‘We wanted to go through’: Arteta insists European exit will not help Arsenal’s title challenge
Mikel Arteta has said Arsenal’s Europa League exit is a “huge blow” and has dismissed claims it will benefit their bid to become Premier League champions.
Gabriel Martinelli saw his spot-kick saved as a closely-fought tie was settled by a penalty shootout, Sporting winning 5-3 after a 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium.
Granit Xhaka’s first goal since October had the hosts ahead before Pedro Goncalves levelled with a stunning 49-yard effort.
Manuel Ugarte was sent off deep into extra-time for Sporting but they survived a couple of late scares to win the shootout and advance to the quarter-final.
Asked how much of a disappointment the night was, Arteta replied: “Yes, a huge blow.
“We really wanted to go through in the competition and fight and go for it. Today we tried for 120 minutes and penalties and it wasn’t enough.
“Looking at ourselves it started difficult losing Tomi (Takehiro Tomiyasu) and (William) Saliba and that made it hard to manage the game because we only had a window to make the subs and a few players couldn’t play 90 minutes.
“Still, we didn’t find our rhythm and flow, allowed too many spaces, were late, didn’t dominate there and gave the ball away many times, sometimes time after time.
“We created three big chances and didn’t score. When we went to extra time we showed incredible energy again and top mentality when it wasn’t our best day to keep going.
“We had another big two chances and didn’t win. At the end it came to the penalties and it’s a lottery and it didn’t go our way today.”
Attention immediately turns to the domestic campaign, with Arsenal attempting to go eight points clear at the top of the table with victory over struggling Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Closest rivals Manchester City are in FA Cup action and Arteta is keen to raise spirits ahead of the visit of the Eagles.
“I cannot see that today that way,” Arteta said when asked if Europa League elimination could help with the Premier League title tilt.
“You go through the competition and you win it’s magnificent. If not and it affects your plans in the league that’s a different story, but we wanted to go through.
“We put everything in and with the effort that the boys put in when it wasn’t our best day individually and collectively, the hunger and desire that they showed to win it was incredible.
“We really wanted it and it didn’t happen. We need to put our heads up, look for Palace. It’s what it is. There’s 11 games and the first one starts on Sunday.”
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