After a hard-fought 1-1 draw in the round of 16, a determined Sporting Lisbon eliminated Arsenal from the Europa League on penalties (3-3 aggregate, Sporting win 5-3 penalties).
Aaron Ramsdale, William Saliba, and Gabriel Jesus made up Mikel Arteta’s strong starting XI on home soil after the first leg ended in a 2-2 tie in Portugal. Gabriel Jesus made his first start for the Gunners in four months.
Granit Xhaka gave the Gunners the lead, and at first glance, it appeared they were headed for the quarterfinals.
With an incredible attempt from the halfway line, Pedro Goncalves equalized the score and ultimately take the game to extra-time before the dreaded penalties.
Mikel Arteta, the manager of Arsenal, was upset at his team’s performance as they were eliminated from the Europa League.
Speaking to BT Sport, the Spaniard admitted: ” [It’s a] huge blow, obviously. There were moments especially in the first 75 minutes where we weren’t at our level. We gave every single ball away.”
“We didn’t have the capacity to dominate the game and take the game where we wanted.”
“It’s true in the last 15 minutes, we had the chances and in extra-time, we had the chances to win it.”
“When it goes down to the penalties, it’s a lot of uncertainty and we lost it.”
“I think it was a very different game [to the first leg].”
“Especially that 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.”
“Every time we regained the ball in those areas, we gave it away. We didn’t have the ball consistently and that created a really open transitional game that we didn’t want to play.”
Mikel Arteta did acknowledge that the Arsenal team’s concerns over injuries did not help. Takehiro Tomiyasu, a Japanese international, was omitted after just ten minutes due to a tackle lunge.
William Saliba followed him and had to leave as well after apparently hurting his back.
“That happened,” Arteta said.
“It happened with Tomi [Tomiyasu] and Saliba and then we are really restricted to do the changes and we only have one window to do them and only one sub left. We have to accomodate that.”
“I think the team got better and better with the changes, especially the last 15 minutes of the full-time and then we had big chances to finish it off but we didn’t do it.”