It was a tough night at the office for British clubs last night in the Europa League and while Arsenal may have progressed into the quarter-finals, they made a tough job of it. Olympiacos won 1-0 on the night with the Gunners taking the tie 3-2 on aggregate, but at times, it was far too close for comfort.
After the game manager Mikel Arteta spoke with the media as Arsenal, one way or the other, continue to build some kind of momentum heading into the final stretch of the season.
On whether we made it hard for ourselves:
I am pleased because we are through and last year we went out by them. If I have to evaluate the performance with what we’ve done today with the ball in particular, then it’s nowhere near the standards we have set for ourselves. We made it really difficult because we didn’t have any stability when you give the amount of balls away that we have in the game. When that happens, you don’t have the control to manage the tie in the way that we should have done and that’s related to the amount of chances we missed again.
On whether we were tired after Sunday:
We have to manage to play every three days, we have to manage o play the ties, we have to manage to play when we are infant or behind. It’s football and I don’t want any of those excuses. I’ll say it again, it’s not anywhere near the level we want when we’re on the ball.
On going through to the quarter-finals:
Yes, we are really happy with that. It’s enough step forward as a team so hopefully we can learn some lessons today and be ready because it will be even tougher. It’s true that we have beaten tough teams in Benfica and Olympiakos, but the next one will be even tougher.
On whether we need to raise our standards for the next round:
Yes, because what we have to do, the way we’re set up, the organisation we have and the way we want to play, we have to be much more efficient, simple and with much more cohesion as a team. Without that structure, obviously you are exposed when you lose the ball in really dangerous areas without any opposition. When you do that and we did that a little bit well, we created chance after chance, but again, as you mentioned, if you want to be in the competition, when you have four, five or six big chances, you really have to put them away and then the tie is over.
On whether Sunday’s incident is still on Aubameyang’s mind:
I hope it isn’t. We’ve moved on from that and he started the game today. I expect that when he does play, he performs at the level he can.
On whether Bukayo Saka will still join up with England:
We don’t know, it depends on how he feels in the next few days. We spoke yesterday and he wasn’t ready to be involved today. We made that decision and we will make that decision for Sunday against West Ham, then we will talk to the doctors at the national team to decide what we do.
On his search for consistency:
It’s the level that we need and it’s the level that’s required at this football club. It’s what we have to ask ourselves to do and again, if we would have won tonight then we would have been happier, but the reality is that we lost and we lost for many reasons. We have to learn the lessons from it.
On the quality of sides in the quarter-finals:
They’re all really good teams and the competition is complicated so let’s see.
On doing enough to get through:
I have zero doubts about the personality that we have, the willingness and the work rate. When we gave balls away, everyone was sprinting back, everyone was going for every single challenge. We were physically tired towards the end because of the game that we played as well. About the effort and commitment I have zero doubts, we know that, and that’s a given that the boys give you every single time. It’s about the level of quality that we have to produce, to be where we want to be, to compete in the Premier League with the teams that we have to compete with, and in Europe with the teams that we have to face in the next games. So it’s just about that, for the rest I’m incredibly proud and happy for the group that we have the determination, the spirit. But we need to go another step forward.
On composure and decision-making in the final third:
It’s a bit of everything. First of all you need the stability, and the stability gives you reassurance, it gives you confidence, it gives you time, it gives you the pictures that we have to prepare for the game, and then the decision-making and everything is better. When everyone is rushing and someone is chasing and then you lose the ball, and then another ball… that is not the game you plan. So you have reset yourself and go back to the basics and the things that we have to do right to be on top of the game.
On whether it matters how we play if we go through:
It does matter because it’s not [just] about the result, it’s about the performance and the direction that we want to take, and as well the confidence and the level of consistency that we have to show to have a great performance and do it again. For me it does matter, but obviously I’m really happy that we are through.
On Tottenham being knocked out:
It shows as well the level of opposition, that people take for granted that you play against an opponent and you will go through, because the name of the club that they represent. It is not like that, every team in Europe is difficult to beat.
On improving the finishing:
When you are here and you create the chances that we created tonight, you have to put the game to bed. We know that will be crucial in the next round to have the best possible chance to be through.
Quotes courtesy of Arsenal.com
Can Arsenal go on to win the Europa League this season?