Tottenham's stand-in boss Cristian Stellini expects Antonio Conte to return to the club within the next week.

Conte had gallbladder surgery at the start of February after experiencing severe abdominal pain and took a short break from Spurs to begin his recovery.

The Italian returned to duties, but after having his recovery progress checked out, it was decided he would need more time away from frontline work.

Stellini, who oversaw Spurs' 2-0 Premier League win over Chelsea on Sunday, told BBC Sport: "Our desire was to win, play a great game and to fight for every ball.

"We are happy for the fans, the club and, of course, for us and Antonio, who is still at home.

"My expectation is that Antonio will be back next week."

Oliver Skipp got Spurs on their way against the Blues 19 seconds into the second half, before Harry Kane sealed all three points in the 82nd minute.

Skipp's goal was his first for the club in what was his 67th appearance, and Stellini was full of praise for the midfielder.

"Brilliant moment Skipp and one that we expected for one year because it has been one year he stayed far from the pitch," he added.

"Last season with physical problems and this year for tactical decisions.

"He is ready because he has trained a lot and pushed himself. He is an amazing guy and great player.

"A player like Skippy has to understand that if he trains a lot he will have possibilities to show his value."

Kane's effort saw him become one of only two players to score 20 or more goals in each of the last nine seasons in all competitions for clubs in Europe's big five leagues, along with Barcelona's Robert Lewandowski.

The Spurs skipper said: "Chelsea have been a difficult opponent for us over the last few years.

"So it's a really important win to keep us around fourth. Overall I thought we deserved the win.

"First half both teams created a few half chances. We struggled with our pressure a bit and sorted that out second half.

"I think we just showed a bit more quality in the final third and whenever you break the deadlock it helps open the game up. Another clean sheet, two goals, so overall a good home performance."

Tottenham cranked up the pressure on Graham Potter as Oliver Skipp's first goal for the club and Harry Kane's late strike secured a 2-0 win over Chelsea on Sunday.

Potter's position has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks after a torrid run of form, and that looks set to intensify after yet another miserable defeat.

The Blues failed to take advantage of a reprieve shortly before half-time when Hakim Ziyech's red card was overturned following a VAR review, with Skipp powering home immediately after the restart.

Kane added a second in the 82nd minute to move Spurs four points clear of Newcastle United, although the Magpies have two games in hand. Chelsea remain in 10th – a whopping 14 points adrift of the Champions League qualification places.

Chelsea's plans took a hit in the 19th minute when Thiago Silva was forced off after sustaining an injury as he thwarted Harry Kane inside the penalty area.

Spurs went agonisingly close to taking the lead shortly before the half-hour mark when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's effort from the edge of the area was deflected onto the base of the post.

Chelsea momentarily thought they had been reduced to 10 men in first-half stoppage time when Ziyech received a red card for striking Emerson Royal in the face, but his punishment was downgraded to a caution following a pitch-side review by referee Stuart Attwell.

Spurs started the second half in electric fashion, grabbing the opener 19 seconds after the restart thanks to Skipp's thunderous strike from 20 yards that crashed in off the underside of the crossbar.

Kane then made sure of victory inside the closing 10 minutes with a simple back-post finish from a corner.


What does it mean? Chelsea's dire season goes on

Chelsea's dismal run continued at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with the Blues now having won just two of their past 15 Premier League matches.

They rarely looked like finding the back of the net here and have now scored just once in their past six games in all competitions.

Spurs, meanwhile, have won three consecutive Premier League home games without conceding for the first time since April 2019. That previous run was their first three matches at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Speedy Skipp

Skipp's sublime strike 19 seconds into the second half was the earliest such goal in a Premier League game since Gerard Deulofeu for Watford against West Ham in May 2019 (45:11).

Ziyech struggles

Ziyech endured a game to forget. He can consider himself fortunate to have seen his red card overturned, given he did make contact with Emerson's face. Potter hauled him off just after the hour mark anyway after failing to make a single key pass.

What's next?

Tottenham travel to Sheffield United for an FA Cup fifth-round clash on Wednesday, while Chelsea host Leeds United in the Premier League on Saturday. It remains to be seen whether Potter will be in charge for that.

Marcus Thuram will leave Borussia Moenchengladbach at the end of this season when his contract expires.

As a result, the 25-year-old French forward is garnering plenty of interest from top European clubs.

Thuram has scored 14 goals in all competitions this season for Gladbach, having been part of France's 2022 World Cup squad.



