Arteta warns Runarsson must handle pressure with Ryan fitness unclear


Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has warned Alex Runarsson must learn to cope with the pressure of playing for the Gunners after a shaky start as he prepares to be the likely replacement for the suspended Bernd Leno.

Germany international Leno was sent off late on in Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Wolves, thus ruling him out for Saturday's trip to Aston Villa.

Runarsson was the back-up on the bench and played the latter stages of the game, though he did little to endear himself to Gunners fans as he looked nervous when haplessly booting the ball out of play for a corner shortly after coming on.

The Icelandic keeper was signed from Dijon in pre-season to replace the departed Emiliano Martinez, but errors in Europa League games against Rapid Vienna and Molde left fans questioning his acquisition.

Arsenal reportedly tried to offload him again in January and they brought in Mat Ryan on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion to cover for Leno.

But with Ryan still yet to train, Runarsson looks a likely choice between the posts at the weekend, and Arteta is urging him to prove the doubters wrong.

"[Ryan] has not been available to train yet, and Alex is available so we will have the choice between him and Alex to be made," Arteta said on Thursday. "If Mat is able to train and they are both fit, we have a decision to make; if Mat is not fit then Alex will go on.

"Alex knew his role before we signed him, and obviously knows his role after we signed him. We had a plan on the goalkeeper position, and we could not execute [it] the way we wanted, but Alex's role was very clear around the squad.

"He needs to earn his opportunity, needs to earn his place, depending on his performance. He needs to push for that."

Arteta believes criticism of Runarsson is the reality of playing for a club the size of Arsenal and that he must get used to it if he is to have a long-term future there.

"This is what you face when you play for a big club," Arteta continued. "People expect when you go out there to give your best and perform at the top level, and if you don't you get that criticism.

"You know that before you join the club, you know that you are exposed all the time to critics.

"As well, if you do really well everyone is going to be praising you more than at any other club. You have to be able to handle that pressure if you want to play here.

"He works really hard. He's fitted really well around the dressing room, he's a really nice boy, really humble. He needs to be away from all the comments and focus on his work, focus on improving."

Source Omnisport