Mikel Arteta admits Arsenal’s 4-3 aggregate win against Benfica means his players still have something to play after a tough season.
The Gunners were thankful to a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang brace, both goals assisted by Bukayo Saka, and a Kieran Tierney strike as they squandered an early lead before bouncing back to seal a place in the Europa League last-16 with just three minutes remaining.
Mikel Arteta’s side face a tough task qualifying for Europe via a top-six finish in the Premier League so the boss welcomed the chance of a prolonged shot at continental success.
“It certainly keeps the season going in a much better way because this competition is going to help in the Premier League a lot,” Arteta told his post-game press conference.
“It joins everyone together to have something important to play for and today would have been really harsh with what has happened in the two legs to be out of the competition. I’m extremely happy with the result.”
For large periods of the two matches, the Gunners appeared to be in control, played the better football and created the more dangerous chances.
The boss believes it would have been tremendously harsh if his side had gone out.
“No, I don’t think we would have deserved it (to go out),” he said.
“The reality is that we gave them two goals in the two legs, and when you do that against any opponent, and an opponent with the quality of Benfica, you’re going to be in trouble.
“That’s why we were in trouble. We gave away a penalty in a situation that we knew was going to happen, and then today we gave away a goal after our own corner. After that, the reaction of the team, the belief and what I was sensing on the pitch and how much they wanted it, gave me hope.
“We changed it and tried to be more of a threat, more attacking, and I’m especially happy about Dani because he’s a player that lives this profession like the most important thing in his life, and when he made that mistake, if that would have cost the team to be out of the competition, it would have been mentally really tough.
“That’s when you need players in the team like the ones we have with Auba and Bukayo creating and KT scoring the goal to save him. Out of a difficult situation created a really nice moment.”
Last year, the Gunners paid the price for a lapse in concentration at the same stage of the competition. Having fallen behind on away goals to Olympiakos at the Emirates, there was one final chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat only for Aubameyang to fluff his lines.
This time, the captain made no mistake, converting a header at the back post with the clock ticking down. The player admitted afterwards that last year’s mistake had been on his mind. Arteta said it was a poetic response.
“Yes, that was the first instance [Aubameyang’s miss against Olympiacos] that came into my mind when he scored,” he said.
“I didn’t know if VAR was going to allow the goal and then with the last action they were offside as well. They had the chance so this is the beautiful thing about football. If you keep going always, you have the chance to put it right.”
He added: “I completely trust him because we produced the chances and you know with Auba that when he has chances, he is going to score goals.
“The last few days after the game in Rome against them, he missed three opportunities that are normally three goals for him, and he needed to react and it’s great to see that the way he reacted is by being upset and trying to be better and not just feeling sad for himself in this moment. I am really pleased with how he did tonight.”
Still can’t believe we pulled it off.
That’s not a good look for us.
I can’t say I’ve ever been proud of how I look when pulling it off, so I’d have to agree.
I’ve missed you McCheese!! Brilliant as always!
So relived to get out of jail, thought that was our season done!
Absolutely, Mikel playing the unlucky card. Seriously, over two legs we got out-coached by a wide margin. It is very lucky we were the clearly more talented team and mostly related to Bukayo Saka and Kieren Tierney. Fucking heros. Great finishes fromAuba, but Saka put them on a personal platter.
I think he creates his own bad luck, defensive solidarity comes at a price but he leaves the hand brake on for far too long. It seems we have so much potential going forward which could be unleashed with a bit more initiative. ESR especially held it back and felt like he was instructed to. Could’ve easily turned with the ball which is bread and butter for him but instead passed back. We switched it on when we needed two goals to live, other than that we were passive and too cautious.
I don’t think individual errors can be put down to Arteta. If it wasn’t for handball and back pass this would have been a stroll. They barely attacked. Can’t see how outcoached has anything to do with it.
Saka is showing Pepe, on what a 72 mn signing should look like.
Benefica were poor, but they still were able to score 3 goals against us. That is the biggest concern.
Haven’t you figured out that Pepe isn’t a 72mn player and Arsenal and the quiver of clowns running the transfers at the time shouldn’t have bought him?
I have figured it out, but have Arsenal. Previous regime bought Pepe, this one bought Willian. Same price, if you include salary and joining bonus.
