Mikel Arteta praises 'exceptional' Arsenal star after beating Brentford


Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta celebrates victory after the final whistle in the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London. Picture date: Saturday March 9, 2024.

Mikel Arteta branded Arsenal matchwinner Kai Havertz an ‘exceptional player’ following his decisive contribution in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Brentford.

The Gunners looked to be on course for another routine win when Declan Rice headed Arsenal into an early lead but Brentford stunned the Emirates Stadium with a bizarre equaliser, courtesy of an Aaron Ramsdale howler, in first half injury time.

With Liverpool hosting Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday, Arsenal could not afford to drop points in the race for the title and finally got themselves back in front in the closing stages thanks to Havertz’s bullet header.

The summer signing from Chelsea endured a rocky start to his Arsenal career but has now scored in four successive games and is playing an increasingly prominent role for his new club, much to the delight of his manager.

‘I’m so happy,’ Arteta said when asked if Havertz had now justified his big-money move.

‘If somebody told me after the first two or three months that the whole stadium would be singing his song with that passion, with that feeling, with that chemistry, I would have found it hard to believe.

‘That’s what happens to good people. He’s an exceptional player. When he starts to score goals like this and everything starts to flow people feel more connected with him.

‘They see his work rate, they see his intelligence, they see how he plays for the team and how he’s contributing. It’s impossible not to love him.’

Rice rose to head home a career-best sixth goal of the season but deep in first-half stoppage time, Ramsdale collected a routine back-pass from Gabriel Maghalaes but dallied in possession and his attempted clearance was blocked into the net by Yoane Wissa.

Ramsdale has not played since the return game at Brentford in November after losing the battle for the Arsenal number one spot to David Raya – who is on loan from the Bees and therefore ineligible against his parent club – and this could yet be his final outing for the Gunners.

He recovered to make two smart saves in the second-half and Arteta was pleased his error did not ultimately cost the Gunners.

‘I’m really happy especially because he did exactly what he is, which is a person with huge personality and courage, very determined,’ he said.

‘Errors are part of football. It’s how you react to it, especially for the keepers which is probably the most difficult position. He did so in an amazing way. I’m not surprised because the whole team and the whole stadium was behind him.

‘He has earned that respect and admiration. We really wanted to win for him.’

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