Mikel Arteta highlights defensive concern after Arsenal concede two ‘poor’ goals

Arsenal hit back to draw 2-2 at Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League last-16 first leg

Mark Mann-Bryans
Thursday 09 March 2023 21:41 GMT
Arteta: "Europa League is a priority with Premier League this season"

Mikel Arteta bemoaned the fact his Arsenal side conceded two “poor” goals in their Europa League draw at Sporting Lisbon.

The Gunners came from behind to draw 2-2 after Arteta made six changes to the team which snatched a last-gasp victory over Bournemouth on Saturday to remain five points clear at the top of the Premier League.

A William Saliba header had Arsenal ahead, but goals either side of half-time from Goncalo Inacio and Paulinho put Sporting in the driving seat.

Hidemasa Morita’s own goal saw the visitors secure a draw to take back to the Emirates Stadium for next week’s second leg, where they will be hoping to advance to the quarter-finals.

Inacio’s leveller was the fourth time Arsenal have conceded from a corner since the World Cup and they have now shipped five set-piece goals in 10 games, as well as falling behind nine seconds after kick-off against the Cherries.

“When you concede two poor goals like we did away from home in Europe, it’s very difficult to get a positive result,” Arteta said.

“The game had different phases because we gave too many simple balls away in our own half and gave them the capacity to (exploit) transition moments which they are good at.

“In other moments we had total control of the game and we lost a little bit of threat today, especially with the four players we are missing in our frontline.

“Some positives because we showed a lot of resilience to get back in the game, but we need to defend our box much better and be better on Sunday.”

Arteta revealed the way in which Arsenal have been conceding has been discussed, especially heading into a knockout tie.

When you concede two poor goals like we did away from home in Europe, it’s very difficult to get a positive result

Mikel Arteta

“We spoke about the importance of boxes, especially in a competition when you’re in or out,” he added.

“Today we didn’t defend that well enough and we have to be better at threatening the opponents as well. But of course you have an opponent there.

“We’ve played some really emotional games recently. We made a lot of changes today and sometimes that takes time to get that cohesion. You could feel in the first 15 minutes that it needed some time to adapt and click. If we don’t expose them, though, that’s never going to happen.”

Sporting boss Ruben Amorim talked up Arsenal’s quality on the eve of the contest but felt his side could have put themselves in a better position to advance into the quarter-finals after a strong showing.

“If you were to ask any Sporting fan before the match if a draw would be a good result, they would say ‘yes’,” he said.

“Now taking into account the 90 minutes, some of them will be disappointed. Our players were very smart, when recovering the ball we had quality in possession and created chances.

“I would say we could have won the match today. We could have scored (to make it) 3-1 and right after we conceded a second goal.”

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