably the strongest message that has ever been sent in the football world.

"Every club has done the right thing, we have to listen to them [the fans]. In 24 hours they killed the project, it's a massive statement for the history of football.

"I found out just a little before the news was leaked. Then everything was out of control and the world reacted in a really unified manner. There was no time to think or reflect because by the time that was out, a tsunami killed it."

Arsenal were the first to issue an apology to supporters as they published an open letter from the board when their withdrawal was confirmed, while Arteta confirmed all club officials involved have apologised to him and the players.

Asked if an internal apology had been communicated, Arteta said: "Yes, from Vinai [Venkatesham, CEO], the ownership and everyone involved in the process, all of them with the right intentions to defend the club put the club in the best position for now and future, but accepting the way it has been handled has had terrible consequences and that it was a mistake.

"I have to really respect that when people have genuine intentions to do the best thing for the club but if it doesn't happen or isn't the right thing to do, they can stand up and apologise. I think the players and staff, we have to move on. The way it has been handled internally has been very good."

As for communication from the Kroenkes, the family that owns the club, Arteta added: "Absolutely [they apologised], they are the maximum responsible to run the football club.

"They apologised for disturbing the team and not having the capacity or ability to communicate in a different way earlier, explained the reasons why, and passed on the message to the players. That's all you can ask for and I have to accept completely."

It remains to be seen if there will be any punishment for Arsenal and the other clubs involved, as points deductions, fines and Champions League bans have all been mooted.

Arteta feels Arsenal have to be ready to face – and accept – the consequences of their actions.

"I don't know the legal details to respond to that," he said. "When you act, there are always consequences. I don't know the extent of those consequences.

"I think here we have to understand the principle and why those clubs were trying to achieve something, but if it wasn't done in the right way, there are always consequences and we'll have to accept that if there are."

Mikel Arteta insists he knows nothing about Arsenal being involved in a European Super League.

Widespread reports emerged on Sunday claiming that up to 12 clubs – including the Premier League's 'big six' – were set to announce the new competition.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal are said to have been joined by teams from Italy and Spain in backing the plans.

UEFA issued a strong response condemning the apparent proposals, vowing to do everything in its power to block the move, and its statement was co-signed by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), LaLiga, the English Football Association (FA), the Premier League, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and Serie A.

European football's governing body also reiterated a threat it has made before, that it would bar clubs from taking part in other competitions, while it also suggested FIFA still plans to ban players from playing at the World Cup if they feature in such a 'Super League'.

Aside from other footballing authorities, the plans have been met with widespread condemnation, but Arteta was not willing to add to the dissenting voices.

Speaking after ninth-placed Arsenal were held to a 1-1 draw with relegation-threatened Fulham in the Premier League on Sunday, Arteta said: "I don't know anything about it.

"I don't know. Once I know every detail and I have all the information then I can evaluate and give you my opinion."

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is rumoured to be heading up the new league, while the owners of Liverpool, United and Arsenal are reported to be filling vice-chairman roles.

It has been suggested an announcement from the clubs in question could come as early as 21:30 BST on Sunday.

Eddie Nketiah scored a dramatic late equaliser as Arsenal rescued a 1-1 draw at home to Fulham, who subsequently moved a step closer to relegation.

Scott Parker's side looked to be on course for a first ever win at Arsenal in any competition, but the Gunners spared their blushes – to a certain extent – deep into stoppage time.

Gabriel Martinelli was Arsenal's biggest threat throughout but saw presentable opportunities go begging, while a Dani Ceballos goal was disallowed for a marginal offside spotted by VAR in the first half.

The visitors took the lead against the run of play thanks to a Josh Maja penalty and Arsenal lost Alexandre Lacazette to injury soon after, but what would have ordinarily been a bitter blow seemingly led to the late equaliser, with the Frenchman's replacement clinching a point for Arsenal.

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is "feeling good" after returning home from two days in hospital with malaria, manager Mikel Arteta has confirmed.

The Gabon striker has been left out of the squad for Arsenal's last two matches and revealed on social media on Thursday that he contracted the virus during the recent international break. 

Aubameyang posted a picture of himself in a hospital bed and wearing a gown, but he has now been discharged and his health is improving.

