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Arteta bemoans ‘huge blow’ of Europa League exit for Arsenal with one way they ‘didn’t want to play’

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta

Mikel Arteta has described Arsenal being eliminated from the Europa League as a “huge blow”, pointing out how often they gave the ball away against Sporting CP.

Arsenal went into the second leg of their round of 16 tie level with Sporting after a 2-2 draw in Lisbon. They took one step towards the quarter-final when Granit Xhaka gave them the lead upon the return at the Emirates Stadium.

However, they were pegged back by a stunning long-range equaliser from Pedro Goncalves in the second half, sending the tie to extra time.

There was no change to the scoreline in the additional 30 minutes, although Sporting went down to 10 men when Manuel Ugarte received a second yellow card.

It was the last notable event before the tie went to a penalty shootout, which Arsenal lost 5-3 after Gabriel Martinelli’s effort was saved by Sporting keeper, Antonio Adan.

It means Arsenal’s chances of silverware this season hinge solely on their pursuit of the Premier League title. In that regard, they will be hoping to make the most of their five-point lead over Manchester City at present.

But right now, they will be reflecting on what went wrong for them in their European journey.

After their exit from the competition, Arteta told BT Sport: “Huge blow, obviously.

“There were moments especially in the first 75 minutes that 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 want it.

“Then in the last 15 minutes we had the chances, and in extra time the chances to win it, and when it goes down to the penalties then it’s a lot of uncertainty and we lost it.”

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When asked about how Sporting made life difficult for Arsenal, Arteta was initially somewhat tetchy, before responding: “We didn’t win enough duels when we had them in certain spaces.

“They are really good at attacking those boxes and second line runs and we didn’t put the ball under pressure well enough to do that.

“And then every time we get the ball in really dangerous areas, we gave it away. We gave away the ball consistently. And then that created a really open transition game that we didn’t want to play.”

As for how they will reset for the Premier League title race, Arteta concluded: “Just look at ourselves, what we’ve done and why we weren’t good enough to go through, congratulate Sporting and now we have 11 games.

“The first one is Palace, which is a final, and every word that we explain right now, it has to be towards Palace, be better than today to win again.”

Odegaard urges Arsenal to ‘remember it’s been a great season’

Meanwhile, captain Martin Odegaard said to the same channel: “I think we did enough in some periods of the game but most of the game we weren’t on the level we should be.

“We didn’t play our best football. It was a tight game in the end. It could have gone both ways.

“They are a good team, we knew that, we were prepared. It was more about us today, we didn’t play the way we normally do with the same energy we normally do. Now we have to look forward.

“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.

“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.”

The draw for the quarter-finals of the Europa League will take place from midday on Friday. Arsenal, unlike fellow Premier League representatives Man Utd, will not be a part of it.

Their attention now returns to the Premier League, with a game against Crystal Palace coming up on Sunday.