Unai Emery was full of praise for his players’ defensive performance after Arsenal reignited their challenge for a Champions League place with a 2-0 win over Chelsea at the Emirates.
Alex Lacazette beat Kepa Arrizabalaga with a clinical near post strike to break the deadlock on 14 minutes before Laurent Koscielny’s shoulder doubled the lead six minutes before the break.
Chelsea piled on the pressure in the second half but the Gunners held firm to claim the win and their first clean sheet in the league since early December. The gap on the Blues, still in fourth, is now down to a palatable three points.
“I’m very pleased with this victory and these three points,” he told the BBC. “After our defeat at West Ham we needed to show our supporters a strong moment.
“I think we can improve. We can be optimistic in the future but we need to find a good balance between when we’re playing away and when we’re playing at home. We can be optimistic because we are closer to a lot of teams like Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United.
“I’m very happy with the last 20 minutes and how we defended against them. The first half made the difference with the result, but in the second half we showed how we can defend together.”
In his post-game press conference, the Spaniard added: “Every player worked first. This attitude, to be together when we are with the ball, to find the space and also find the moments for attacking.
“But today, above all when we have the ball. They had the ball for more than 60 per cent, we needed to recover the ball with good pressure and we worked a lot. We ran more than them. This team ran a lot.
“For the first idea today, we were speaking. We needed to run to recover the ball and transition very quickly. The first half, the first 30 minutes, we did that.
“Then, in the second half, it’s very difficult to keep this pressing against them for 90 minutes. The match, tactically, changed. We worked very well defensively in deep when we needed that in the match.
“The clean sheet today was very important. It showed our supporters we are here and can continue being optimistic in our way.”