Speaking at a news conference after Arsenal's 4-0 win over Slavia Prague on Thursday evening, which saw his side through to the Europa League semi-finals 5-1 on aggregate, Arteta said: "We just spoke with him. He's at home, he's fine.

"He had two days in hospital to get the right treatment, but he's feeling good now.

"Everybody has been in contact with him. He's been really supportive with every team-mate through messages and calls.

"He was watching the game like everybody else at Colney. David [Luiz], Martin [Odegaard], Kieran [Tierney]. Everybody who has not been able to be involved.

"It is what it is, these things happen. He travelled to his country and he picked it up and you know that these risks always exist."

Aubameyang has sat out Arsenal's wins over Sheffield United and Slavia, but he started the 3-0 loss to Liverpool on April 3 and was a second-half substitute in last week's first-leg against the Czech champions.

"When he wasn't involved against Sheffield United, two days before he wasn't feeling good, but nobody could expect that was the case," Arteta added.

"They did some more tests and that's when it came up and straight away the doctor realised very quickly what had to be done and they did a great job. He's safe and he's feeling good."

Aubameyang has not scored for Arsenal since the 1-1 draw with Burnley on March 6 in the Premier League - one of 14 goals he has managed in all competitions this season.

Arsenal host Fulham and Everton in their next two Premier League games, before the first leg of their Europa League semi-final with Villarreal on April 29.

Arteta is unsure when Aubameyang will be fit enough to return but is hopeful of having his captain back involved sooner rather than later.

"We'll see how he recovers," Arteta said. "I think he will need a few days to recover from that. He wants to back as soon as possible, that's what he said to me.

"But I don't know. If the treatment is efficient it shouldn't take too long."

Arsenal have won eight, drawn five and lost nine of the 22 Premier League games Aubameyang has started this term, compared to five wins, one draw and three losses in the nine games he has not started.

The Gunners also average more goals per game without Aubameyang in their line-up - 1.8 compared to 1.2 - while their average goals against figure rises from 1.0 to 1.2 when he is not included in the XI.

Mikel Arteta was delighted with Arsenal's clinical victory over Slavia Prague but has warned his side face a tough test against former boss Unai Emery's Villarreal in the Europa League semi-finals.

The Gunners entered Thursday's quarter-final second leg with the tie delicately poised at 1-1, but they produced one of their best displays under Arteta to win 4-0 at Sinobo Stadium and advance 5-1 on aggregate.

Nicolas Pepe added to his first-leg strike by opening the scoring in the Czech capital, setting Arsenal on their way to a straightforward win as an Alexandre Lacazette penalty and long-range Bukayo Saka strike followed inside the first 24 minutes.

Lacazette rounded off the scoring in the second half to confirm a semi-final tie with Villarreal - 3-1 aggregate winners over Dinamo Zagreb - and a reunion with Emery, who was sacked by Arsenal in November 2019 and replaced by Arteta.

Emery has previously won the Europa League three times with Sevilla, while also losing the 2018-19 final against Chelsea during his time at Arsenal, and Arteta is aware of the size of the task now facing his side over two legs.

"It will be really tough and Unai Emery is probably the most successful manager in this competition," he told BT Sport. "There is still a lot to do and things we can improve on, but we have a real desire to improve and be better every day."

Arsenal are effectively relying on the Europa League to salvage their campaign and secure a place in Europe next season, the Gunners sitting ninth in the Premier League with seven games to play.

Arteta was particularly pleased with the way his side responded to having an Emile Smith Rowe goal chalked off at 0-0 on the day as his side held on for back-to-back clean sheets, and a first shutout in eight European games

"We started really well in a convincing way, aggressive in our high press," he said. "We looked a threat all the time. 

"I really like the reaction of the team to the goal being disallowed. We scored some great goals. The clean sheet is important as well, the second one in two games.

"It helped the way we played against Sheffield United. The players were in high confidence, when performances are so high the collective improves. The boys were really at it from the start.

"It is a really important win in a crucial moment. We won in a convincing way, so credit to the players."

Smith Rowe may have been denied a goal by VAR, but he set up Pepe for the opener - his seventh assist in all competitions this season, which is the joint-most of any Arsenal player alongside Willian.

