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They have to celebrate – Mikel Arteta defends joyous reaction to win at Villa

Arsenal had been criticised for their response following victory at Villa Park.

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Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno celebrates with Thomas Partey, Ben White, right, and Rob Holding, left, after making a save in the closing stages against Aston Villa (Nick Potts/PA)

Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno celebrates with Thomas Partey, Ben White, right, and Rob Holding, left, after making a save in the closing stages against Aston Villa (Nick Potts/PA)

Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno celebrates with Thomas Partey, Ben White, right, and Rob Holding, left, after making a save in the closing stages against Aston Villa (Nick Potts/PA)

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has told his players to carry on celebrating despite criticism of their reaction after the final whistle at Aston Villa.

Bukayo Saka’s goal secured a 1-0 victory at Villa Park in the Gunners’ last game before the international break, prompting a joyous response on the pitch afterwards.

Villa defender Ashley Young later claimed Arteta’s team has celebrated “like they won the league”, while pundit Gabby Agbonlahor went further, suggesting the scenes had been worthy of Champions League success.

However as he prepared his team for Monday night’s trip to Crystal Palace, Arteta told a press conference: “I don’t tell the players to celebrate or not, it’s something that comes right from them.

“It’s great when I see them hugging each other, touching each other, enjoying each other, celebrating with the fans who made a long trip to be with us for a 12.30pm kick-off and showing their gratitude for them being supportive… for me it’s great.

“The best moments as a football player are after winning a match, the atmosphere with your team-mates, and they have to celebrate, of course.”

Arsenal headed into the weekend sitting in fourth place in the table with North London rivals Tottenham and Manchester United hot on their heels in pursuit of Champions League qualification.

Spurs, who host Newcastle on Sunday evening, could be level on points and leapfrog them on goal difference with a sizeable win, albeit having played two games more than their neighbours.

But Arteta insists he will remain relaxed about what the chasing pack are doing as he focuses only on his team.

He said: “We are going to focus on what we can do. That’s the only thing we can control. Through the TV, we can suffer or enjoy, but there is not much we can do.

“What we have to do is win the football matches that we need to to achieve what we want, and that’s only in our hands.”

Goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale is likely to miss the game with the hip injury which forced him to withdraw from the England squad, but midfielder Saka is back in training after recovering from Covid-19 and full-back Takehiro Tomiyasu has a chance of returning from a calf problem.

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