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Arteta delighted as bit-part players keep title chase on track

LONDON : Mikel Arteta praised his bit-part players after they helped take Arsenal back to the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 victory over Luton Town on Wednesday.

Forward Reiss Nelson made his first league start of the season, Emile Smith Rowe his third and midfielder Thomas Partey was in the starting XI for the first time since August.

With Declan Rice, Jorginho and Gabriel Jesus left on the bench and Bukayo Saka not in the squad, however, Arsenal showed they have the strength in depth that was in doubt last season when their title hopes evaporated in the closing months.

Smith Rowe was especially impressive, having a hand in both goals, while Partey quickly got up to speed.

"I look at my players and squad in a different way. It's a joy to have them fit. If we want to utilise the squad and maximise what we have, they have to play," Arteta told reporters. "I think they did really well.

"I think we have won again with good confidence and I think they've been really important for us."

It was a bold move by Arteta to make five changes from the side that drew 0-0 with champions Manchester City on Sunday, although Rice and Gabriel Martinelli came off the bench late on.

"When they have the moment, they have to take it and they certainly did today," he said of his squad players. "They gave me a reason every day, regardless of the result because it's not the right decision and it's not down to the result.

"If we would have lost the game, it would have been down to making the changes. You have to do what is right and what they deserve, and I was full of confidence that they would respond."

Arsenal, who will relinquish top spot if Liverpool beat Sheffield United on Thursday, certainly look more capable of sustaining their title push.