With his strike later in the first half, meanwhile, Saka became Arsenal's joint-top teenage scorer in major European competition, matching the four goals scored by Charlie George and Ray Kennedy.

"For me it's a joy to watch them play to watch them every day in training," Arteta said at his post-match news conference when asked about the young pair's performance. "The passion and the commitment they have for the club is special.

"I'm really happy with all of the players. We came to a tough place to face a team that hasn't lost at home in almost two years.

"I think when we demanded efficiency from them and today is a good example of the efficiency you need in Europe to win matches."

Saka, who now has seven goals to his name in all competitions this season, added to BT Sport: "It shows everyone how exciting we can be. When we play like this it is so amazing to be involved in. 

"We have a chance of going to the final and winning this competition - now it is up to us. We look forward to the next opponent."

Arsenal youngster Folarin Balogun is "very close" to signing a new contract, according to manager Mikel Arteta.

The 19-year-old England youth international had looked likely to leave the Gunners at the end of the season on a free transfer after struggling to break into the senior squad on a regular basis.

However, talks over a new deal appear to have progressed well and Arteta believes the player will commit his future to the north London club.

Speaking on Wednesday, he said: "We are going to make it official when it is official and everything is done, but as I said before, I have always been very positive that he wants to stay at the club. We want him to stay at the club. We are very close."

Balogun has scored 55 goals in 78 appearances for Arsenal in youth-league competition and netted for the senior side in Europa League group-stage wins over Molde and Dundalk.

Arteta now wants to explore why he was considering pursuing his career elsewhere.

"First of all, I have just been trying to understand why he got to the point that he was really thinking about leaving the football club after being raised here and the feelings that he has got towards the club," he said.

"Once you understand the position of him, then [you] try to explain what you want to do, how involved he is going to be in the project and how. Then get the full commitment and support from the club, and [technical director] Edu, who I think has done an incredible job as well."

On the pitch, Arsenal's focus is now on Thursday's Europa League quarter-final second leg against Slavia Prague, who scored an injury-time equaliser to force a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture.

Given they are ninth in the Premier League table, their best hope of returning to Europe next season would appear to be through winning the Europa League this term.

Goalkeeper Bernd Leno admits it is difficult to conceive of a club of Arsenal's size missing out on continental competition entirely.

"You could see after the game how disappointed we've been. But it's still half-time. You could see how big this game was for us, and tomorrow even more," he said.

"When you think about the future without Arsenal in European competition, it doesn't feel right. Our job is to make sure it doesn't come true. Arsenal belong to Europe, and that's our target.

"It's never easy when you change the defence all the time, but it's not an excuse. We have so many games, we have to rotate, we had some injuries. The other teams also changed their defensive line.

"Everybody knows what to do. We have a big squad, good quality. It's not only the defence and the relationship with the goalkeeper; it's the whole team that defends the goal."

Mikel Arteta was waiting to learn the extent of an apparent thigh injury suffered by Bukayo Saka, who limped off during Arsenal's 3-0 win over Sheffield United.

Saka helped set up Arsenal's opener, the first of two goals for Alexandre Lacazette, as they cruised to victory over the Premier League's bottom club.

But the Gunners had cause for concern when rising star Saka came off in evident discomfort, having not been fouled, four days before the second leg of a Europa League quarter-final with Slavia Prague that is all square at 1-1.

Still 10 points adrift of fourth-placed West Ham in the Premier League, Arsenal's Champions League hopes for next season rest on their Europa League campaign and Arteta knows the Gunners can ill-afford any absence for Saka, who played two key passes at Bramall Lane.

Arteta told BT Sport of the injury: "He had some discomfort in his thigh. I don't know what it is. The last thing we need is another attacking midfielder with another issue."

Speaking in his post-match media conference, Arteta added: "I don't know the extent. For Thursday, David [Luiz] and Kieran [Tierney] will be out.

"Emile [Smith-Rowe] and Martin [Odegaard] we don't know yet. Let's see how Bukayo develops in the next few days."

Gabriel Martinelli scored Arsenal's second goal, his first of the season having had his development interrupted by injury issues of his own.

