Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta hits back after Emile Smith Rowe injury question raised

Southampton v Arsenal: Match in pictures

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta hit back when asked about the fitness of Emile Smith Rowe following Tuesday’s win over Southampton. Smith Rowe limped off with 18 minutes remaining of the match at St Mary’s. The academy graduate has been in fine form for the Gunners since coming into the Premier League side on Boxing Day.

Smith Rowe has helped Arsenal win five of their last six top-flight matches.

However, fans will have been worried to see him having to be substituted against Southampton.

Arteta was asked about the condition of the 20-year-old after the match.

But the Spaniard instead hit back at his critics who questioned his team selection in Saturday’s FA Cup fourth round defeat to the same opponents.

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Arteta said on BT Sport: “Well it’s one of the reasons why we had to make changes in the cup, because we had five players that were not available to play – I want to make that clear.

“And the ones that played today, they were to play some part of the game.

“So we expect them to play without any pre-season, 50 games, every game at that age.

“I’m sorry but that is impossible and I’m not going to do that with the young players.”

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Arsenal are up to eighth in the table and five points off the top four.

But Arteta is not getting carried away despite an impressive 3-1 win on the south coast.

He added: “It is tough to win here. They are strong and have been in form.

“It showed a lot of intelligent and resilience from the team in the way they managed the game.

“We still have a lot to do, we have a lot to recover, a lot of things to improve still.

“Be humble, train good and prepare for the next game.”

Bukayo Saka scored the second goal for Arsenal before laying on the assist for Alexandre Lacazette to seal the win.

And the teenager was delighted to come away with all three points.

“It was much better than Saturday,” Saka told BT Sport.

“Saturday was disappointing. We are the holders and we took it hard. We exploited their weaknesses and got the win we deserved.

“I said to [Lacazette] about the opportunity, saying I would run in behind. We got as goal so I am happy. I am not just happy with Laca, though, I am happy with everyone.

“I am happy to be playing for Arsenal. I have the passion on the pitch and the boss gives me the freedom.

“Game after game, we take it. We have to do that. The Premier League is changing rapidly this season. You have to focus on each and try to win.”

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