Marcus Thuram's agent has offered the French forward to Barcelona as an off-season signing, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Thuram has interest from Chelsea, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid and Inter.

Barcelona's economic challenges mean they have prioritised signing players on free transfers in recent times with Thuram offering that plus flexibility in attack.



– Fichajes claims Cristiano Ronaldo wants Sergio Ramos to join him at Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr, with the defender's contract with PSG to expire at the end of this season. Ramos will leave it late to make a decision, holding out hope for a PSG extension.

Liverpool will battle Bayern Munich in the off-season for the signature of Juventus striker Dusan Vlahovic, reports Calciomercatoweb.

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea are all interested in Inter's Marcelo Brozovic, with the Serie A club open to selling him, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Manchester United are weighing up a move for Bayer Leverkusen right-back Jeremie Frimpong, reports Football Insider. Fabrizio Romano claims numerous top clubs are interested in the Dutch defender.

– La Gazzetta dello Sport claims Liverpool are tracking Inter's Nicolo Barella as they look to bolster their midfield options.

West Ham, Fulham, Crystal Palace and Brentford are all circling for Milan forward Olivier Giroud,  who is open to a return to England, claims The Sun.

Erik ten Hag says the constant public commentary and criticism from former Manchester United players of the team in the media is "difficult" for his players.

Former United players Gary Neville, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes Rio Ferdinand and Peter Schmeichel all work in the media nowadays and regularly scrutinise the plight of the club.

This week, Ten Hag has won plaudits from some of those former players following their Europa League triumph over Barcelona, with Schmeichel calling it "vintage Sir Alex Ferguson", inviting comparisons to previous sides.

The Dutchman conceded that constant discussion and scrutiny weighed on the players but acknowledged they needed to be able to accept it as part of the job.

"Sometimes it's difficult for the players of today because there are so many references to the past, a big history which former players made and I can imagine those players [say it] because they love the club, it's part of their lives," Ten Hag said.

"What they most love is what they most criticise often, so I can understand, but sometimes it affects the players, it's clear, but I also think it's part of our job, you have to live with criticism and see it as a gift to do better.

"They want to help you and as a player for Manchester United, you know you have to perform, win games and trophies. That can only be possible with togetherness, you can't do it on your own, you need the team to perform."

Ten Hag added that the only way to handle United's trophy-laden past was to be part of a successful future. United can claim their first piece of silverware under Ten Hag when they face Newcastle United in Sunday's EFL Cup final.

"That's the point, you're a player for Manchester United and you have to create your own legacy, therefore you have to win trophies and we have that opportunity on Sunday," he said.

"After Sunday, we are still in three competitions and good opportunities to win something."

Jurgen Klopp acknowledged "something is not right" with Liverpool's performances after they laboured to a lacklustre 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace on Saturday.

The Reds endured a frustrating outing in a drab encounter at Selhurst Park, missing the chance to record three Premier League wins in a row for just the second time this term.

Both Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah hit the woodwork for the visitors, who were without Darwin Nunez for the trip to London, which came on the heels of a 5-2 Champions League loss to Real Madrid. 

Despite dropping points once again, Klopp focused on taking a result back to Anfield, though he remains troubled by his side's hit-and-miss form.

"I liked the start to the game," he told Sky Sports. "The dynamic was good, the passes were good. In the end, because we didn't threaten them in behind enough, we had to play in between the lines.

"They had no shots on target. I think we had three or four. We hit the crossbar. Usually, we score one or two [of] the chances we had. We didn't do that tonight.

"I think we killed the atmosphere with the way we played. When football is predictable, it means it's easier to defend. You feel something is not right.

"But it's an away point and it's okay. It's not brilliant, but it's okay."

Having thrown away a two-goal lead against Madrid in midweek, questions of a European hangover could have been levelled at Liverpool following their performance at Palace, but Klopp argued his side did not suffer from their continental exploits.

"I didn't see a massive influence [from the Real Madrid game]," he added. "If we score, we go home and win 1-0."

Midfielder James Milner echoed his manager's comments and stressed Liverpool's destiny remains firmly of their own making this term.

"We have to keep going," he said. "We're our harshest critics. It's important we don't listen to the noise outside.

"It's down to us. We're the only ones who can change it. We've fallen short this year. We have to dig down."

Liverpool missed the chance to claim a third Premier League win in a row for only the second time this season as they drew 0-0 with Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah were both frustrated by the woodwork at Selhurst Park as Jurgen Klopp's Reds shared the spoils with Patrick Vieira's Eagles.

