If you’d written a list of things you didn’t want to happen to Arsenal this evening, it probably would have included injuries, playing extra time and losing. Tick. Tick. Tick.
It likely wouldn’t have included conceding a goal from near the halfway line. But then, when does that ever happen to us in Europe?
Unsurprisingly, at the end of a long evening that ended with a first-ever penalty shootout defeat on home soil, Mikel Arteta was left to rue his side’s sloppiness and a couple of injuries.
“Huge blow obviously,” the Spaniard told BT Sport after Sporting’s triumph.
“There were moments, especially in the first 75 minutes, when we weren’t at our level. We gave every single ball away and we didn’t have the capacity to dominate the game and take the game where we wanted.
“Then the last 15 minutes we had the chances and in extra-time the chances to win it, and when it goes down to penalties it’s a lot of uncertainty.”
He added: “[We have to] Look at ourselves, what we’ve done and why we weren’t good enough to go through.
“[We] Congratulate Sporting, and after that now we have 11 games. The first one is Palace, which is a final. Every word now has to be towards Palace, be better than today.”
The Gunners lost both Takehiro Tomiyasu and William Saliba in the first half but still managed to eke out a lead thanks Granit Xhaka’s strike on 19 minutes.
While the injured defenders will need to be assessed tomorrow, it doesn’t sound like good news for our Japan international.
“Tomiyasu looks pretty serious for his reaction straightaway and what he said to me. It’s very early and it’s difficult to know,” said the boss in his post-game press conference.
On Saliba, he added: “We don’t know [how serious it is], he had some discomfort and he couldn’t carry on so we had to take him off.”
He also reeled off a few other issues we’ve had this season in a clear riposte to Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag who moaned that Arsenal have had luck with injuries recently.
“We’ve been carrying injuries throughout the season. We had Emile out for four months, Gabriel Jesus out for four months, we didn’t have Alex [Zinchenko] for two and a half months, Thomas and Eddie for a month and a half. We’ve had quite a lot of injuries already but we’ve dealt with that.
He added: “The disappointment isn’t going to go away, it’s there now but it brings clarity. There are 11 games to play now, 11 Premier League games and we have a final; the first of which is against Crystal Palace. We have to recover and put all the energy there and all the focus there, Play better than today, the same effort as today and win it.”
While sending on Ben White and Rob Holding shouldn’t have unduly shaken the Gunners, Arteta’s side really struggled under pressure from their opponents.
“We lost Tomi, then we lost Saliba and it left us with difficult game management as we only had one window to make subs and a few players couldn’t play 90 minutes. But still, we didn’t find our rhythm or our flow, allowed too many spaces, we were late into and didn’t win enough duels and then we gave the ball away many, many times, sometimes time after time.”