Arsenal progressed to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League last night, despite going down 1-0 at home to Olympiacos.
A second half strike from Youssef El-Arabi was enough to seal the win for the Greek heavyweights on the night, but it was not enough to stop the Gunners from progressing to the last-eight, as they won the 3-2 on aggregate following their 3-1 triumph in the first-leg last week.
Although the Gunners have escaped the jaws of defeat to join Manchester United in Friday lunchtime’s draw, Mikel Arteta was not overly impressed by what he saw from his players, insisting they made life difficult for themselves against the side that dumped them out of the Europa League last season.
Speaking in his post-match press call, Arteta said: “I am pleased because we are through and last year at that stage we went out by them. If I have to evaluate the performance, what we’ve done today with the ball in particular is nowhere near the standards that we set ourselves.
“We made it really difficult because you don’t have any stability when you give the amount of balls away that we have given in the game.
“When that happens you don’t have the control that you need to manage the tie the way we should have done. And that’s related as well to the number of chances that we missed again.”
Unsurprisingly, despite maintaining their hopes of lifting a piece of silverware this season, the national media have questioned the Gunners’ performance against the Greek side.
With that in mind, football.london has taken a close look to see how the national media have reported last night’s action in the Friday morning newspapers.
“Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang climbed off the naughty step to help nervous Arsenal edge their way through to the Europa League quarter-finals,” Mark Irwin wrote for The Sun.
“But there won’t be too many potential opponents quaking at the knees at the prospect of being drawn against Mikel Arteta’s men this afternoon.
“It was a good job for Arteta that his team held a 3-1 cushion from last week’s first-leg in Athens.
“And in the end that was just about enough to see them safely over the line against an Olympiakos team who simply refused to give up.
“The Greek champions had probably been told by Arsenal old boy Sokratis Papastathopoulos that his former club are always liable to crumble at the first sign of pressure.
“And even the return of captain Aubameyang couldn’t steady Emirates nerves on what was supposed to be a rare stress free night.”
“It didn’t take long for Mikel Arteta to take action,” Freddie Keighley wrote for the Mirror. “A matter of minutes after Youssef El-Arabi pulled one back for Olympiacos, the Arsenal boss sent on Thomas Partey and Martin Odegaard for Mohamed Elneny and Dani Ceballos.
“Arteta’s message was clear: there would be no comeback today.
“The Spaniard deserves a good deal of credit for taking swift and decisive action to shut down any hopes the Greek club had of staging another upset at the Emirates.
“Partey gave the Gunners defence a layer of protection Elneny cannot, while Odegaard brought fresh intensity as he continues to grow in stature in north London.
“Indeed, Arsenal looked the more threatening of the teams in the final half-hour and really should have scored; they will need to be more clinical in front of goal regardless of who they draw in the quarter-finals.”
“Time management unimpeachable, tie management distinctly problematic. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang arrived at the Emirates Stadium promptly on this occasion but Arsenal’s progress to the Europa League quarter-finals was far less straightforward than it should have been,” Nick Ames wrote for The Guardian.
“It would be an exaggeration to say Olympiakos came close to outdoing the turnaround they completed here last season but they caused Mikel Arteta’s team what felt like an unnecessary headache, scoring early in the second half through Youssef El‑Arabi and exerting enough pressure after that to prevent them seeing matters out in total comfort.
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“For the second time in five days Arsenal made a significant stride in their season while showing a brittleness that, whenever it rears its head, offers a stark reminder of how far they must still go. They had made it to half‑time untroubled beyond a Bernd Leno save from El-Arabi, diverting the ball wide off his knee, and given Olympiakos required three goals it should have been plain sailing from there.
“But they began the second period sloppily, as if unaware the Greek champions had an extra gear to discover, and had already sailed close to the wind when El-Arabi found his bearings.”