Mikel Arteta has reminded the players that tonight’s Europa League fixture is a real battle. And he has called on the players to be more efficient in the final third.
After missing several chances to put the game to bed in the first leg, the boss has called on the team to avoid such sloppiness as it could cost us tonight.
Facing the press ahead of the match, he said:
“We said before the game that we’d been really impressed with the form, with what that team transmits, a real attitude and desire that they show in every single game.
“That’s why they are here, because they’ve knocked out some big teams along the way and fully deserve to be where they are. They showed in the first leg against us that they never give up, and they scored in the last minute of the game. We’re going to have a real battle tomorrow.”
The Europa League remains the most viable route of an European return next season and the boss knows how important the fixture is.
“It’s very important for us and this is our club,” said Arteta. “There’s no individual interest, it’s all a collective interest that we want to do well in every competition.
“Tomorrow’s game can put us in a position to go into the semi-final of a European competition. This is exactly where this club has to be and that’s why tomorrow we have to do our best to earn that.”
It’s quite known that the Arteta project isn’t winning much admirers by the week, and the boss realizes how an European semifinal ticket would mark a tangible progress.
“Absolutely, tangible is the right word and the only tangible thing is results. Whether you’re doing a good job or not, to judge it externally is only going to be judged with results.
“Internally, you know what you are doing and you can have many different ways of judging that but at the end of the day, externally results are the only important thing to give the perception that we are moving forward in the right direction.”
With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Martin Odegaard likely missing out on this important match, the team have been boosted by the return of Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, after the fears that the latter might miss out. The duo is likely to carry all the creative weight of the team and the boss believes in them despite how young they are.
“They are all as relevant as the senior players,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who it is but someone has to create when the team needs those moments. We have moments in the season where it has been the senior players and then other moments where it has been the young players. It doesn’t really matter.
He added: “We had moments against Slavia where if we had put the ball in the net, we are having a different conversation.
“This game is decided there and then when you don’t win, and you draw in the final minute, it leaves a different taste. But it could have been a completely different game. It’s about efficiency and in these Europa League games, your efficiency has to be so high to have the chance to compete with the best.”