London (AFP) – Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said he still only wants the best for former employers Manchester City, even though a European ban for the English champions could give the Gunners a route into next season’s Champions League.
A 4-0 win over Newcastle on Sunday lifted Arsenal up to 10th in the Premier League, but just six points adrift of Tottenham in fifth.
City’s two-season ban handed down by UEFA on Friday means fifth will be enough to secure a Champions League place unless the champions succeed in overturning that sanction at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Arteta, who left City to take his first senior managerial role at the Emirates in December, could now be the beneficiary of his former club’s punishment.
“It’s very difficult. I want the best for Manchester City, the best for Pep (Guardiola) and the players. The only thing I want for them is positive and good things,” said the Spaniard.
“I just want to do for Arsenal the best I can.”
Victory was just the second in eight league games since Arteta took charge and there was plenty of encouragement for the 37-year-old in Arsenal’s second half performance after an all too familiar subdued first 45 minutes.
“We talked before the game that we wanted to turn draws into wins,” added Arteta after a run of six draws in eight games.
“The first half it was a little bit slow, but the way they play with low block, you can get frustrated. We improved much more in the second half.”
– Explosive Arsenal –
Arteta handed Eddie Nketiah his first Premier League start up front at the expense of the out-of-form Alexandre Lacazette.
The 20-year-old missed his big chance to make an impact when he hit the bar from Nicolas Pepe’s cut-back in an explosive start to the second period from Arsenal.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang showed his young apprentice how to pounce in front of goal as he rose highest to power home Pepe’s floated cross on 54 minutes.
One of the revelations of Arteta’s early days in charge has been Bukayo Saka’s performances as a makeshift left-back.
No Arsenal player has created more goals than the 18-year-old this season and Saka nutmegged Valentino Lazaro before teeing up Pepe to fire home the hosts’ second from close range.
“He takes responsibility, he takes risks in the final third. He is a player who wants to make an impact, he has courage,” said Arteta.
Newcastle have scored just 24 goals in 26 league games this season and their lack of a goal threat was obvious as they chased the game in the final half hour.
But Steve Bruce was most disappointed with their defending as they conceded twice more in the closing stages.
“The goals were gave away were not like us, it was too easy,” said Bruce. “We did not start the half like we should’ve done. We’ve been sloppy and given away awful goals.”
Lacazette replaced Nketiah five minutes from time and made a huge impact to give his confidence a much-needed boost.
Firstly, the Frenchman crossed for Mesut Ozil, whose tame shot squirmed through Martin Dubravka’s grasp.
Luck then shone on Lacazette to end a nine-game goal drought as his right-footed shot flicked off his left foot and flew into the top corner in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
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