Mikel Arteta hails Kai Havertz's 'outstanding contribution' in defence for Arsenal

Manager expects Bukayo Saka to play a decisive role soon

Arsenal's Martin Odegaard, left, celebrates with Kai Havertz after scoring his side's opening goal against Luton Town at the Emirates Stadium. AP
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Manager Mikel Arteta said Kai Havertz's movement off the ball and his defensive capabilities make him a valuable asset to Arsenal.

The Germany international, who was signed from Chelsea for £65 million in the close season, set up Martin Odegaard's opener in a 2-0 win over Luton Town. He has now reached nine goals and four assists in 41 games across all competitions.

While Havertz has not quite fired in terms of goals and assists, Arteta said he was pleased with the 24-year-old.

"He has incredible qualities in the attacking phase as well as in link up play," Arteta said ahead of their Premier League game at Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.

"His contribution defensively is outstanding with the work rate he puts into the team. He has more games to come and he will be trying to improve his numbers.

"It is just his first season for us and has been moving in different positions. He is very intelligent."

Arsenal are currently second in the table and two points behind league-leaders Liverpool in the standings. They face a test of their title credentials when they travel to the Amex Stadium.

Under Roberto de Zerbi, Brighton have lost just one league game at home this season. Arteta hailed the Italian's influence, stating: "What they have done on the pitch deserves credit and the way they have run the club.

"They are fighting with the top clubs and have done a magnificent job. His football makes life very difficult for the opponent and they play attractive football.

"We have to select our best line-up. We have to train and get ready to win again. Brighton will be tough, they play well, but we have to be better than them."

Meanwhile, Arteta said Bukayo Saka could be a doubt to face Brighton.

The 22-year-old missed his side's 2-0 win over Luton on Wednesday that briefly returned them to the top of the table before being knocked back into second by Liverpool.

A muscle injury sustained during the goalless draw at Manchester City meant Saka missed a league game for just the second time this season, with Reiss Nelson deputising as Arteta's side made it nine wins from their last 10 in the title race.

Saka has scored 16 goals in all competitions as Arsenal look to erase the disappointment of missing out on the Premier League title last term by pipping Liverpool and Manchester City this time around.

"I'm super positive," Arteta said of Saka's prospects of having an impact. "I think he's going to fly and be so decisive.

"He's so strong, how much he wants it. How excited he is about what is coming. He wants to be there, and he's getting better and better.

"It's normal to have little niggles, you have kicks. He's gone through a lot of that in the last two or three years, and look at the way he is performing."

Also, Eddie Howe said he is confident Newcastle's ambition can keep the club's big names on Tyneside.

Record signing Alexander Isak's blistering run of goalscoring form has this week seen him linked with Arsenal and Tottenham, while Paris Saint-Germain have repeatedly been touted as suitors for Brazil midfielder Bruno Guimaraes.

The Magpies' hopes of securing a second successive season of Champions League football have been all but dashed during a campaign which has been littered with long-term injuries, but head coach Howe hopes the direction being taken by the club's Saudi-backed owners will be enough to persuade his star men to stay with the project.

Asked if European qualification would help that process, Howe said: "It will help, but I don't think it will be the defining factor. That's in the players' hands and the club's hands. Europe would certainly help.

"A lot will depend on our ambitions and where the club is going to go in the foreseeable future. I don't think one season necessarily dictates that, it's the general feeling of where the club is going to go.

"We as a football club need to continue to push forward. You set your ambitions not just in terms of talking, but in actions, so we need to show to them that we are a club moving forward."

Erik ten Hag, meanwhile, admitted Manchester United's dropped points are getting "more expensive" and that time is running out to secure a Champions League spot.

United conceded twice in stoppage time as Chelsea sealed a dramatic 4-3 win at Stamford Bridge on Thursday.

The Red Devils, who sit sixth in the table, also conceded a 99th-minute leveller at Brentford on Saturday.

United are currently nine points adrift of fifth-placed Tottenham with eight matches remaining, while they are 11 points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa, who have played a game more.

"This week we've dropped points in stoppage time," Ten Hag said.

"We've dropped five points and that's very expensive because the points are getting more expensive because the games are running out. We know that and we have to catch up.

"We are many points behind, it will be difficult but we will keep fighting and our team has character."

Updated: April 05, 2024, 12:57 PM