Arsenal showed a few bright sparks last night against Manchester City, but in the end, the Gunners fell to a 1-0 defeat against the runaway league leaders and champions-elect. Raheem Sterling’s 2nd minute goal proved to be the winner, and while this may be a setback, there are some positives to take away from the performance – even if it doesn’t seem like it.
After the game, Mikel Arteta spoke with the media about the game as well as the road ahead with a quick turnaround before they face Benfica.
On whether he felt we did enough to get back into the game:
I do have that feeling but the reality is that when you play against the best team in Europe at the moment and you give them something, you’re going to make the game so difficult for yourself. To start the game the way we did, giving them the goal and the way that we did it, you have to be exceptional the rest of the game and you have to nail it in every single department and we didn’t do it. We had really good moments and we had moments where we really matched them up and and we made it tough for them. But the reality is that when we broke them and we got into the open spaces to attack them and get into some really good situations – which is really difficult to do against them – we lacked the final pass and the quality there to score.
On whether he was worried that it could be a long afternoon after the early goal:
That was my worry because with the formation and the players that were used today, there is nothing worse than going behind so early because it puts the game exactly where they want it, with time on the ball, creating overloads with the false nine anywhere that they want on the pitch and we could become impatient and frustrated. I saw that we reacted really well to that and we gave them a real game. But at the moment they are the best team because they dominate in every single department and credit to them because they’re an incredible team.
On facing high lines against Benfica and Manchester City and how we can expose that on Thursday:
Well, I think we did it and we got into some great positions but after that we have to finish the actions better than what we did today. We created some big openings against Benfica as well. Against these types of opponents you have to be so good when you get the chances because you’re not going to get that many.
On why he was so vocal on the sideline:
Because every movement, every detail, every position is key. The moment we don’t get it, like we didn’t in the first minutes, they’re going to exploit it straightaway and they’re going to make you look like a poor team. Probably I do it too much, I don’t know, but I think it’s very necessary for them that I give them guidance because I can see from the outside what they are going to do and when you are there at 100mph you lose a second or two and with them that’s a huge amount of time.
On whether he worries that he overloads his team with information:
No. I don’t think that’s the case. It’s just conversations that we have all the time with them about what we do and if there’s a moment where I feel that’s the case then I will stop it.
On how important this period is in terms of pressure:
With the schedule that we have, it is really demanding. We have no time to recover and little time to prepare again. Against City for example, we could not prepare for the game on the field because we didn’t have enough time. But we have to get used to it and we have an extra day now for Thursday’s game, then we have to go to Leicester. But the players, you know how they are trying, they want to be the best that they can and prepare in the best possible way for every single match and that’s what they are doing.
On Rob Holding’s substitution and the use of the concussion sub rule:
Well, obviously that’s a call that has to be given by the doctor and that’s the communication we got from him, so we decided to make the concussion sub.
On whether he thinks Rob was concussed:
Yes. That’s what they told me at the time. Obviously he will miss a few days now, I think.
On the difficulty of managing the squad’s fitness:
Well, it’s hard because everyone wants to play and everyone wants to be available for every game, so if anything, I feel sorry for the players that they cannot play or are not playing more. But everybody is doing their best all the time to be available, which I really value a lot. But it’s true that there’s players with lots of minutes and we don’t have the players to replace them, unfortunately.
On whether he will need to make a number of changes against Benfica:
I don’t know if it will be five, four or seven. We will have to see how they react from today’s performance. It was a really tough game physically for both because it was full gas from the beginning and we will see who will be available and fit to be there. Obviously we need a fresh team and we need legs as well because then the decision making and everything becomes better when they are fresh. We will see who’s available.
On whether winning the Europa League is more important than ever before for us:
It’s really important, but obviously every defeat now in the league puts us in a much more difficult position. We have to take it game by game and we need a run of games. I think we have a big run of performances, but we’ve lost three games now in different ways and it’s not what we want obviously.
On playing well but having nothing to show for it:
Yes, but we have to keep an open mind. I cannot take us to the other side which is playing worse and expecting more. I’m a big believer that the better we play and assert ourselves in the game, we will get more points, but this is very tricky. Our job is as much as possible to propose games where we deserve to win. Whether or not you get that result sometimes is difficult to control, but I think the team has made more than what we have.
On having one shot on target:
For me, the biggest issue was that when we found some big openings against them which is really difficult to do with their organisation, I think we did that many times today, but the final pass and final product wasn’t good enough, so obviously you’re not going to hit the target. But the attacking threat you create is not only with the shots you create, but also the situations you’re able to create. That leads to results.
Quotes courtesy of Arsenal.com
Can Arsenal still finish in the top six this season?