Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta knew the importance of the FA Cup coming into this weekend with the competition serving as the Gunners’ best chance of winning silverware this season. In the end, though, they couldn’t quite get over the hill that was Southampton, and the reigning champions lost their crown to the Saints in the fourth round.
Arteta spoke with the media after the 1-0 defeat as Arsenal start to think about what their priorities are in a season where their only real chance fo winning a trophy now stems from the Europa League.
On whether he has any complaints:
No. I’m disappointed because we wanted to continue in the competition. We had a dream to do it again – like we did it last year – step-by-step, but that dream today is over. As well I’m disappointed with the way we conceded the goal in an area where we know we shouldn’t be doing that and giving the lead to the opponent. At the same time, I cannot fault the effort of the players, how they tried, how they improved throughout the game and tried to go for the goal in the second half with the way we did it. But it wasn’t enough and we conceded a goal that we shouldn’t. We created the chances but we didn’t hit the target.
On what he’s particularly unhappy with about Southampton’s goal:
The start of the situation. We know in certain areas what we have to do and we should not be doing that because you know that you can only get in trouble. We did it and we paid the price for it.
On whether Aubameyang will be available on Tuesday:
I don’t know. He needs to address that issue and see how it evolves. We’re here to support him and he needs to take the time that is needed because that’s a priority at the moment.
On whether we’re close to signing Martin Odegaard:
I don’t know. Obviously we played today, so since last night I don’t have any news. Probably, I will get a few phone calls today and see where we are with every deal.
On if he regrets not playing a stronger starting XI:
I think it was a very strong lineup because I have full belief in my players and they deserved to play. They’ve done it on many occasions and against the top opponents as well and they’ve been playing so this cannot be the excuse. It’s true that throughout the game we improved, and we got better in the second half. We had more quality in what we tried to do [later on] but the players that played deserved [to play] and they tried so hard for us.
On whether some players were not good enough in the first half:
No, I think we gave them control of the game with our unforced errors. We made those ourselves without them creating any big chances. These are things that we have to improve, it’s part of the way that we’re evolving as a team, understanding which areas we have to exploit and which areas we have to be more secure in certain situations. It’s part of it.
On Gabriel’s form:
He hasn’t played enough minutes in the last few months or so. He had Covid so he had to stay at home, he hasn’t trained as much as what we would have liked him to but he’s a player that’s done so well since he’s joined us. Credit to Southampton because they make it really hard for you, it’s difficult to play against them. The type of strikers that they have, they give you a real game and you have to be ready for that.
On if Arsenal fans can expect better from Willian and Pepe:
Well, I don’t know. They’re entitled to ask for anything. What I’m saying is that they tried to give their best. You see how hard they tried, sometimes with more or less quality but the intention is there, and the willingness is there, and this is what we demand them to do. After that the decision making, the final pass, the final ball, the opportunities they have – it’s the end product. It’s the hardest thing in football.
On whether the back up players are good enough:
I cannot complain about the squad that I have and the players I have. We are disappointed with the way we lost the game and the way we gave them the goal. Then when we got in the opponents’ box and we had chances, we didn’t hit the target. When you do that in this competition, and against this opponent, then you are out. But I don’t want to put that on any individuals, they all gave their best, they will keep trying to do that, and we are here to support them and try to improve them.
On whether Odegaard will hamper Smith Rowe’s development:
I cannot talk about any player who is not ours. We have a very clear idea of how we want our players to develop and what they need to do that. All the decision we make are just to reinforce their development and try to give them the best possible chance.
On Pepe and Willian:
I want to think positively and think they are going to reach their level very soon. The way they train every day is to reach that level and we are here to support them again, and not to think in a negative way.
Quotes courtesy of Arsenal.com
Where do Arsenal go from here?