By Spy Uganda
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was frustrated by the “huge blow” of a Europa League last-16 exit to Sporting CP on penalties and lamented his side’s wastefulness in possession.
The Gunners edged in front thanks to a Granit Xhaka goal midway through the first half, but a Pedro Goncalves wonder-strike from long range took the tie beyond 90 minutes and the Portuguese visitors went on to triumph 5-3 in the shoot-out.
“It’s a huge blow. There were moments, especially in the first 75 minutes, that we weren’t at our level,” Arteta said.
“We gave every single ball away and we didn’t have the capacity to dominate the game and take the game where we want it.
“It’s true that the last 15 minutes and in extra-time we had chances, and when it goes down to penalties there’s a lot of uncertainty, and we lost it.
“We didn’t put the ball under pressure enough and whenever we got the ball in dangerous areas, we gave it away. We gave it away consistently and that created an open transition game that we didn’t want to play.”
Arsenal’s focus now switches back to the Premier League, where they are five points clear of Manchester City as the Gunners bid to win a first league title in 19 years.
Arteta’s men face Crystal Palace next on Sunday when they can extend that lead to eight points, with City in FA Cup action.
“[Now] we just look at ourselves and why we weren’t good enough to go through,” Arteta added. “Congratulate Sporting, then after that we have 11 games and the first one is Palace, which is a final.
“Every work we do right now has to be towards Palace and we have to be better than in this game.”
Skipper Martin Odegaard was looking towards the climax of a season that still promises so much for Arsenal, despite their European exit.
“We have to remember it’s been a great season, it’s a big blow to go out of this competition. But now we look forward to the league, that’s all we can do now,” Odegaard said.
“We win and lose together. It doesn’t matter. When we’re winning everyone is happy, when we lose we have to pick up the spirit. We win and lose together.”