After a dramatic Champions League collapse resulted in a 5-2 loss to Real Madrid on Tuesday, the visitors failed to claim a victory that would have helped to salve those wounds.

And, amid a campaign that continues to see them underperform, the Merseyside outfit dropped further points in their pursuit of European football next term, with Cody Gakpo spurning an excellent chance late on.

Having made a blistering start to their exploits in midweek, Liverpool initially appeared to be feeling the effects of a continental hangover.

The away side struggled to pose much threat despite dominating possession, with Jota's woodwork-rattling header in the 23rd minute the closest they came to a breakthrough.

Palace almost made them pay when they hit the frame of the goal themselves four minutes from the break, with Jean-Philippe Mateta lashing a close-range attempt against the crossbar.

The bar proved to be Liverpool's nemesis shortly into the second half, with Salah crashing a looped effort against it.

Gakpo could have won it in the 81st minute but the Netherlands international fluffed his lines after seizing on Salah's throughball as Liverpool ultimately failed to find a way through. 

Pep Guardiola hailed Erling Haaland and Phil Foden after Manchester City's 4-1 win at Bournemouth on Saturday.

Both Haaland and Foden found the net at the Vitality Stadium in between Julian Alvarez's opener and a Chris Mepham own goal, with Jefferson Lerma hitting a late consolation for the hosts.

It was the fourth of five consecutive away games for City, and their first win in three after 1-1 draws at Nottingham Forest and RB Leipzig.

"Considering the amount of games and a lot of travel, we played incredibly aggressive," said Guardiola. "Our attack was more dynamic and we got a good result."

Haaland scored the second of the game from close range to record his 27th Premier League goal of the season, beating Sergio Aguero's club record for a single season in the competition, and giving the Norwegian the most league goals by a City player in a single top-flight campaign since Francis Lee's 33 in 1971-72.

"Erling Haaland, his impact has been incredible," Guardiola added. "We love him and he is helping us. Today we found him more and he is an incredible threat."

It was only Foden's 15th start in the league this season from his 22 appearances, and he was instrumental as he created seven chances in all, the most by a City player in a Premier League away game since James Milner's eight against Aston Villa in October 2014.

"We need Phil, his work ethic, his goals, his assists. Step by step he will be back," his manager said.

Guardiola also had words of praise for 18-year-old Rico Lewis, who impressed again at right-back, lauding his "quality and intelligence" and ability to "move in small spaces, to play in pockets that we need".

Lewis completed 67 of his 72 passes (93.1 per cent), and was also happy to have the backing of the Spanish coach.

"I love playing in this role. I have played as a midfielder before and then been a full-back, so I love it," he said. "I have played there all the way through the academy but with these players around you, it's 10 times easier.

"I got my rhythm quickly and did as well as I could. Pep just tells me to play my normal game but asks me to go inside alongside Rodri, to give us more control of the midfield. It's about winning the ball back on the transition.

"It's nice that he wants to play me and trusts me, it's up to me to perform. The players in the dressing room are very experienced and have had it every year, we know to focus on ourselves and that's the only way."

Manchester City bounced back as they returned to winning ways with an emphatic 4-1 win at Bournemouth on Saturday.

After their disappointing 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest last week was followed by another in the Champions League at RB Leipzig on Wednesday, City responded with a ruthless performance at the Vitality Stadium.

Goals from Julian Alvarez, Erling Haaland, Phil Foden and a Chris Mepham own goal took Pep Guardiola's men back to within two points of Premier League leaders Arsenal, after the Gunners had beaten Leicester City earlier in the day.

Bournemouth pulled a late goal back through Jefferson Lerma but slip to 19th in the table after West Ham and Leeds United both won against Nottingham Forest and Southampton respectively.

City took the lead in the 15th minute after Rico Lewis won the ball back on the right, with a swift attack leading to Haaland hitting the crossbar with a deflected effort, and Alvarez tapping in the rebound from close range when it fell kindly for him.

It was two just before the half-hour mark when Ilkay Gundogan's cross from the left found Foden, who was put off by a last-ditch tackle by Jordan Zemura, only for the ball to roll to Haaland who slammed home.

The third came just before half-time courtesy of a sloppy square pass from Philip Billing, which presented the ball on a plate for Foden to finish with ease past Neto on his 200th City appearance.

City continued attacking in the second half and had a fourth after a Foden ball in from the right was cleared by Marcos Senesi, but only as far as Alvarez, who fired in via the unfortunate Mepham.