200k pw for 3 years works out at 31m……so you think Willian got a 40m joining bonus on top of 200k pw ???? And of course that the Pepe deal was for a 72m fee only and the lad is playing for free for the duration…..I know Willian is a bad deal but let’s stay realistic please
Lets agree there is a joining bonus is there, and should be in the range of 20mn payable in 3 years. Brings the total deal to >50mn
Should we consider differences of 10-20mn pounds as deal breakers for clubs like Arsenal. We bought Partey for 45mn downpayment when Athletico refused to deal with us.
Agreed overall cost of Pepe might be higher, but Pepe is 25, and he can be sold for 30-35mn or more tomorrow. A loss of 50-60mn.
Willian money is a complete loss > 50mn
Mate, you’re just digging a hole now….I’ll leave you to it. 30-35m for Pepe tomorrow…wow.
Great to see the team go through to next stage, the football is coming together now, lets hope we can get everyone fit and ready… there are still many games in this competition, and some very tricky teams, but I think we do have a chance. I think central defense is an issue to sort, not very confortable with Luiz… but gabriel-holding may not work so well… maybe a chance for gabriel-mari? Harsh on holding as I think hes been solid. Our midfield is a completely different machine with partey in it, what a signing… but auba and saka still… Read more »
Gabriel & Mari is something I’d like to see. Holding & Mari also worked very well in the run after the Chelsea game. Still got a soft spot for Chambers (that’s actually based on his performances): he looked like our best CB back in the summer before being loaned out to Fulham (where he was selected as POTY). He had a great run under early-Arteta but got injured. Never been given a chance since and probably won’t be given one unless there’s an injury crisis – which will probably result in him leaving in the summer, but for me, it… Read more »
Great to win & see the fight back after giving up a truly stupid goal. That said we’re going to have to improve massively if we want to make a real run at this competition. We’re going to need to start to give some players rest during the PL to keep them fresh for this. I’m thinking of Saka who is playing every minute of every game & Hector who looks like he needs a rest. We need to get Pepe more involved as well as this is the second time his form has really improved and we immediately bench… Read more »
There are some who always get minutes- Willian, Luiz and even Xhaka (which to an extent is understandable given the lack of choices).
There are some who don’t quite – Martinelli, Pepe and even Laca.
Maybe Arteta as an young manager prefers experience and plays it safe. Atleast that’s my hope, that with time he’ll loosen up, trust his players more on the field.
Xhaka has been at his best recently, but Benfica played him perfectly. Pressed him all game at every touch and took him out of the contest. He was still ok, but they nulified his strengths. That is good coaching. Partey is so key to this team moving forward, as soon as he came on he changed the midfield dynamic by the threat of him driving through the middle, as always this opens space for Xhaka, which we all know he needs to succeed.
I think we need a complete overhaul in midfield.. I think that has been more problematic for years. They neither score goals, control the game, create or protect the defence on a consistent basis over the course of a game let alone a season. Xhaxa is the scapegoat for alot of the teams wrongs but as a professional midfielder if the answer to stopping you is simply pressing you earlier than you are limited. That limitation is why we pass backwards all the time and dont get the ball forward quick enough. Xhaxa is not a bad player and I… Read more »
As Xhaka has been a key player since his return from suspension I cannot understand your negative attitude towards him.
It’s reasonable to argue he’s playing very well but his limitations are significant enough to warrant bringing in a player that at a minimum provides genuine competition. Xhaka has an excellent left foot but is exposed whenever pressed and isn’t particularly mobile.
A player can be a great squad option or someone for a particular season without being someone that should be a key cog as the club hopefully returns to where it wants to be.
I agree Martin.
Xhaka’s good form has been one of the key reasons we’ve experienced an upturn in form. His attributes have propelled the team forward, he’s had periods where his distribution has been incisive.
I’m completely happy to have him in the team, playing at this level.
Saka looked tired and not at his usual level and still created 2 goals! Amazing.
I think he should be rested for the next game.
Yeah good shout but I would prefer to play Saka against Leicester, and then rest him the following weekend for the Burnley game instead.
Lacazette at #9, with PEA and Odegaard out wide, and ESR#10 should be enough to see off Burnley, but may not be enough to see off Leicester.
With Round of 16 games coming up and NLD in 2 weeks, a bit of rotation will be needed anyway.
Rest him for both, he needs more that a few days off if he is to have anything left in April (and assuming he avoids injury)
I hope this becomes the springboard for this season. A win like this usually boosts confidence for a struggling team. Rogers rested players because of Sunday. He will regret it because it will be double jeopardy for him when we win and Leicester don’t make top 4.