But Arteta is confident Martinelli, 19,  is progressing in the right manner.

"I'm asking you to be patient because we have a lot of 19 and 20-year-old players," said Arteta.

"It's not common and Gabi is on the right path, with the right development. He's got an incredible attitude and talent."

Mikel Arteta stood by his decision to drop Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Arsenal's Europa League tie with Slavia Prague and backed his side to progress, despite a disappointing 1-1 draw in Thursday's quarter-final first leg.

Club captain Aubameyang was named among the substitutes on the back of Saturday's 3-0 loss to Liverpool and was not introduced until the 78th minute against Slavia with the game still goalless. 

The Gabon international made an impact by playing in Nicolas Pepe for Arsenal's opener eight minutes later - his 100th goal involvement for Arsenal in all competitions since joining from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018.

Arsenal failed to see out the victory on home soil, however, with Tomas Holes heading in a 93rd-minute equaliser that leaves the Gunners requiring at least one goal in next week's return leg in the Czech capital.

But despite Alexandre Lacazette missing a glorious chance when played clean through on goal and Bukayo Saka also failing to convert from a good position, Arteta felt he picked the right starting line-up against Slavia.

"I think the players I selected stepped in and gave absolutely everything," he said at his post-match news conference. "We managed the game really well. We were much more aggressive today and we created some big chances.

"When I made the substitutions I felt it was the right time to do so. Whether I should have done it earlier or not, who knows?"

Arteta confirmed ahead of the game that Aubameyang was left out for tactical reasons and he was pleased with the response shown by the striker, who has 14 goals in 33 appearances this season.

"When he came on he showed the right attitude," the Spaniard said. "I cannot talk with everybody individually every week, but we try to be as transparent as possible."

Holes' late leveller was his first goal in major European competition in his 14th such appearance and leaves Arsenal with work to do in what is a make-or-break clash in Prague next week.

Arsenal are now winless in four matches and have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last 14 games in all competitions, but Arteta has full confidence his side will reach the semi-finals for a third time in four seasons.

"I totally believe that we can go there and win the match," he told BT Sport. "We need to win the game. The mindset is to win the game. We need to score. We've done it before and we need to do it again."

Thursday's draw was the first time Arsenal have failed to beat a Czech side at home, but visiting boss Jindrich Trpisovsky accepted that Slavia had to ride their luck, even if they managed four attempts on target to their opponents' two.

"We weren't ourselves tonight. We gave them the ball very often without fight," Trpisovsky said. "We need to see how Arsenal will adapt to our pitch. Theirs is superb and ours is not so. Tonight, we were lucky. They had chances they didn't score.

"We made mistakes and kept losing the ball when we were in possession but then we were lucky with the corner and snatched the draw."

Mikel Arteta is unsure if Kieran Tierney will play for Arsenal again this season after the left-back was ruled out for four to six weeks with ligament damage to his left knee.

The full-back limped off during the Gunners' disappointing 3-0 reverse at home to Liverpool on Saturday and required further checks on the severity of the issue.

An Arsenal statement said Tierney will not require surgery on the injury but with the Premier League campaign coming to an end on May 23, he may not feature again for Arsenal this term.

It is also unfortunate timing for Scotland, who play their first match of the rescheduled Euro 2020 finals against the Czech Republic on June 14, with the first of two warm-up fixtures taking place against the Netherlands on June 2.

"It could have been worse, he's feeling better, the damage is not that bad," Arteta said when previewing the first leg of Arsenal's Europa League quarter-final tie against Slavia Prague.

"We have to go day by day to see how Kieran is feeling. Depending where we are and how he's feeling, we'll make this decision.

"It will depend on how things evolve. He is keen to play for us again this season and obviously his country in the Euros."

Tierney's injury is particularly problematic as Arsenal do not have another out and out left-back in their squad, with Sead Kolasinac having left for Schalke in January and Arteta unable to find a suitable replacement.

"We're going to have to make some adjustments. His qualities are unique. We don't have anyone to replace these qualities," Arteta added. 

"We're going to have to find different ways to fulfil that gap and use all the things that can be as effective as well.

"We could not do anything in that window. We let Kolasinac out on loan and it's a decision that we made."

