Mikel Arteta on Arsenal's dramatic 4-3 win at Luton: "It's the incredible thing about football, emotions and the moments that you live together. It was a special night." | Declan Rice: "For us to score last minute and keep that momentum building is massive"
Wednesday 6 December 2023 18:02, UK
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta refused to criticise David Raya despite the goalkeeper being at fault for two Luton Town goals in the Gunners' dramatic 4-3 win at Kenilworth Road.
Declan Rice's headed goal seven minutes into stoppage time secured a sensational victory for the visitors, a result that moves them five points clear at the top of the Premier League.
However, that outcome had looked unlikely when Raya's errors allowed Luton to turn the game on its head with goals from Elijah Adebayo and Ross Barkley early in the second half.
Arteta, however, would not be drawn on Raya's performance.
"Today we conceded some goals we'll be disappointed with," he said in his post-match press conference. "That's part of it as well, it's going to happen. It's how we react to that.
"We have to defend better the situations as a team, certain things leading to the goals and it is not about blaming, we have never done it and we are not going to do it now.
"It is about how the team reacts, it is going to happen and I love that response. But we can defend much better for the two goals, that is for sure."
Arsenal had opened the scoring when Gabriel Martinelli tapped home after being set up by a low cross from Bukayo Saka, though Luton hit back quickly when Gabriel Osho headed in from a corner to make it 1-1.
Arteta's side regained the lead before the break, Gabriel Jesus nodding beyond Thomas Kaminski at the far post after good link-up play between Saka and Ben White on the right, but they were again pegged back shortly after half-time by Adebayo who out-jumped the goalkeeper to equalise.
Barkley's goal, an effort straight at Raya that passed through his hands and under his body, put Rob Edwards' side in sight of a famous victory.
That lead was wiped out within minutes when Kai Havertz scored his third goal in four games, beating Kaminski to the ball to score from Jesus's dinked pass into the box.
Then late drama as Rice's intervention with virtually the game's final touch broke Luton hearts and extended Arsenal's winning run to four league games.
It was the fourth league game this season in which Arsenal scored a winning goal beyond the 85th minute after similarly late shows against Brentford, Manchester City and Manchester United, with Rice scoring in the 96th minute against the latter.
"I really enjoyed it, especially the end," he said. "It's the incredible thing about football, emotions and the moments that you live together. It was a special night.
"Credit to Luton for the incredible atmosphere that they created and the way they played. They made life really difficult for us. But we found a way to win. The resilience and the the character and the quality showed.
"Playing every three days, and we have to win every game, the demands are there. It's the way (the players) go about it, how much they want it.
"We don't want to draw, we want to win. That drive, that energy, that risk and that emotion we put in the pitch, you can sense it.
"We should have scored before with the chances that we had. We didn't, but we tried until the end and we got rewarded."
Meanwhile, match-winner Rice described his dramatic last-gasp goal as a big moment in Arsenal's season.
"Luton are a top side, they can no way be overlooked in this league because of the quality they've got. They made us pay tonight [Tuesday] with set-pieces, us being sloppy at the back but for us to score last minute and keep that momentum building is massive for us in this season.
"You have to take it every day as it comes. I wasn't here last year when they were eight points clear, we have worked a lot as a group with me coming in here now and understanding the team. We have to worry about us, not anyone else and just keep doing what the manager wants, ticking the game off and getting the three points.
"We were knocking on the door and when the ball got to Martin (Odegaard) and I shifted away from my man and went off his back shoulder and I attacked it. Anything can happen, it went in the bottom corner and in those moments, they're the ones you look back on. I'm taking it all in because what a game and the winner."
Analysis from Sky Sports' Oliver Yew:
"We were seconds away from talking about Arsenal's Premier League title charge stuttering and hitting a bump in the road.
"Luton had gone toe-to-toe with the league leaders and were moments away from grabbing a famous point on what was becoming a frustrating night for Mikel Arteta's men.
"However, Declan Rice's late show meant that in the blink of an eye, the whole mood and narrative changed as the winning goal, in the seventh minute of added time, sparked wild Arsenal celebrations.
"Rice described it as a 'massive moment'. Arteta savoured a 'special night'.
"Once again it wasn't pretty from the Gunners. It wasn't Arteta's men at their free-flowing best of last season. However, importantly, just like against Manchester United, Manchester City and Brentford earlier in the season, and now Luton, they found a way to get over the line and win.
"Not being at your best but finding a way to get the three points. That's a special characteristic. Many would say a title-winning characteristic.
"Rice's magic moment and the dramatic victory only add to the Gunners' belief that this could actually be the year that Arsenal end their 20-year long wait to bring the tile back to north London."
Luton boss Edwards reflected on a game from which his team can take confidence despite a disappointing conclusion.
"I didn't know what to say to the lads afterwards," he said. "I'm proud. We mustn't let that one moment affect us too much, we've got to look at the bigger picture.
"They did exactly what we asked of them and gave everything. We've just come up short tonight.
"We made it a really uncomfortable night for them, we tried to make it chaotic, be aggressive and brave. We can take some positivity from it, and we have to."