Mikel Arteta has seen Arsenal advance to the Europa League quarter-finals and has warned that Tottenham’s demise shows there are no formalities in knockout football.
Arsenal took charge of their last 16 draw with Olympiacos in Greece last week by opening a 3-1 advantage, but a 1-0 loss at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday made for a more difficult course than expected until the last eight.
Gunners manager Arteta said Arsenal was ‘far’ from the level required and was not hiding behind the fact that his side had avoided the same fate as their North London rivals, with Tottenham suffering a 3- shock. 0 hidden by Dinamo Zagreb to perish 3-2. aggregate.
Speaking of Tottenham’s miserable fate in the competition, Arteta – whose side have lost three consecutive home games in European competition for the first time in their history – said: “It also shows the level of opposition, that people take it for granted that you are playing against an opponent and you will pass through, because of the name of the club they represent.
“It’s not like that, every team in Europe is hard to beat.”
Arteta has only found solace in the fact that Arsenal – who have reached the quarter-finals of the competition for the fourth time in their last five campaigns – have avoided elimination from the Europa League.
“If I am to assess the performance with what we did today, with the ball in particular, then it is not close to the standards that we have set ourselves,” said Arteta.
“We made it really difficult because we didn’t have any stability when you gave the number of balls we have in the game.
“When that happens, you don’t have the control to handle the tie like we should and it has to do with the number of chances we’ve missed again.”
4/5 – Arsenal have reached the quarter-finals for the fourth time in their last five Europa League / UEFA Cup campaigns (eliminated in the last 32 stages last season), having failed to reach this stage in each of their first five campaign attempts. Relief. #UEL
– OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 18, 2021
Stiff opposition will await Arsenal in the quarter-finals, with this competition particularly important given that his victory represents their only realistic path to next season’s Champions League.
Premier League rivals Manchester United, Roma, Villarreal and Ajax are among the teams to have made the last eight.
The Arsenal dressing room was a quiet place after the game, goalkeeper Bernd Leno said.
Leno told Arsenal Media: “Everyone knows it was not a good performance from us. We can’t change it anymore but the positive is that it was a warning. We have to be 100% in every game. If we play like today, we won’t achieve anything this season.
“It’s probably the closest way to going to the Champions League and also winning a big European trophy, so we have to step up.”
Arteta, meanwhile, has said Arsenal will not rush to remove Bukayo Saka from the England squad for the World Cup qualifiers at the end of the month.
The young winger missed Thursday’s game with a muscle injury but could stand a chance against West Ham on Sunday, and if he misses the game Arsenal will consult with the English side.