Bukayo Saka could be one solution to fill the void a little deeper down the left, with Arteta saying: "That's the reality: you have to change something, find a different way of attacking, find a different structure.

"It has to be stable and done by players who are doing that. We knew that position was a weakness around the squad. We have to find different solutions."

Saka himself has been contending with a hamstring issue but he, Emile Smith Rowe (thigh/quad) and Granit Xhaka (illness) are all in training in the hope of featuring, while Martin Odegaard will be assessed having struggled with an ankle problem since returning from international duty with Norway. David Luiz is still recovering from a knee injury.

The match against Slavia is particularly important for Arsenal, who put in an abject showing against Liverpool and know their most realistic chance of returning to European football next term is winning the Europa League having slipped to 10th in the Premier League.

Arteta feels the "big punch" inflicted by Liverpool may ultimately be a good thing for his side.

"I cannot criticise [the] hard work or ethic of my players, it's not about they don't want to run or try. There are areas where we are inconsistent, my demands are to be hitting those goals, achieving our best level every day, whether it's training or game day," he said.

"I didn't see anything different, that's why it was a big shock what happened against Liverpool, it's part of the journey, sometimes a big punch or slap in the face is good to return to reality.

"This competition is all or nothing because when you play a tie you are in or out. We know how important the game is for us."

With the Premier League back following the international break, all eyes were set to be on the Emirates Stadium for a heavyweight clash between Arsenal and Liverpool.

Or, that's what the nostalgia of the Premier League wanted us to expect – the reality was rather different, as Arsenal's current status as Europa League-hopefuls at best was made brutally clear.

In fact, as it turned out, the day's most-compelling viewing came from elsewhere in London, as Chelsea suffered an abysmal home defeat by West Brom.

In the East Midlands, Manchester City took their customary step closer to the title, while Leeds United came out on top in an all-Yorkshire affair.

We have taken a look at all the best Opta facts from the four games.

Chelsea 2-5 West Brom: Blues bruised by Big Sam's Baggies in momentous defeat

It was a day to forget for Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea as their honeymoon period came to a bruising and humiliating end in a 5-2 home defeat by relegation-threated West Brom.

Chelsea did take the lead through Christian Pulisic, his first goal in 21 games across all competitions, but Thiago Silva's red card for two bookings in the 29th minute offered encouragement to West Brom.

Matheus Pereira's first-half stoppage-time brace – the goals separated by just two minutes and 46 seconds – put the Baggies in front, and Callum Robinson got a double of his own in the second period, becoming the first player in Premier League history to score at least twice home and away against Chelsea in a single campaign.

Mason Mount and Mbaye Diagne got the other goals, with Chelsea conceding five times in a home Premier League game for only the second time, the last being against Arsenal in October 2011.

Victory ensured Sam Allardyce became the first manager in Premier League history to win at Stamford Bridge with three clubs, while it was Tuchel's first defeat since replacing Frank Lampard in January.

The hard work starts here.

Leeds United 2-1 Sheffield United: Blades approaching new low

Sheffield United have looked doomed virtually all season – no win over Leeds United at this stage of the season was going to change that.

But in losing at Elland Road, it took them to 24 defeats in the league this term from 30 games – only twice in their entire history have they suffered more losses in a single campaign, 26 in 1975-76 and 2010-11, though on both occasions were from many more matches (42 and 46, respectively).

For Leeds, however, the win saw them complete a league double over their Yorkshire rivals for the first time since 1991-92 when they actually won the top-flight title.

While no one is expecting them to go close to repeating that title feat anytime soon, Saturday's visit of Blades did provide another reminder of the positivity Leeds have brought to the Premier League – it was the fifth time this term they have attempted at least 20 shots (23 this time) in a single game, with only Manchester City doing so more often (six).

Jack Harrison's opener was one of them, with the winger netting his seventh goal of the season to make this his best ever campaign in English football, while Raphinha teed him up to move on to a Leeds-high six assists in the Premier League in 2020-21.

They needed a helping hand, though. The seventh own goal of Phil Jagielka's career – only Richard Dunne (10) has more – proved decisive, making him the oldest outfield player (38 years, 229 days) to score in his own net in the top tier since Stuart Pearce in 2001 (38y, 252d).

