With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang dropped following his latest disciplinary breach, Arsenal needed other attackers to step up for its big Premier League match against top-four rival West Ham on Wednesday.
Alexandre Lacazette, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe did just that in a 2-0 win at Emirates Stadium.
Replacing Aubameyang as captain, Lacazette played a perfectly weighted throughball and the 20-year-old Martinelli — delivering a fine impression of Arsenal’s ostracized striker — burst through down the left and produced a precise finish into the far corner.
Then, the 21-year-old Smith Rowe, another of Arsenal’s talented youngsters, entered as a substitute and put away a clinical finish at the end of a counter attack in the 87th minute.
Arsenal was dominant for large spells — the margin should have been heavier, with Lacazette later missing a penalty when the score was 1-0 — to show that life after Aubameyang is nothing to be feared.
Indeed, the result lifted Arsenal above West Ham and into fourth place, the final Champions League qualification position.
“They wanted to show how strong we are as a team,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said of his players at the end of a tumultuous few days at the club. “The performance, the attitude and the commitment they showed today is exactly what we are as a club.
“I expect it from every player — to stick to our values.”
That felt like a dig at Aubameyang, who wasn’t spotted at the stadium having been stripped of the captaincy and told he wasn’t available for selection for the West Ham game after returning late from an approved trip abroad last week.
He could be free to play against Leeds on Saturday, though.
“He wasn’t eligible for this game and that’s it,” Arteta said. “This game is gone.”
Another trademark free kick from James Ward-Prowse. Another draw for Southampton.
The England midfielder’s curling strike from 25 meters was the highlight of the 2-2 draw between Southampton and Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. It was a a league-high eighth draw of the season for both teams.
Ward-Prowse has now scored 11 direct free kick goals in the Premier League. Only three players — David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Gianfranco Zola — have scored more.
His latest canceled out Wilfried Zaha’s second-minute opener for Palace, which then fell behind to Armando Broja’s shot from outside the area in the 36th.
Jordan Ayew equalized in the 65th for his first goal in 45 matches for Palace.
WIN FOR WOLVES
Brighton’s winless run stretched to a club-record 11 Premier League games after Romain Saiss’ first-half strike earned Wolverhampton a 1-0 victory at the Amex Stadium
The defender volleyed home from a delightful pass from Ruben Neves in first-half stoppage time.
Brighton has not won since Sept. 19 and was without a host of key players while it battles an injury and coronavirus crisis.
A bigger COVID-19 outbreak came at Watford and it caused the postponement of its game at Burnley. It was the third match in four days to be called off for such a reason, after Brighton-Tottenham on Sunday and Brentford-Manchester United on Tuesday.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80