Arsenal were considered to be the favourites to beat Villarreal over two legs and progress to the final of the UEFA Europa League but now, that’s no longer the case. The Gunners were beaten 2-1 by the Spaniards last night in the first leg and, in all honestly, they’re probably lucky that it didn’t get worse than that for them.
Mikel Arteta has a lot to answer for in the eyes of supporters and in his post-match press conference, he answered all of those concerns as the pressure continues to mount.
On whether that game finished in a far better way than it could’ve done:
Absolutely. Obviously we are disappointed that we lost the game, because it’s not the result that we wanted to take from the game. But after the story of the game, I think we have to take it because in the tie we are alive and in the circumstances that developed during the game, it put the game and the tie in real danger at some stages.
On whether it was a gamble to start today’s game without a striker:
It’s the way we prepared for the game. It’s the decision that I made, thinking that it was the best way to play, but the game was conditioned after four minutes so it was difficult to assess whether it would work or not. Conceding from the set piece as well also changed it and after, we had to approach it in a different way.
On Auba’s late chance:
We know that with big chances, to give yourself the best possible chance, you have to put them in the net. But it was unlucky, because I think he slipped just before he took the shot and at the end it didn’t go through. But it was a big, big chance obviously.
On whether he has spoken to Dani and his own opinion on the red card:
I haven’t seen the action again. We talked at half-time to say that we had to be very careful, there was a tackle very early and I was going to take him off but by the time that Gabi was ready to come on, that action happened and he was out.
On whether tonight’s system was Emile as a false nine or to play with two 10s:
One of the main reasons [that it didn’t work] was that after conceding the goal, we disorganised ourselves. In the high press we were really stretched and we didn’t have the right people in the right spaces and then we were open. We didn’t give ourselves the chance even to get set in the final third to do what we wanted to do, because we were imprecise on the ball as well. Overall, it was not the best. We started the second half with the same players in a completely different way. We played with three strikers and we didn’t score many times in the season, so it’s a decision that I made and that’s it.
On whether he got his team selection wrong:
Obviously when you lose you always get it wrong.
On whether a semi-final is the time to experiment:
Guys, when we won 4-0 away from home against Slavia Prague, they didn’t lose a home game in three years and Granit played so well, he was incredible playing there. But I know that when it doesn’t happen, it’s always going to point there.
On our away goal:
It changes completely the tie obviously, and it makes a huge difference and we know that we have to be better than we were for 95 minutes. If we don’t do that then we won’t have the chance to be in the final.
On what he puts out first-half performance down to:
I think the first goal was a big shock. It was almost the first action that they went over the halfway line and they scored a goal, and after that we were touched, we didn’t expect it, we were touched, we didn’t quite react, and then we conceded the set-piece goal that’s obviously crucial in these ties, and then the team needed a break. After that break, we reset, we reorganised, we talked about a few things and then we were a different team in the second half.
On the mood in the changing room at full time:
Well, comparing how it was at half time, it’s very different! But I said to them we have an opportunity, it’s a big challenge that we have ahead of us, but we have the opportunity to make it, but it has to be now. In the return leg it’s going to be too late, we have to change it right now. If we’re able to do that, we’re going to get here in a completely different position. We still had another incident which was the red card and playing with 10 men against this team, and the team went to a different level again and we got the goal.
On why we stepped things up after going down to 10:
Well, I believe at the start of the second half it was completely different to what we’d seen in the first half. Then after the sending off, we knew we had to fight back or we would be completely out of the tie, so we had to fight back and we took our chances and it all came good for us.
Quotes courtesy of Arsenal.com
Can Arsenal turn things around in the second leg?