Football

Mikel Arteta hails injured match-winner Alexandre Lacazette

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta praised French striker Alexandre Lacazette for ignoring a back injury to come off the bench and score the winner at Brighton & Hove Albion, as the Londoners finally seemed to get the blend of youth and experience right.

Lacazette came on in the second half to change the game, teeing up teenage winger Bukayo Saka's pass with his first touch before scoring with his second to secure a 1-0 win that ends a difficult year on a positive note for the Gunners.

"I think this is what all the managers dream for, to bring people from the bench and win you the game like he's done tonight," Arteta told reporters.

"I think he's been in really good form in the last few weeks, he's been scoring goals, he's full of confidence. Today he had a sore back, he could not start the game. But he came on and won the game for us, which is massively important."

Saka, 19, who scored in Arsenal's 3-1 Boxing Day win over Chelsea, was a constant threat as Arteta's younger players gelled with their more experienced teammates en route to victory at the Amex.

"They need the right senior players amongst them to shine. I think they showed the most important quality, which is the personality to come to any ground and play with freedom and enjoy being a footballer," Arteta added.

Having secured consecutive wins for the first time since September, the Spaniard is hoping his side can kick on in the new year. "We have managed through this period to maintain our team spirit and our cohesion. Sometimes that is not easy to do, because obviously the frustration that comes out with defeats usually affects the team," he explained.

"Hopefully, now we can go on a run of games and be more positive for that."

Brighton, meanwhile, have won just one league game at home in 2020, and are now just two points above the drop zone.

Manager Graham Potter made six changes for the clash with the Gunners, saying: "I thought the guys who came in, all of them did well. All of them have put themselves in a good position and that's what we need going forward." - REUTERS

Football