Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has hailed Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish as “a top player” who can win a game and be dangerous “in any area of the pitch”.

Grealish was linked with several leading Premier League clubs in the summer, most notably Manchester United, but has stayed at his childhood club where he continues to impress, and Arteta picked out the forward for special praise.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Arteta said of Grealish: “He is a top player, great talent, he is player who can make a difference at any moment in the game.

“He has this personality against any opponent, at any ground, to take the ball in any area of the pitch and he can make the difference, so we have to look after him.”

While Grealish is the danger man, the Villa player most familiar to Arsenal is goalkeeper Emi Martinez, who moved to the Midlands from the Gunners in the summer after a decade on their books.

Having spent the majority of his Arsenal career out on loan or as a back-up, Martinez burst into the spotlight at the end of last season following an injury to Bernd Leno. He deputised superbly and played in their FA Cup final win over Chelsea.

Arteta said of Martinez: “He had a career of 10 years here. It wasn’t just the last six or eight months. You have to look at everything he did through his time at the club.

“Obviously, it wasn’t in my plans to sell him, but we gave him the chance because he deserved it. He performed really, really well but we have to balance the books. We have to make the right choices in the market and obviously, I couldn’t guarantee him to be the number one.

“He’s a very ambitious person, he has been working really hard and he can see now that the opportunity is there. He’s got the opportunity to play with Argentina and when a player asks you to do that I think you have to be open enough and tell him what you think about him.

“If he makes the decision to leave, you should try to support him because he deserves it for the way he has served the club over the years.”

Arteta feels Villa, who only survived Premier League relegation on the final day last season, will be a much more potent force in 2020-21, as he also picked out former Manchester City midfielder Douglas Luiz as a player he admires.

He said: “I think they have a better understanding with the players. They’ve worked with the manager for longer.

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