The road to Gdansk is a long and winding one with many obstacles on the way there.
Arsenal escaped humiliation at the hands of Greek champions Olympiacos on Thursday night, as the Greek won 1-0 at Emirates Stadium and lost the tie 3-1 on aggregate.
Admittedly, the Gunners had plenty of their own opportunities in the second half and captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be disappointed to have missed a couple of huge chances.
But in reality it was a match that Arsenal never got out of first gear for. Bernd Leno said after the game that the defeat should serve as a “lesson” for the future, before insisting that the north Londoners won’t do anything this season if they play like that.
“I think we suffered today and it was not necessary,” said Leno.
“I think because in the first 15 or 20 minutes we controlled the game, but then we’ve made too many easy mistakes and in the second-half we conceded the goal and then everybody was nervous.
“We made it hard for ourselves and, like I said, it was not necessary. In the dressing room it was quiet because everybody knows that it was not a good performance from us. We cannot change it anymore but the positive thing is that it was a warning.”
Mikel Arteta’s side now come up against Slavia Prague in the quarter-finals and they are an opponent who should not be taken lightly, following impressive wins over Leicester City and Rangers in the previous rounds.
If the Spaniard manages to guide his team past Slavia into the semi-finals, there remains the possibility of facing former head coach Unai Emery and his Villarreal side, or Dinamo Zagreb who have just knocked Tottenham out of the competition.
Arteta has shown since taking over the managerial reigns that he is more than capable of mastermind wins in the knockout competitions, with last season’s FA Cup win a perfect example of what happens when a tactical gameplan comes to fruition.
“Basically we have to maintain the standards that we set, particularly when we are in possession of the ball,” Arteta said after the Olympiacos game.
“We had too many situations [against Olympiacos] where we didn’t discriminate or make the right decision and then execution-wise we weren’t at our best.”
Things are looking a lot prettier in the Arsenal camp right now after the north London derby win and progression to the Europa League quarter finals, but there is still plenty of work to be done.
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Upcoming league fixtures against West Ham and Liverpool will pose an even tougher test for a Gunners side who have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 11 games in all competitions.
The current Arsenal squad possess the technical quality to progress to the Europa League final, but those lapses in concentration that we’ve seen all season will need to be minimal over the next few months.
Gdansk patiently awaits.