Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has reciprocated praise from his Tottenham counterpart Antonio Conte ahead of Saturday’s north London derby.
Conte commented on the improvement of Arsenal after they showed “patience” with Arteta, with the Gunners sitting top of the Premier League after six wins from their first seven games.
Spurs are just a point behind, though, and pipped their rivals to the final Champions League spot in a frenetic run-in last season.
“Not only the start but the journey they had since Antonio joined as well and how things changed,” Arteta said at a press conference on Friday. “They have a clear identity… both teams expect a tough match [on Saturday].”
Arteta refused to be drawn on whether Thomas Partey, Kieran Tierney and Oleksandr Zinchenko would be part of the squad for the Spurs clash, but he did comment on Emile Smith Rowe, who recently underwent surgery to deal with a groin injury and is expected to be out until after the World Cup.
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Smith Rowe has played just 48 minutes for Arsenal’s first team this season, all from substitute appearances, and a statement from the club on Thursday said his “successful surgery took place in London in the past few days and Emile’s rehabilitation programme is already underway. We are hopeful that Emile will return to full training in December.”
Arteta made clear the decision to undergo surgery came from the player, saying: “We had to make a decision and we could not continue with that uncertainty.
“The player was the first one demanding that he wanted an end decision and then we have to support him on that.
“After a surgery it’s very difficult to give a timeline. We need to go step-by-step. We know before the World Cup he’s not going to be involved.”