Arsenal are officially into the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League after a resounding second leg triumph against Slavia Prague last night. It was the kind of win that had most Gunners fans wondering why they can’t put together consistent performances like this every week – but hopefully, this can serve as a bit of a turning point.
After the game Mikel Arteta spoke with the media and not only praised his side’s performance in the 4-0 win, but also turned his attention towards Villarreal and former Arsenal boss Unai Emery in the semis.
On the performance:
I’m really happy. We came to a tough place and this team hasn’t lost at home in almost two years. To do what we did tonight is credit to the players for how they approached the game and how brave they were in our approach. Then I think when we demanded the efficiency, today is an example of the level of efficiency you need to win matches away from home in Europe like this.
On the three goals in seven minutes:
Not only that, I think the reaction. When Emile scored the goal and it was disallowed, the team straight away reacted and wanted more. Again, we were brave, we were really efficient in a hard place, we put them under a lot of pressure and then when we had to make a decision with the ball in the final third, we were really clinical.
On facing off against Unai Emery in the semi-final:
It will be a tough game. Villarreal are a tough side and Unai Emery is the most successful manager in this competition. We’re going to enjoy tonight and we know we’re going to have time to prepare for that one. There’s no time to prepare for Fulham on Sunday but this is where we are.
On whether this was our best performance of the season:
I don’t know, it was certainly one of the most important games. We know how important the competition is for the club, for ourselves and for the fans. Today we brought a difficult result back from the Emirates. We weren’t that efficient on the day but today we showed the complete opposite resilience in the opponent’s box to kill the game when we had the momentum and opportunity in the game to kill it.
On the players making a point by taking a knee:
They asked me and the club. They wanted to take that initiative and they had the right reasons for it, so the club and I were very supportive. Thankfully the referees and Uefa have been supportive as well, so I think it was a good gesture.
On Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang:
We just spoke with him. He’s at home, he’s fine, he’s completely fine at the moment. He had two days in hospital to get the right treatment but he’s feeling good now.
On whether Auba will be back training soon:
We’ll see how he recovers. I think he’ll need a few days to recover from that. He wants to be back as soon as possible, that’s what he said to me.
On how much it means to see our Hale End graduates running the show:
For me, it’s a joy to watch them play and to watch them every day in training. How they behave, the passion and the commitment they have for the club and how much they love to play football. You have to let them express themselves and you have to give them certain room to work, and some ideas of how they can exploit their qualities. Then it’s up to them. I thought both of them were really good today.
On how Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe link up with Alex Lacazette:
I think that’s when you start to create cohesion and understanding between players. Players have to make each other better. That’s a big quality. Then you need somebody at the back to make those players better and get the surroundings, the collective understanding, the way it should be. The same happened with the backline. Today we looked really solid and I don’t think we conceded a shot on target. That’s maybe because of a little bit of continuity or a little bit of help in these understanding moments.
On why cup competitions seem to bring out the best in our team:
I don’t know! We haven’t won it yet, we are only in the semi-finals, but they really want it. We feel that we have a good chance. The players really believe that we can do it, which is the most important thing because that’s what really pushes you and drives you and makes you play like we did tonight. Let’s see how far we can go… there are still some important teams and Villarreal is going to be a tough opponent, so let’s go step by step.
On whether our fluidity in attack tonight is what he wants to see:
Absolutely, and that’s the way we’re going to approach the next game, that’s for sure, and not only that, but with our aggressiveness and where we want to press the ball and where we want to play with our line and play in the opponent’s half as much as possible. When we do that with the players we have upfront, we can be very dangerous and effective. That’s the way we will approach it.
On whether tonight’s performance and result cements what he’s trying to achieve with this team:
It’s an important result, but there was still a lot of things we have to do better in the game. There’s a huge margin in a lot of things that we’re doing at the moment, but it will come.
On taking the knee ahead of kick-off:
They came to me and they wanted to take that initiative. We spoke with the club to make sure that we could follow the rules of UEFA and we can do it the right way, and we decided to take that approach, which I really like from the players. I must say that UEFA were very supportive as well. The captain’s came to me and asked me to do that and I supported them like the club did.
Quotes courtesy of Arsenal.com
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