Lerma struck a consolation high into the net in the 83rd minute after a pull-back from the left by Zemura, but City ultimately eased to a handsome win.

What does it mean? City remind people what they can do

It has been a strangely inconsistent season for City by their usual standards, though they seemed to have finally taken charge in the Premier League title race when they won 3-1 at Arsenal earlier this month.

A sloppy draw at Forest handed the initiative back to their rivals, but the nature of this demolition of Bournemouth felt ominous.

They looked more like the City that has been posting 90+ points every season, and if they can get back to this kind of showing regularly, Arsenal and Manchester United will certainly have their work cut out.

Another landmark for Haaland

If you can believe it, some people were questioning Haaland after his failure to score against Forest or Leipzig, though his manager blamed his team-mates for not finding him often enough.

He was on the scoresheet again here, and his 27 Premier League goals this season is the most by a City player in a single top-flight campaign since Francis Lee's 33 in 1971-72.

Cherries picked and could drop

Bournemouth earned a much-needed win at Wolves last time out, and while they were never likely to get another against the champions, defeat does mean they fall back into the relegation zone.

That win at Molineux is their only success in their last 11 games in all competitions (D2 L8), and they remain without a win at home since a 3-0 victory against Everton on November 12.

What's next?

It does not get much easier for Bournemouth, who travel to Premier League leaders Arsenal next Saturday, while Man City have a trip to Championship side Bristol City in the FA Cup fifth round on Tuesday before a crunch league clash with Newcastle United.

Mikel Arteta believes managing the minutes of Gabriel Martinelli gave the Brazilian the energy to score the winner for Arsenal at Leicester City on Saturday.

In Arsenal's previous four games, Martinelli had either been substituted for new arrival Leandro Trossard, or in the case of the 4-2 win at Aston Villa, came off the bench for the Belgian.

Both started the 1-0 victory at King Power Stadium though, and it was Martinelli who scored the only goal of the game in the first minute of the second half to cement the Gunners' place at the top of the Premier League.

"Sometimes you have to give someone a breather to come back with even more energy and enthusiasm," Arteta said, adding he was "delighted" that Martinelli had recently signed a new deal until 2027.

Arsenal otherwise struggled to get going in the game in an attacking sense, but impressively restricted the hosts to just one shot overall and none on target.

Arteta was pleased with the performance and the win, which increased his team's lead at the top of the league to five points prior to Manchester City's visit to Bournemouth.

He added: "We dominated the game almost from start to finish. In general, I think our play and understanding of spaces was excellent. 

"We just lacked that final pass to score more. We had the decision with [Bukayo Saka's] disallowed goal, which was frustrating to take, but to restrict Leicester to one shot at home is great."

Leaders Arsenal have two home games next week against Everton and Bournemouth as they bid for a first league title since 2004.

Arsenal moved five points clear at the Premier League summit as Gabriel Martinelli's strike secured a 1-0 win over Leicester City on Saturday.

Mikel Arteta's side ended a three-game winless run in the league with a 4-2 victory over Aston Villa last weekend and they picked up where they left off with a convincing win at the King Power Stadium.

Martinelli scored the deciding goal less than a minute into second half, and the Brazilian was lucky to escape serious injury after being caught on the knee by Wilfred Ndidi as he slotted past Danny Ward.

The win stretched Arsenal's lead at the top of the table, although champions Manchester City can cut that back to just two points with victory over Bournemouth later on Saturday. 

Arsenal thought they had taken the lead shortly before the half-hour mark when Leandro Trossard whipped into the top corner from 18 yards.

Their joy was short-lived, however, as referee Craig Pawson ruled the goal out for a foul on Ward by Ben White following a pitch-side review.

Leicester had the ball in the back of the net through Kelechi Iheanacho soon after, but that was also chalked off after the Nigerian had strayed offside.

Arsenal started the second half in electric fashion and were ahead within 51 seconds of the restart, Martinelli sliding past Ward after being played in by Trossard.  

Leicester threw on Jamie Vardy and Youri Tielemans after that, yet Arsenal's grasp on the three points never looked in danger in the closing stages as they cantered to another important victory. 


What does it mean? Patience pays off for Gunners

Arsenal were frustrated by Leicester in the opening half, but it did not take long for Arteta's men to make their dominance count after half-time.

The Gunners have now won three consecutive away league games against the Foxes for just the second time, previously doing so between December 1913 and September 1925.