Leicester City 0-2 Manchester City: Guardiola has the key to cleansheets

When you think about what Pep Guardiola the coach is associated with, 'tiki-taka', free-scoring teams and ball-playing centre-backs spring to mind immediately.

But now, perhaps we should add defensive solidity to that list?

Granted, Guardiola has coached great teams for the majority of his career, and they wouldn't usually have poor defensive records, but his runaway City side seems arguably one of his shrewdest ever.

After Saturday's 2-0 win at Leicester, who although third in the table were utterly subjugated, City have kept more clean sheets (28) and conceded fewer goals (26) in all competitions than any other side in Europe's top five leagues.

They prevented Leicester from mustering a single first-half shot for the first time in the league since December 2019 (against Liverpool), and the Foxes suffered just their third defeat in their last 17 top-flight outings.

Among the scorers for City was Gabriel Jesus, who continued his remarkable unbeaten run in games he's scored (41 – W39, D2), a record only James Milner (54) and Darius Vassell (46) can better.

It was the fifth league goal Jesus has managed against Leicester, making them his second-favourite opponent after Everton (seven goals against).

However, Sergio Aguero was unable to cross another stadium off his list. He's played four times at the King Power Stadium without scoring – only two other grounds has he a worse goalless record (eight games at Anfield, six at Selhurst Park). Following the announcement of his end-of-season departure, it seems Leicester have largely avoided his wrath.

Arsenal 0-3 Liverpool: Arteta questions mount with his record not standing up to Emery's

Mikel Arteta's 50th Premier League match as Arsenal coach was one to forget – though it feels like we could say the same thing about rather a lot of his previous 49 games.

Brought in as Arsenal attempted a hard restart, ushering in a new 'era' with fresh ideas, Arteta it was hoped would turn the Gunners back into title challengers, but it seems as though they're even further away from that than under much-maligned predecessor Unai Emery.

This was Arteta's 17th Premier League defeat, four more than Emery suffered in his first 50 games, and the game itself suggested there remains a significant gulf between Arsenal and a Liverpool side that is nowhere near what it was last season.

Nevertheless, it is true that Liverpool's issues have mostly been consigned to Anfield recently, with each of their last six league wins – including this one – coming away from home. This is only the second time they've ever achieved such a run, the first recording since 1955.

Perhaps results against Liverpool aren't the best barometer to measure Arsenal against given they've beaten the Reds once in their past 12 Premier League meetings.

But Arsenal appear to be treading water under Arteta, with their points-per-game dropping to 1.3 from 1.7 in his second 25 league matches in charge.

Mikel Arteta said Arsenal's dire display against Liverpool had left him "in shock" after the Gunners surrendered 3-0 at home.

The seething manager attempted to take the blame for the performance, but disdain for the effort of his players was all too clear in the Spaniard's verdict.

Substitute Diogo Jota scored twice and Mohamed Salah also netted as Liverpool ran riot in the final half hour at Emirates Stadium.

Until then, Arsenal had been holding on, while never looking capable of going on to win the game. The home side had three attempts at goal, while Liverpool had 16 efforts on the way to winning by their biggest ever margin in an away league game at Arsenal.

Arteta told Sky Sports: "We completely deserved to lose the game. They were better in every department.

"They deserved to win the game with the margin that they have, or more. It was unacceptable from our side, the way we played.

"They won every duel, every second ball, every challenge. They were brave when they had the ball, they made the right decisions; we didn't.

"It was my fault. I had to set the team to play in a different way and perform in a different way. Congratulations to Liverpool because I think they were exceptional.

"We saw the difference today between the two teams, that when we perform at that level the margin is incredibly high.

"The standard has to be much higher from this football club and my job is to get them to perform at that level. We could not put three passes together. There were too many things that were not done right.

"At the moment I'm in shock. I didn't expect that, with the way the team trained, the way the team tries, but it happened. That is the reality."

Arsenal tackle Slavia Prague in the quarter-finals of the Europa League on Thursday. Arteta knows there must be a major response from his players.

He said: "If you have courage and you have big balls and you represent a club like this, you have to stand up in the next game and take it."

