Mikel Arteta says his players are still down after Thursday’s shock Europa League exit to Olympiacos.
The Gunners were favourites to qualify for the last 16 having secured a 1-0 win in Athens but despite fielding a near full-strength side we flopped out as the Greeks snatched a late 2-1 to put us out on away goals.
Given the competition represented our best chance of getting back into the Champions League, the long-term ramifications of defeat will likely be serious.
In the short-term, Arteta needs to get his players focused on Monday’s FA Cup clash at Portsmouth.
“We are all very down, frustrated, disappointed, but my message to them was that I am right behind them,” he told his pre-game press conference.
“I thanked them for the effort they put into the game, for the attitude and the personality they played with and the way they reacted after we conceded the goal.
“We tried, tried and tried again and completely deserved to win the game but there were aspects of the game that we have to dominate better if we want to keep competing at that level.”
One element of Thursday’s performance that particularly stuck in the craw was our slow start to the game. Seemingly paralysed by our first-leg lead we seemed reluctant to go for the jugular when a proactive performance might have broken the spirit of the visitors.
“The first 15 minutes I wasn’t happy with the ball speed,” said Arteta, “everything was a little too safe, too slow.
“Obviously the ball is different as well [and] they were playing really deep as well, didn’t want to make a mistake as you have a goal in hand, but as the game progressed we were getting better and better and better and completely dominated the game.
“We played in the opposition’s half for 65 minutes or 70 minutes I think, but we found a way to score the goal and then the game management is another aspect we have to improve a lot. We have a lot of young players, but we have to learn quickly.”
Asked how he plans to lift the spirits of his players, he went on: “It is part of the profession. We can fall and have disappointments, it is about how we react individually and collectively.
“Then my job is to try to convince them that in the process in which we are at the moment, there are a lot of positive things and as well things we have to improve if we want to much better as a team. So, that is the way.”