Magical Martinelli

Martinelli was chosen ahead of Eddie Nketiah in the Arsenal attack and the 21-year-old did not disappoint. He scored the decisive goal to add to his strike off the bench against Villa last week and finished the game with a higher pass completion rate than anyone else on the pitch (92.5 per cent).

Tete sums up Foxes woes

Tete endured a torrid outing for the hosts, failing to take a single shot or play any key passes before he was replaced by Tielemans shortly after the hour mark. The Brazilian also attempted just eight passes – the lowest of any starter.

What's next?

The Gunners host Everton at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday, with Leicester at home to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup fifth round a day earlier. 

Arthur marked his return from injury by starting Liverpool Under-21s' Premier League 2 Division One clash with Leicester City on Saturday.

It was the Brazil international's first Reds appearance in any form since September, with a long-term thigh injury sidelining the Juventus loanee.

Arthur has played just 13 minutes of senior football since joining Liverpool from the Bianconeri, appearing as a late substitute in the Champions League defeat by Napoli, while he has also appeared twice for the under-21s side.

The 26-year-old started in the heart of midfield for the under-21s, who were aiming to end a run of three matches without a win.

Liverpool have the right to buy Arthur, who spent two years with Barcelona prior to joining Juventus in June 2020, with the option entailing a reported £32.3million (€37.5m) fee to be paid at the end of the season.

Bruno Fernandes believes the form of Newcastle United is "the biggest surprise of the season" and is expecting a "pretty difficult" EFL Cup final.

Manchester United face Newcastle at Wembley on Sunday, with both teams impressing this season after struggling in the 2021-22 campaign.

As well as reaching the final, United have worked their way into the Premier League title race, while Newcastle remain in the hunt for a top-four spot and Champions League qualification.

"I think everyone knows that Newcastle is being probably the biggest surprise of the season," Fernandes told Sky Sports. "Not because of their qualities, because the quality has been always there, but because last season they struggle to stay in the Premier League and this season they're doing really well.

"I think everyone knows [they are] a pretty strong and intense team. They haven't conceded many goals this season. I think probably the best or the second best in Europe.

"But it's more about us. It's more about what we can do towards them, what we can do in our intensity levels, passion levels and quality-wise. Because we know that it will be a pretty difficult final whoever the opponent will be. It's always difficult because it's a final, the desire, the passion to win a trophy is always at the highest."

United's resurgence has been swift since Erik ten Hag came in as manager from Ajax, including Thursday's victory against Barcelona in the Europa League playoff round.

"He brought his ideas, the discipline during the training sessions, during the week, during the games," Fernandes said. "Obviously I think the most important change is the results and confidence is much higher now at this moment.

"We believe that the process that we are going through is the right one. I think everyone has the right belief. Everyone is following the ideas that the coach has brought to the club, to the team."

The 28-year-old has seven goals and nine assists in 37 games for United this season, and understands that he and his team-mates must keep up the high standards implemented by Ten Hag if they are to have sustained success.

"The process is still on and we have to understand that it's still a long way for us because we want to achieve much bigger things and obviously the manager demands that from us," he said. 

"I have been talking with him sometimes and he's always saying that he has the same desire as me. He is not happy with being behind anyone. So that's a good thing. He brought that culture that we can't be happy to be behind anyone and whenever we are in front, we can't be happy to be with a smaller gap.

"I think that's a great thing to have because we can't be satisfied playing for Man United and not winning trophies and not being in the position of winning trophies.

"But as I said, it is a process. It's six or seven months now and things are going pretty quickly. I think from outside probably more because people never thought that United will be in this position at this time because all the changes, because the new manager, because the results in the beginning. 

"But obviously it's up to us, up to our qualities, up to what we have been doing really well... it's [up to] us to carry on doing our best because we don't want people to forget how good we are."

Mikel Arteta will resist the temptation to rest his best players in the Europa League as Arsenal look to close on a first Premier League title in 19 years.

Arsenal are out of both domestic cup competitions, which has allowed them to focus on the league, where they hold a two-point lead over champions Manchester City and have a game in hand.

The distraction of the Europa League is soon to return, however, with the Gunners paired with Sporting CP in Friday's last-16 draw.

A run in UEFA's secondary club competition could hinder Arsenal's hopes of holding off City, with fans desperate to win the league for the first time since their 'Invincibles' season of 2003-04.

But Arteta will not think like that.

While the manager said Arsenal would have the opportunity to "share many more minutes around the squad", he will not leave key men at home for European games.

