Arteta urges Arsenal to be more ‘streetwise’ in title race

LONDON — Mikel Arteta has said that his team need to learn how to be “tricky” and “streetwise” in certain situations following Arsenal’s Champions League first-leg defeat to Porto on Wednesday.

Statistics showed that the ball was only in play for around 50 minutes of Wednesday’s match as Porto’s tactics seemed to unsettle Arteta’s team, prompting Declan Rice to urge his teammates to show more “savviness” in future.

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Asked whether his players are capable of being “bad guys” on the pitch, Arteta told a news conference on Friday: “I don’t know [about being a] bad guy but you have to be tricky. You have to be smart, you have to be streetwise, and you have to try to take advantages in every situation, and they know that.

“That’s a thing that has to be developed … the best players they have, they have that.”

Arsenal have been in superb form in the league in 2024 — they have scored 21 goals and conceded just two, winning five consecutive matches in the process.

A win over Newcastle on Saturday would move Arsenal to within two points of Premier League leaders Liverpool, with Jurgen Klopp’s team facing Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday.

But Arteta said he thinks his team are being viewed as outsiders in the race for the Premier League title.

“I feel a lot of excitement, especially internally because we are right the mix and we want to continue to be there because we are in the Champions League,” Arteta said.

“We have a fantastic game to play at the Emirates and externally probably is different because the expectations are much more focused in the other two teams [Liverpool and Manchester City].”

Arteta was cleared of a Football Association charge in December following comments he made about the officials in charge of Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat to Newcastle at St. James’ Park in the reverse fixture in November.

The Arsenal boss branded the VAR’s decision to award Newcastle’s winning goal “a disgrace” in his post-match news conference, but said on Friday that he feels as though refereeing decisions have improved since he voiced his opinion.

“Well that’s why we all wanted that at the end the decisions are better,” Arteta said. “I think the last stats that came across showed that it was a significant improvement and a lot of decisions were getting right. So hopefully that’s the case and we continue to do that.

“I talked the way I felt and I was very straight and I did it in a way that it was pretty strong but within the law because I didn’t get charged for that.”

The Arsenal head coach also said that Thomas Partey is “very close” to returning from injury, while Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko may also be fit enough to be included in the squad against Newcastle.