Mikel Arteta insists that Arsenal’s problems are clear to see after letting a lead slip late on against Slavia Prague in the Europa League last night.
The Gunners are facing fresh criticism after squandering a first-leg advantage in their Europa League quarter-final clash with Slavia Prague, conceding deep into injury time having taken the lead through Nicolas Pepe four minutes from time.
The away goal could prove crucial for the Czech Republic side, who will now host Arsenal in Prague next week knowing that they will progress if they can stop the Gunners from scoring.
For Arteta’s side, the situation is clear; they must score at least once in Prague to have any chance of reaching the semi-finals, with Slavia Prague seizing the advantage with the late goal in north London.
And former Arsenal defender Martin Keown said that he felt the Gunners were architects of their own downfall at the Emirates Stadium after missing several good chances, before conceding from a set piece late on.
Speaking to BT Sport, Keown said: “For me, it was about Arsenal, the way they played and imposed themselves on the opposition.
“By sitting off early in the encounter, I thought they’d chosen the wrong tactics and there was an opportunity to do that tonight, to really take the initiative and ask them the question: ‘Can you play? Can you pass that ball out from the back? We’ll see how good you are’.
“But they were allowed to settle, to build, and to become more dominant. In that first-half, it was quite difficult for Arsenal, they became nervous, they were not the team we saw just two or three weeks ago – for instance, the second-half performance against West Ham.
“It seems like Arsenal aren’t proactive in games, they need somebody to slap them in the face, or punch them in the face, before they wake up and start to play. He did it today in the second-half with the substitutions and he made that happen, but then they couldn’t see it through, it was hugely disappointing.
“It’s going to be tough for [Mikel] Arteta because he’s made a lot of changes within the football club, a lot of people have been allowed to go, this is his team now essentially.
“There’s been a lot of problems for Arsenal for years, with certain people coming in and out of the football club, it’s not at his doorstep, but he’s in charge now and he’s not quite getting the reaction from his team.
“He’s encouraging to play, and at the end he doesn’t want them to play, it’s a mixed message, isn’t it? You’ve got to do the right thing at the right time and they’re making mistakes and it cost them tonight.”
Arteta insists that the mindset for his players is clear after the result in the first leg, with the Arsenal boss insisting that they cannot dwell on the disappointment despite dominating possession on the night.
“I think we made much more than the result that we got, but at the end it is what it is and we have to show even more determination, because we have to go to Prague and score goals to win the game, so it is not a hard mindset,” he said.
“It is very clear what we have to do.”
That was not the only thing that was clear for Arteta and his players though.
And he insists that game management is something Arsenal must improve on if they are to achieve their goals, with the Europa League looking like the most realistic route into European football next season for the Gunners, who find themselves in tenth position in the Premier League, nine points behind fifth-placed Chelsea.
“It is clear why but it is about preventing it from happening, that’s a different story,” Arteta said, referring to the fact Arsenal created chances but did not take them against Slavia Prague, before being punished by the late equaliser.
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“In a pretty big amount of games, we haven’t managed to do that for different reasons.
“Last night was a clear example, we created four or five really big chances and we have to put them in the net, and then you have some margin for what happened in the 94 th minute when you concede from a set piece.
“That can happen, but what cannot happen is the way we managed the last four or five minutes.”