Arsenal had a night to forget in Spain as they lost 2-1 to Villarreal in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final clash. Speaking to BT Sport via Sky Sports after the game, Mikel Arteta said that the team were disorganised at the beginning.
After conceding an early goal, it never looked like the North London club really got into the game. Things went from bad to worse when the Spanish side doubled their lead just before the half hour mark. The visitors finally got one back through a Nicolas Pepe penalty but find themselves at a disadvantage heading into the second leg.
Though the game ended in defeat, Arteta believes that the tie is still alive. When asked about his thoughts on the match, the Spaniard told BT Sport via Sky Sports:
“We didn’t want to come here and lose obviously but the way the game developed, being 2-0 down and with 10 men, it’s probably the best result we could have.
“They were two different halves. We started to be us. In the first half, there were so many moments that we weren’t us. We weren’t clear with our high press, we were disorganised, we were not precise with the ball and we didn’t have enough control. We didn’t have enough threat or desire to attack the box but in the second half it was completely different.”
The manager also noted the performance of youngster Bukayo Saka but said that the club cannot always rely on him and when asked about how the players were feeling after the game, Arteta said:
“Well comparing how it was at half-time, it is very different. I said to them: ‘We have an opportunity. It is a big challenge what we have ahead of us, but we have the opportunity to make it. But it has to be now. In the return leg, it is going to be too late. We have to change it right now. If we are able to do that we are going to get here in a completely different position.”
Arsenal did well to fight back after going a man down and the fact they didn’t concede another goal would have made them happy. Getting the away goal is priceless in the context of the tie. The semi-final can go either way when the action moves to the Emirates next week. Arteta will be hoping his players are more organised and focused this time round. If they are, the Gunners can make plans for the final.
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