Imagine Arsenal winning our tie easily when Unai knocks out Spuds, only for Arsenal to go ahead and win Europa league.
If Partey gets going, we avoid key injuries and get some luck in the draw and in the matches then we could win it. Stranger things have happened.
How poetic would it be if we were to face Villarreal in the final!
Saka digging Arteta out of yet another hole – its becoming the story of this season, well Christmas onwards anyway.
Well, he already decided to throw a winning formula (that he stumbled upon by pure luck) out the window to accommodate a bloke who’s only guaranteed to be at the club for 4 months, so somebody had to do it.
Totally agree. Found a formation by accident and has now shoved ESR on the wing coz he’s got a new shiny toy.
Just saw the two Saka assist!! WOw!! This kid is getting better and better.
All praise to Saka etc etc but can we just talk about Tierney. The guy was just not going to let us go down without a fight. That goal was literally passion and determination and him standing up and taking responsibility to get as back in the game, so many players, especially defenders would’ve just looked to pass it on but he took it upon himself to smash it into the bottom corner. Love the bloke so much
For all the football managers players out there: Tierney must rate a 20 on acceleration, surely?!
and Crossing, all 20/20.
Anybody know who the co-commentator was on the BT Sport coverage? Seemed so anti Arsenal in his coverage from early in the first half.
Haha it was Steve Sidwell, so no surprises about shitness.
Cheers. Where do BT find these piss poor commentators from.
I think he was half bitter about the hale Enders getting chances in our first team when he didn’t and half trying not to be biased.
I don’t think so. We weren’t that much better than Benfica. A neutral watching without prior knowledge of both clubs’ circumstance would have not concluded Arsenal had far deeper resources and a more expensively assembled team. At times we played like mugs. Why we keep playing around the penalty box instead of finding better ways to move the ball up field quicker on goal kicks is beyond me. First and second goal against us both preventable the first I believe Ceballos a bit rash negating some of the better things he was doing but the second (If I’m not wrong)… Read more »
I agree with most of this, but Tierney was outstanding. His crossing is exceptional. He didn’t pick out the player every time (impossible), but every ball was into the danger area. Without Saka and Tierney we’re out. I know you really like Xhaka, but surely you can watch this game and see how effective tactics against him and his influence is removed. Benfica pressed him all game and gave him no time on the ball. Partey was a difference maker not only for the team, but also for Xhaka. Because he can drive through the middle and past players, and… Read more »
A Ceballos masterclass in how to throw a tie, but I wouldn’t be too hard on him. Although he has his limitations, Dani is never found wanting for effort. That £22m asking price might be looking a tad optimistic now!
I initially read the headline without the colon.
Arteta exit would have been harsh.
And I agreed completely.
I have not seen a 19 year old having such an influence on a club since Messi and maybe Fabregas. The guy has a wand of a left foot!
Mbappe wasn’t bad at 19 not too long ago.
The goals looked more like Saka goals with Auba assists. Such was the quality of those passes from Saka!
Let’s go you fu***ers!!!
Or whatever our boy Tierney said!!!
Were on to the next round baby!!!
Sending all gooner lots of positive vibes from Montreal Canada
Hate away goals with a passion
The rule is stupid at the best of times. This tie took it to a whole new level of stupidity, with neither team playing at home or away. Why is it more difficult to score a goal at one neutral ground than at another?
KT with a Carzola moment…..long may it last!!!.
He meant an automobile version of Gianfranco.
Saka save our Team, hats off little genius
hated how Ceballos played so deep, sometimes deeper than Xhaka and the responsibility lies with Mikel for his howlers (being a pro he is not expected to make these silly mistakes too) and team was passive in their approach and way too cautious. At times one can spot there were areas when ESR/Odegaard could have made runs in the pockets but stayed put at the edge of the box not overloading it. So overall it was a meh performance and it isn’t one which exudes confidence. I think it is Mikel’s modus operandi for cup games but this has to… Read more »
Actually the Ceballos error leading to their second goal has nothing to do with Arteta. It’s a terrible decision by Ceballos and that’s that.
The first one, sure… He shouldn’t be put in that situation, but even peps midfielders have to defend around the box.
I was sad to see ESR now has the ‘turn 180 degrees, pass backwards’ manoeuvre in his locker.