Mikel Arteta heaped praise on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the striker returned to the Arsenal side to hit his first Premier League hat-trick and down Leeds.
The Gunners captain had not started in five games after leaving the club’s coronavirus-secure bubble to tend to his ill mother.
But he marked his comeback in fine fashion as a spirited Leeds were beaten 4-2 at the Emirates Stadium, having started the afternoon above their hosts in the table.
Operating as the main striker, Aubameyang opened the scoring with a low finish before doubling the lead with a penalty and completing his hat-trick with an early second-half header.
Hector Bellerin’s first goal in over a year had Arsenal three goals to the good at the end of a first half they had dominated, only for Leeds to rally with goals from Pascal Struijk and Helder Costa to make it an uncomfortable end to the game for the hosts.
Arteta played Aubameyang as his main striker and it paid dividends, with the Spaniard admitting any success for the club is reliant on his skipper being at his best.
“I thought he was superb today, he has been training really good the last week or so, he looked back to normal,” he said.
“He looked really committed in training, really hungry and today he had a great performance, not only for the goals but the way he worked without the ball and the way he worked every Leeds defender, he set the tone.
“We know that a big part of our future success is related to Auba being at his best and scoring as many goals as possible.
“If he is in that type of form we are going to be closer to winning football matches, that is for sure – we cannot just rely on him but he is a big piece of our puzzle and you saw today that when he is firing he is a difficult player to play against.”
With Aubameyang moved centrally, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe operated from the flanks with Martin Odegaard making his full debut at number 10.
❤️ That feeling…
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) February 14, 2021
“I thought [the creativity in the final third] was much better,” added Arteta.
“We were much more efficient and we were composed. We took our time when it was needed. We had movement, runs in behind, people in the box and arriving into the box.
“Our decision-making was much better and our efficiency, we were hitting shots and many of those were on target. That was the difference.”
— Premier League (@premierleague) February 14, 2021
Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa bemoaned a poor 45 minutes from his side but praised them for improving after the interval.
“In the first half, we didn’t manage to avoid the circulation from Arsenal from their half to our half,” he said.
“When we were building up form the back we didn’t manage to take the ball into their half clearly.
“There was no surprise to either of the two managers, they knew how we were going to press and they resolved it.
“We knew how they were going to press us and we didn’t manage to resolve it and in the second half the opposite happened.
“In the first half we didn’t manage to recover the ball quickly but what we didn’t do well in the first-half the opponent did well – and in the second-half we managed to do these things better than the opponent.”