Thierry Henry and Robert Pires in agreement over favourite current Arsenal players


Arsenal are well placed to mount a challenge to finish in the top four of the Premier League, with club legends Henry and Pires highlighting two stars who will be key

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Robert Pires and Thierry Henry are in agreement over their favourite current Arsenal players amid the Gunners push for a spot in the top four of the Premier League.

Mikel Arteta has turned around a horrendous run of results in August to have his side sitting fifth in the top-flight, just one point off West Ham in the final Champions League place.

If they are able to overtake the Hammers, with 24 more matches still to be played, it would be the Gunners’ first finish in the top four since the 2015/2016 season.

A number of players have starred during their recent impressive run, including goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, full-backs Nuno Tavares and Takehiro Tomiyasu, as well as midfielder Thomas Partey.

But it is academy graduates Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka who are impressing Henry and Pires most.

The duo have broken into the first-team since Arteta replaced Unai Emery as Arsenal manager, becoming key members of the side.

The pair have certainly caught the eye of Henry, who fired the Gunners to two Premier League titles and two FA Cups.

“Bukayo Saka, Smith Rowe, and I know I’m talking about improvement, when I watch Arsenal those are the two guys I can relate to,” he told Prime TV on Thursday.

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“I can see that it matters to them. Those are the two players that make me watch Arsenal more than the others.”

Smith Rowe has been particularly impressive this season, scoring six goals and notching two assists in 16 appearances in all competitions.

Four of those strikes have come in his last six Premier League games, including a bizarre opener against Manchester United on Thursday.

In fact, he has performed so well that he has at times kept star summer signing Martin Odegaard out of the team.

Saka meanwhile has battled fitness issues for much of this campaign, but has still managed to score three goals and claim two assists.

He was one of the few shining lights in a season of struggle last year, before playing a starring role for England at Euro 2020.

And amid those displays, Pires has agreed with his former team-mate, hailing Smith Rowe and Saka as the future of the Gunners.

“Since they beat Tottenham in September, Arsenal have struck the right balance and finally the players believe in themselves,” Pires told the Daily Mail.

“I think they can reach the top-four. What I also believe is [that] the connection between Mikel Arteta and Edu is very positive at the club. They will find more great players.

“But the present and the future of Arsenal has definitely come from the academy in Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka. The pair are not afraid to take responsibility on the field – and I love that!”

Though the defeat to United was a blow to their top-four ambitions, Arsenal are still well-placed in the table.

Their next league outing is on Monday night when they host struggling Everton at the Emirates, with Smith Rowe and Saka set to again be key.