Mikel Arteta says he knew Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was hungry for a win against Benfica after watching the player’s reaction to a missed penalty in training the day before the game.
The striker was roundly criticised for missing three gilt-edged chances in the first-leg of Arsenal’s last-32 tie with the Portuguese giants but put things right in Athens with a well-taken brace, including a very late header to seal a 4-3 aggregate win.
After the game, Arteta praised the striker for the way he’s channelled his energy in response to a dip in form.
“Sometimes when you go through difficult moments, you can have those difficult moments and get into a sad mode,” said Arteta.
“I think that’s the worst thing you can do because nobody has to feel sorry for themselves when you’re having those moments. What you have to do is get upset, get angry, work harder and approach the situation and face it.
“Face the challenge in a way that creates more motivation and more hunger to do it and I think in recent weeks I’ve seen that reaction.
“For example, in a training session before we played here he missed a penalty and he was really upset. Instead of going sad he got upset and I said to the coaching staff that I like that and that he would be fine tomorrow.
“When you have that mentality, I think that’s the right way to approach it.”
The Gunners arrived back in London in the early hours and will train tomorrow before taking on Leicester on Sunday afternoon. Brendan Rodgers’ side have been flying high in the Premier League but were surprisingly knocked out of the Europa League last night on hom turf by Slavia Prague.
While we’re knackered but buoyed by victory, the Foxes will have had more time to recuperate while also chewing over a damaging defeat. It’s going to make for an intriguing contest at the King Power.
“We have to travel back on a four-hour flight but we won’t use that as an excuse,” said Arteta last night.
“We have to deal with that, we know that when you play in European competition you have to be able to perform every three days and we will prepare to play Leicester with the same intensity like we always do.
“They’ve been really consistent in the league. I think they’ve done a lot of good things, there’s not any luck or anything like that in how they’ve developed as a team.
“Obviously they have a really good manager, a great coaching staff and they have made a lot of good decisions in the last few seasons.
“They have built a way of playing which is completely suited to their recruitment policy, and with a bit of time the quality that they had already in the team – plus some young talents that they have recruited and experienced players they already have – they have a really good mixture. I think they totally deserve the position they are in at the moment.”