Mikel Arteta wants to help Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rediscover his best form as Arsenal plan to treat every game as a final for the remainder of the season.

With the international break over, the Gunners resume their campaign on Saturday when Liverpool visit Emirates Stadium.

Both teams are desperately in need of points with just nine games remaining in the Premier League, or else run the risk of missing out on qualifying for Europe via the domestic route.

While Liverpool still have their sights set on a top-four finish, Arsenal go into the fixture well off the pace having won just three of their previous nine in the competition.

Like the team itself, Aubameyang has struggled for consistency in the competition. The Gabon international scored 22 league goals in each of the previous two seasons but has yet to reach double figures in 2020-21.

"We talked for months about the ratio of goals we need him to score to give us the best possible chance of being at the top," Arteta told the media ahead of the Liverpool game.

"He's not been what he has been in recent years, a factor that is contributed by a lot of other things that the team has to do on the pitch – it's not just his thing.

"Obviously, we need Auba in different form in the next games to give us the best chance to finish where we want to finish this season, that is clear."

Aubameyang could point to playing regularly in a wider attacking role as a reason behind the decrease in his productivity, with a nine-goal haul still one behind the total he managed in his first 13 league appearances after signing from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018.

His position in the team may also explain why his average of 2.28 shots per 90 minutes is comfortably lower than in previous seasons at the club, along with a shot conversion rate of 18.37 per cent (which is still better than Harry Kane's number of 16.67 per cent).

Yet when it comes to converting big chances – those Opta define as a situation where a player is expected to score – the 31-year-old sits at a healthy 45.4 per cent, well above his 2018-19 total of 36.1 per cent when he finished tied with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah for the Golden Boot. He is slightly outperforming his expected goals tally of 6.8 this term too, managing seven non-penalty goals from 47 shots.

Arteta recognises it is not necessarily all down to the player himself, with the Gunners manager asking for different requirements from his captain while instilling a more controlled approach to proceedings, laying the foundations for what he hopes will be long-term success under his guidance.

"He can play off the left, off the right, in the middle. He has done it, it's nothing new," Arteta replied when asked about Aubameyang's best position.

"When you look at his stats from the past, there is no difference. But it does depend [on] how we play, how much we provide for him and how efficient he is when he has these chances.

"When he has got this form of confidence, well, he is unstoppable. It is dependent on many factors."

The north London club rewarded Aubameyang for his previous exploits – including two goals to beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final last August – with a bumper new contract.

With the goals drying up since signing to stay for a further three years, questions have been raised over his commitment to the cause. He was also dropped from the starting XI prior to the derby with Tottenham in March for disciplinary reasons, though Arteta quickly drew a line under the issue in the aftermath of a much-needed 2-1 victory.

Arteta has no doubt Aubameyang remains ambitious, stating: "It's easy to connect things when they relate to it like that, but I'm not suspicious about that.

"We have had many conversations about what he wanted to do from last year's point of view with his future in the next three years. He was very ambitious with that, but to maintain that level is really complicated. He is trying hard and that's what he is aiming to do."

Arsenal could do with their captain leading from the front during the run-in, starting against Liverpool in what is the highest-scoring fixture in Premier League history.

"It's like a final every game," Arteta said ahead of the final stretch. "Three points mean a lot in the table and we need to go for them, we need to win as many games as possible. We know that."

Arsenal rising stars Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe face late fitness tests and David Luiz has been ruled out of the clash with Liverpool on Saturday evening.

Brazilian centre-back David Luiz must miss the Premier League game at Emirates Stadium, with Arsenal stating the 33-year-old has encountered "discomfort" in his right knee.

How serious that discomfort proves to be remains to be seen, with Arsenal saying the problem would continue to be examined.

Arsenal have a 36.8 per cent win rate in the 19 Premier League games that have featured David Luiz this season, compared with 50 per cent in the 10 games for which he has been absent.

They have collected an average of 1.4 points when he has played and 1.6 when he has not, with Arsenal heading into the weekend in ninth place, four points adrift of Liverpool who sit seventh.

In an injury update issued on the club website, Arsenal indicated winger Saka's right hamstring problem remained under observation.

