Mikel Arteta insists Arsenal are a better team than this time last year but admits his side still need “to learn how to win”.
Knocked out of the Europa League on away goals by Olympiacos last year, the Gunners have a chance for revenge in the next seven days after drawing the Greeks in the last-16 of this season’s tournament.
Ahead of tomorrow’s first-leg in Athens, the boss was asked to reflect on the progress his players have made in 12 months.
“Obviously it was a really tough one to swallow,” he said of last year’s painful exit.
“The way it happened at the end, it was really cruel. After everything we did in the two games, to lose the way we did and with the late chance Auba had… But we moved on. We have some feelings towards that team and we want to put it right in the next round.
He added: “I think we are a better team than we were last year. Looking back at the two games that we played and the way we are playing now, I think we have come a long way.”
Out of the Carabao Cup and FA Cup and currently 10th in the Premier League table, it’s clear that the Europa League represents a final shot at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
After a run of frustrating domestic results, Arteta is keen to build momentum wherever possible knowing a place in the Europa League or Europa Conference League is not out of the question if his side can push on in the league.
Sandwiched between the two Olympiacos clashes, the Gunners face Sp*rs at the Emirates and then take on West Ham and Liverpool. It’s a vital stage of the season.
“We have a massive week with the next four games that we have in a short period,” he said.
“We have to manage the squad but obviously the main game is tomorrow and we have to focus on that. Tomorrow’s game is going to help us for the weekend, it’s going to help us for next week. We have to focus on tomorrow.
He added: “There is a lot to do in both competitions. We have to go very far to get into the Champions League via the Europa League, with the amount of games you have to win. It’s the same in the Premier League.
“The points that we lost in the three away games against Wolves, Aston Villa and Burnley sums up our season a little bit.
“We should’ve got much more from those games and we would have been in a different position. But our reality is that at the end, we don’t find the way to win.
“We have to learn how to win and be consistent in winning in every three days when you produce those performances. It’s the biggest margin that we have to improve.”