"We will try to pick, all the time, the team we believe is the best to win on the day," Arteta said.

"Because if you do something different people will say: 'Why did you pick this team and we didn't win in the Europa League?' You're never going to win that battle.

"We're going to pick the players that are in the best possible condition, because it's really important to win the game to be in a better condition to win the next one."

Arsenal are scheduled to visit Portugal on March 9 before welcoming Sporting to Emirates Stadium a week later.

Enzo Fernandez has urged Chelsea fans to trust the players, staff and head coach Graham Potter amid a poor run of form.

Chelsea have won just four of their last 19 games and are without a win in their last five after losing 1-0 at home to Southampton last weekend.

That is despite a significant outlay on new players in the last two transfer windows, including a record £106.8million (€121m) on bringing World Cup winner Fernandez in from Benfica in January.

The Blues sit 10th in the Premier League ahead of Sunday's trip to Tottenham, and Fernandez has called on the fans to back them.

"My message to the fans would be never forget that we are representing you," the 22-year-old told The Times. "Trust us. Trust the players, trust the backroom staff, trust the manager. Because we are all moving in the same direction.

"It is a restructuring of the club. We are going to be trying to win games, starting on Sunday. Then we can start to turn things around."

Fernandez became the most expensive signing in British football history when he arrived at Stamford Bridge, but he insists that does not factor into his thinking on the pitch.

"These figures are nothing to do with me," he said. "It's part of football. My job is to go out and give my best."

Fernandez was one of several new faces brought in by Chelsea, along with Mykhaylo Mudryk, Benoit Badiashile, Noni Madueke, David Datro Fofana and Joao Felix, who signed on loan from Atletico Madrid, and Fernandez would like the Portuguese attacker to sign permanently at the end of the season. 

"He called me when I got here to ask if he could be any help," Fernandez said of Joao Felix. "When you get on with someone it helps on the field. He's a great player, isn't he? Let's hope that Chelsea can do all they can to keep hold of him."

The former River Plate midfielder also enjoyed a breakout World Cup last year, helping captain Lionel Messi and Argentina to success in Qatar in December, and Fernandez described what it was like to play alongside his idol.

"He's one of those leaders who are really positive all the time, both in the example he sets in his play but also on a human level in the dressing room," he said. "He's down to earth and kind to everyone. He offers support to everyone within the squad, from the biggest stars through to the youngsters.

"I felt very conscious that he was with me all the way, giving me a lot of moral support. It was my biggest dream ever – to play with Messi. To then go on in that team to win the World Cup, it's almost like God has given me a huge gift... What can I take from that time with him? Energy. It was a special dressing room, a lively dressing room.

"Energy, positivity and a real will to win, but also keeping humble. I know I'm still young and I need to keep learning but maybe tomorrow, maybe at some point in the future, I want to really demonstrate that I'm a leader."

William Saliba vowed "I will be back to my best soon" following a difficult spell of form, ahead of Arsenal's clash with Leicester City.

The defender has played an integral role in the Gunners' Premier League title challenge this season, missing just 14 minutes, while no player has recovered possession in the defensive third on more occasions (100).

Although, the France international feels his standards have dropped in recent weeks since returning from the World Cup, where he played just 27 minutes in Les Bleus' run to the final.

Saliba lost all 10 aerial duels he contested in Arsenal's 1-1 draw with Brentford, while he struggled to cope against Erling Haaland in the defeat by Manchester City.

"I came back [from the World Cup], and I have this little period where I didn't play my best," he told Sky Sports.

"I know I have to work, to get back [to my levels]. I know when I play [well] and when I play [poorly]. We are lucky here, I have the coaches to help me grow.

"When you play well, it's good, also, to know when you aren't - [Arteta] tells you. He gives you advice every day - to get better.

"This is the best league in the world, there is no excuse. If I am bad, I am bad. I don't say: 'Yes, this is my first season in the Premier League'. I will be back to my best soon, but I have to work."

Mikel Arteta's side moved two points clear at the Premier League summit with a game in hand on second-place City when they twice came from behind to beat Aston Villa 4-2 last weekend.

It was a welcome boost for the Gunners, of whom questions had been asked following a three-game winless streak, but Saliba feels he and his team-mates demonstrated their credentials.

"We didn't start well [against Villa], it was a bad first half," he added.

"When we got into the dressing room, the boss gave us some good advice. We knew we could come back. We have a good mentality, and we never give up, and we trust each other. 

"We only focus on us, not on what the people say - and I think that's most important."

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