Unai Emery says injuries to centre-back pairing Laurent Koscielny and Sokratis took their toll as Arsenal crashed out of the FA Cup with a 3-1 home defeat to Manchester United.
Alexis Sanchez, on his return to the Emirates, and Jesse Lingard scored twice in two minutes just past the half-hour mark as the visitors established a commanding lead without breaking a sweat.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s 17th goal of the season made things interesting for a while, however, as the Gunners pushed for an equaliser with an unbalanced backline, United stung us on the break; Anthony Martial killing things when he slotted home after Petr Cech parried a Paul Pogba shot into his path.
After the game, Emery accepted that the Red Devils were more efficient in the final third.
“I’m happy because I think our work is good, but the result is bad,” he told his post-game press conference.
“Today it’s the result and the injuries. They don’t help us to be in the match, maybe when the result’s 1-2. In this moment we had the possibility to grow and to win, but these injuries – especially the one to Koscielny – didn’t help us because our rhythm went down.
“Also, we needed to change different players to play at centre back. They were very clinical today and in the moments when we attacked, we got into the box but couldn’t produce the last action to score.
“We deserved more but we played against Manchester United who are in their best moment of the season, and they have a lot of players to make the difference. Rashford and Martial came on as well.”
In light of his side being caught on the break twice, Emery was quizzed on whether he is struggling to find a balance between attack and defence.
“They have very big players to do the transitions and they gave us problems with that,” he accepted.
“We worked well, the second goal was in the transition, but the first was [due to] our positioning. In the second half, we took some risks and that’s what we needed to do. They scored [a third]. We need to keep improving.
“I think the matches against West Ham United and Chelsea we played and worked well defensively. Today was more difficult to stop their transition. We need to work on attacking [too] because we wanted to win.
“Our idea was to go in with a good balance. I think we have a good balance in a lot of moments but they have big players with big qualities who can make the difference.”