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Mikel Arteta: Arsenal move into top four ‘a statement’ after win without Aubameyang

Emile Smith Rowe arrows a low shot past a flat-footed Lukasz Fabianski to put Arsenal out of reach against shorthanded West Ham.

Mikel Arteta was beaming after Arsenal beat West Ham United to lift the Gunners into the top four for the first time in over a year.

The fact that the Gunners did it a day after Arteta suspended team captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and removed the arm band from the Gabonese star surely had him feeling even better.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Arsenal 2-0 West Ham ]

He wasn’t going to speak too much to it, but there were some telling comments in his post-match Interview on NBCSN.

"[The team was] fully focused and they wanted to show how strong we are as a team,” Arteta said when asked about the sans-Aubameyang performance. “We have a leadership group, but I expect that from every player to stick to our values and do what they have to do.”

Arteta would not commit to keeping Aubameyang out of the 18 any longer than Wednesday, but he may well do it given the performance.

“He was ineligible for this game. That’s it and this game is gone now.”

As for the players who did play, they delivered the goods for their boss.

Alexandre Lacazette, perhaps underused as it is, seized the chance in his start (though he did have a penalty saved by Lukasz Fabianski).

Emile Smith-Rowe kept shining and scored a delightful goal, while Arsenal’s back four was simply marvelous even before West Ham went down to 10 men.

“The quality, the passion, the energy, we had some really good moments,” Arteta said. “It’s a difficult team to play who has a lot of solutions. They are a threat in many, many ways, and I think we controlled them pretty well.”

As for the top four positioning, Arteta did not play down the spot on the table’s import to his Gunners.

Forget matches-in-hand or what’s ahead on the fixture list, Arsenal is top four.

“It was a big game for us. Having the capacity to go above them, it was a statement. We’ve been pretty strong at home and we needed to put in another big performance against a really difficult team and I think we got that.”

Follow @NicholasMendola