Mikel Arteta has issued a battling crying to his ailing Arsenal stars ahead of Thursday’s crunch Europa League tie against Benfica.
The Gunners are level with the Liga Nos outfit after the first-leg with the Portuguese team having taken the lead before Bukayo Saka struck home an equaliser.
Speaking after the 1-0 defeat to Manchester City, the Spaniard virtually admitted defeat with regards to securing European football through the league.
Will Arsenal play European football next season?
Arteta said: “The Europa League’s always been really important but obviously every defeat now in the league will put us in a difficult position. We have to take it game by game, we need a run of games. I think we are having a big run of performances but we lost two or three games now in different ways and it’s not we want.” (via Independent)
Reading between the lines, it seems Arteta is now wary about the precarious position the north London giants find themselves in for the remainder of the season. Achieving top-four will be near on impossible with a raft of teams above the side ahead on points and holding games in hand over Arteta’s men.
It leaves the Europa League as the only realistic chance of dining amongst the big wigs of European football next campaign. However, we’ve all witnessed just how tough and brutal the competition can be during last year’s mammoth clash with Olympiakos at the Emirates Stadium. You can lose at any point if you fall below the required standard as punishment awaits.
So how do Arsenal tackle this issue? Well, giving a rest to some of members of the first-team squad would be a great start. Saka has been one player Arteta has turned to time and time again this season during difficult spells with the Englishman having started 19 of the last 21 games for the side and is in dire need of a rest. It’s bonkers a team like the Gunners need to rely on a 19-year-old so much in search of rescue for their season.
Then there’s the issue around who should start in the number nine role. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s performance yesterday highlighted exactly why he shouldn’t play the position as he struggled against City. Alexandre Lacazette would prove the stronger option given his well-rounded game.
These subtle but big changes could make all the difference in the run to glory in Europe. Arsenal desperately need to win the competition and return to the Champions League after a four-year absence.