Mikel Arteta says he now has to convince his players that there’s still a lot to play for this season despite Arsenal crashing out of the Europa League.
Given our standing in the Premier League, there was huge importance attached to a run in Europe’s second-tier competition, not least because it represented a viable route back to the Champions League.
After crashing out on away goals to Olympiacos last night, the focus will return to domestic matters; closing the gap on the top four and trying to win the FA Cup.
In his post-game press conference, Arteta addressed a potential downturn in morale. “I just want to concentrate now on lifting those players and getting back the belief, and convince them that there is still a lot to play for, and move on,” he said.
“It’s part of this sport that a big disappointment can happen and it happened tonight. We have to learn and react as a team and as a club.
“I’m the first one, I have to lift them, it’s my job. That’s the first thing I have to do. First of all we have to digest it because it’s very, very painful tonight.”
Obviously a devastating blow like last night’s results could have long-term consequences, including the forced sale of big name players. For the time being, Arteta insists says he’ll just focus their minds on analysing what went wrong.
“I will try and show them what happened in the game and where the game should have finished, and the things that we didn’t do to finish the game the way that it should have finished.
“Hopefully it’s part of the process to learn from that and improve as a team.”
Arsenal have a chance to turn the page against Portsmouth in the FA Cup on Monday night. Then we’ll have to double-down in the league with matches against West Ham, Brighton, Southampton and Norwich.
Arteta is under no illusions, even with a run of ‘winnable’ games, he knows to close the seven-point gap on Chelsea is going to be tough, especially with so many other sides in the mix.
“[It will be] very hard because looking at the table we’re still far from the objectives that we all have, but we’ve been far all season from it and we have to keep fighting,” he admitted.
“The most important thing now is that the dressing room has to be strong and we have to keep going and react. First of all, I have to convince them about what happened in the game and why they are not through in the tie.
“If they continue to do that, there will be rewards like we have done in the last 10 games that we played.”