The injury forced Saka out of England's three World Cup qualifiers in the past fortnight and although Arsenal posted a picture on Twitter of the 19-year-old in training, they said he "will be assessed ahead of Saturday's match regarding his availability".

The same applies for Smith Rowe, who suffered tightness in his right quad on England Under-21 duty, with Arsenal prepared to leave final decisions until closer to the game.

Manager Mikel Arteta faces a further wait to learn whether former captain Granit Xhaka is ready for the game, with the Swiss midfielder having missed training on Friday due to feeling unwell on his return from international duty.

Willian is available to Arteta, however, with the former Chelsea midfielder fully recovered from a left calf injury.

The 32-year-old has had the most assists (7) of all Arsenal players this season, across all competitions, with Smith Rowe and Saka (both 6) just behind the Brazilian.

Arsenal have lost just two of their last 20 Premier League home games against Liverpool (D9 W9).

Sergio Aguero has been one of the "three main faces" at Manchester City, according to Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, who did not rule out a move for the striker.

Aguero's City career will come to an end at the culmination of the 2020-21 campaign, halting a 10-year stay at the club.

In that time, Aguero has helped City to four Premier League titles – scoring the goal which secured their first in the most dramatic of circumstances in 2011-12 – along with one FA Cup, five EFL Cups and two Community Shield triumphs.

The 32-year-old has struggled with injuries and COVID-19 this term, however, making just 14 appearances across all competitions, scoring three goals.

Arteta, Pep Guardiola's former assistant, worked with Aguero for over three years between 2016 and 2019, and has hailed the Argentinian's impact at City.

"Anybody that's been close to him would say the same thing, he's been the main face or one of three main faces to lift that project [at City]," Arteta told a news conference ahead of Arsenal's clash with Liverpool on Saturday.

"You need quality to create moments to build a project and his is the biggest face.

"Not only the way he plays, but his charisma and character. It's sad for him to leave but I think what he's done he will be their history."

Though denying he had called Aguero to discuss a potential switch to the Gunners, Arteta did not dismiss the suggestions of a move to bring the forward to north London.

"No, we will see what happens to him in the future," Arteta said.

"Sergio has a unique quality to see spaces that nobody sees and score goals in an easy way so I'm sure he will find the right next chapter."

One striker who has been linked with a move away from Emirates Stadium is Alexandre Lacazette, with the Frenchman's contract up in 2022.

LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid are among the teams previously mooted to hold an interest in the 29-year-old, who has netted 13 goals in all competitions this season, scoring on each of his last three Premier League starts.

It seems likely Lacazette will lead the line again on Saturday, given he has scored in each of Arsenal's two most recent league games against Liverpool – the last Gunners player to score in three consecutive top-fllight games against the Reds was Robert Pires between 2003 and 2004 – and Arteta says the club will hold talks over a new deal at the end of the season.

|I'm always happy when people talk about our players and speculate – that means they're doing well and getting attention from other clubs," Arteta said.

"The situation with Laca we will address in the summer and speak to him and just propose the future that we want, and that's it.

"Up to now I just want players focused and only focused on performing and getting the best out of them for the team."

 

AGUERO OR LACAZETTE?

Should Arsenal decide to make a move for Aguero, then it may well be Lacazette who makes way, but would that be a wise move?

Lacazette is almost three years younger than Aguero, who has been besieged by injuries in recent seasons.

Since joining Arsenal at the start of 2017-18, Lacazette has made 122 Premier League appearances – 32 more than Aguero in the same timeframe.

The former Lyon forward has played a total of 8,219 minutes, compared to a figure of 6,214 for Aguero, who has started 75 games, 19 fewer than Lacazette (94).

However, Aguero has still scored more league goals, tallying 59 in contrast to Lacazette's 48, though it must be noted City's team of 2017 through to 2019 is widely considered as one of the finest attacking units of the Premier League era.

Lacazette has proved to be more creative, crafting 111 chances – 15 more than Aguero – though the duo are practically neck-and-neck for assists, registering 18 and 17 respectively.

Aguero's big chance conversion rate is better than Lacazette. The Argentina international has scored 42 goals from 78 opportunities from which Opta would have expected him to find the net (53.85 per cent); Lacazette, in comparison, has scored 30 from 70 (42.86 per cent).

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