MIKEL ARTETA demanded Arsenal’s senior stars step up to end the club’s crisis.
The under-fire Emirates boss wants his established players to shield suffering young Gunners like Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka from mounting pressure.
Arsenal are reeling from their worst start to a season in 118 years following back-to-back defeats by Brentford and Chelsea without scoring.
Now they face an awkward Carabao Cup second-round trip to Championship high- fliers West Brom.
Arteta said: “The senior players are the ones who are going to determine our success and who have to lead the team.
“These are the guys who have to drive everybody else and they have that responsibility to be the leaders.
“Then our young players can add to that and I think that will make them better and stronger. But they need to be given time to mature.
“We sometimes get really carried away because of the youth, the quality talent and the potential that we have through the squad.
“They should not be trying to take on the external opinions and pressures that are not their responsibility because they’re not ready to do that.
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“And that for me is the biggest danger and why we really have to protect the boys.”
Arteta’s plans for Arsenal’s two league matches this season have been thrown into disarray by a Covid outbreak which struck down Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alex Lacazette, Ben White, Willian and back-up keeper Alex Runarsson.
But Aubameyang, Lacazette and Runarsson have returned to full training, while Martin Odegaard and Aaron Ramsdale are available after completing their transfers last week.
Arteta said: “The position we are in is not where we want to be and we should not accept it.
“But the players know our preparations have been disturbed.
“We had made our plans for the Brentford game and had to alter them 24 hours before the match. Then exactly the same thing happened against Chelsea.
“We are under difficult circumstances at the moment and we need everyone to be together.
“So it’s really good news that Auba and Laca are both available because we really need them.
“A big part of what we want to do is going to be determined in the penalty area and these are two players who have the biggest goal threat in the team.
“They are both so important to us and we need them to be firing at their best. And the team has to help them to deliver that.”
With a trip to Manchester City on Saturday lunchtime, Arteta could hold back some of his players at The Hawthorns tonight — the first time since 1995 that the Gunners have been involved at this early stage of the competition.
He added: “Odegaard and Ramsdale have only been training with us for a few days but they both want to play at West Brom, so we’ll see if they’re going to be involved.”
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