Arsenal are too reliant on Saka and Smith Rowe, admits Mikel Arteta

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Nick Ames
·2-min read
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<span>Photograph: Catherine Ivill/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Catherine Ivill/AFP/Getty Images

Mikel Arteta accepts Arsenal must curb their reliance on Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe if they are to sustain any success, admitting he could not have imagined the pair would become so pivotal to their fortunes by now.

The two academy products were superb in Arsenal’s 4-0 win at Slavia Prague on Thursday, Saka scoring an excellent goal and Smith Rowe creating Nicolas Pépé’s opener and having a strike ruled out. Statistics suggest that, should they retain their places in Arteta’s XI when Fulham visit on Sunday, Arsenal will have a far greater chance of a third straight win. They have taken 22 points from the 10 league games in which both players have started this season, and only 23 from the 21 occasions that has not been the case.

“They know that playing every game is impossible, so we have to change those stats,” Arteta said. “That’s what we have to do. We have to find that solution.

Related: Lacazette sinks Slavia Prague to send rampant Arsenal into semi-finals

“It tells a lot about what has happened this season. Eight months ago, if anybody had said we were going to rely so much on these two guys to get a result, you would have said we were not going to be in a strong position. That is our reality as well. We have to change that reality because it doesn’t go in our favour.”

Saka and Smith Rowe have endured injury niggles in recent weeks so their time may need managing given the fate of Arsenal’s season would appear to hinge on their Europa League semi-final with Villarreal. Their prospects of securing European football via the league look slim but, with successive home fixtures against Scott Parker’s side and Everton coming up, Arteta knows it would be folly to place all their eggs in one basket.

“Big mistake,” he said. “I love that phrase. My dad always tells me that since I was 15 years old. We cannot do that: the league is really important. There are a lot of points to play for and there have been a lot of changes in recent weeks in terms of the table. We want to be involved right up until the last match.”

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is unlikely to play as he recovers from malaria, but players such as Willian and Gabriel Martinelli could face the relegation strugglers from the start.