Highly rated English duo to stay at Arsenal, Mikel Arteta confirms

England suffered a somewhat surprising 2-1 defeat to Hibernian in the opening game of their pre-season campaign.

Conceding the opener as a result of a goalkeeping calamity, where debutant Arthur Okonkwo missed his clearance, Hibs found themselves 2-0 up in the second half when Daniel Mackay headed in from a corner.

Perhaps more reassuringly for Gunners fans, however, was what Arteta said after the game, particularly surrounding the futures of Joe Willock and Emile Smith Rowe, both of whom have been linked with moves away this summer.

Emile Smith-Rowe

LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 08: Emile Smith-Rowe of Arsenal in action during the UEFA Europa League Group E match between Arsenal and Sporting Lisbon at Emirates Stadium on November 08, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Smith Rowe has been the subject of bids from Aston Villa, and is yet to sign a new contract in north London. Meanwhile, Joe Willock remains a target for Newcastle United, after a successful loan spell in the North East in the second half of the 2020-21 campaign.

However, when quizzed on Smith Rowe, Arteta said:

“Without a question. Yes. He (Smith Rowe) will stay here. 100%.

This comes as speculation mounts about a new contract not being far away, and with it a change of shirt number to reflect his increased importance to Arteta’s side.

The Arsenal boss was also drawn on the future of Joe Willock, who missed the defeat against Hibernian. When asked why, Arteta revealed that:

“Well he (Willock) wasn’t involved today because he had a little groin issue. He trained yesterday really well but we didn’t want to risk him.

However, he made it clear that he expects Willock to remain at the Emirates this summer, and that he could yet play an important role for the Gunners:

Joe is part of our plans, he’s our player and in the time that he is here we will try to make the most out of him. He had a great experience on loan. He was, I think one of the most important players for their survival.”

Arsenal continue their pre-season mini-tour of Scotland with a game against Rangers on Saturday.

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