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Arteta backs Runarsson to impress in place of suspended Leno

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Mikel Arteta has backed Alex Runarsson to handle the pressure if he starts in between the sticks for the Gunners against Aston Villa.

In the absence of Bernd Leno, Mikel Arteta is confident Alex Runarsson can rise to the occasion.

Arsenal will be without their number one goalkeeper when they travel to Villa Park at the weekend. Bernd Leno was sent off in the defeat to Wolves after handling the ball in a ‘freak’ fashion outside his area.

The Gunners signed Mat Ryan from Brighton in the January window as a cover to their goalkeeping options. However, the Australian international is likely to miss the game against Aston Villa after picking up a hip niggle in training.

It means Runarsson could get his first Premier League start against an Aston Villa side looking to get back to winning ways following their defeat to West Ham.

The 25-year-old has not seen the best of starts to his career since he joined the Gunners from Dijon. His most critical moment came in Arsenal’s Carabao Cup quarter-final defeat to Manchester City. The goalkeeper was questionable for at least two of the Citizen’s goals.

Regardless, Arteta is confident Runarsson can put criticism behind him and put up a big performance in goal for the Gunners.

“This is what you face when you play for a big club,” Arteta said to the club’s website.

“People expect when you go out there to give your best and perform at the top level, and if you don’t, you’re going to get that criticism.”

“You know that before you joined the club that you’ll be exposed to critics all the time, and if you do really well, people will be praising you more than at any other club. If you want to play here, you have to be able to handle that pressure.”

“I think he knew and he expected that, and he needs to handle that. We are here to support him and he’s played some games already here. He’s played some good games and yes he had a difficult game against Manchester City, but the other night he came on [against Wolves] and I think he did well.”

“He (Runarsson) works really hard and he’s fitting in really well around the dressing room. He’s a really nice boy, really humble and he needs to be away from all the comments to focus on his work and improving.”

“Alex knew his role before we signed him and obviously he knows his role after we signed him. We had a plan on the goalkeeper position and we could not execute the plan in the way we wanted, for different reasons, but Alex’s role was very clear around the squad. That hasn’t changed.”

“Then, he needs to earn his opportunity and he needs to earn his place. He is third, second or first, depending on his performance. He needs to push for that.”