Mikel Arteta refuses to see Europa League exit to Sporting Lisbon as ‘blessing in disguise’ ahead of Premier League title run-in

Mikel Arteta refuses to see Arsenal’s Europa League exit as a blessing in disguise as he seeks to end the club’s 19-year wait for a league title.

The Gunners were eliminated from Europe’s second-tier competition on Thursday night after losing to Sporting Lisbon on penalties.


Arteta’s Arsenal side lost to Sporting on penalties in the Europa League round of 16 on Thursday

Arsenal took the lead in both games against their Portuguese opponents and looked set to progress to the quarter-finals after Granit Xhaka broke the deadlock at the Emirates Stadium.

But the visitors equalized with Pedro Goncalves’ audacious centre-line chip, which appeared in Nayim’s 45-metre lob against Arsenal in Real Zaragoza’s 1995 Cup Winners’ Cup final victory.

The second leg remained 1-1 when the game went to penalties, with Brazilian striker Gabriel Martinelli missing the decisive shot from 12 metres.

Attention now turns to Arsenal’s Premier League clash against coachless Crystal Palace on Sunday, where they extend their lead over second-placed Manchester City to eight points.

In his post-match press conference, Arteta was asked if Arsenal’s European exit was a blessing in disguise as the club could focus primarily on winning the title.

He said: “I can’t see it that way today.


Arsenal’s attention will now turn to Sunday’s league game against Palace

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“I don’t know if you go through the competition and win it’s great, if not then it affects your plans in the league, that’s another story.

“We wanted to get through and gave everything.

“The effort the lads put in when it wasn’t our best day, individually and collectively, the hunger and the will to win, the way they backtracked was incredible.

“They really wanted it and today it didn’t happen.


Arteta has stated that her exit from Europe is no blessing in disguise

“We have to put our heads up, look towards Crystal Palace, there are 11 games left, the first starts on Sunday.”

He continued: “We gave everything. It wasn’t our day, we weren’t at our best individually and collectively.

“But they gave everything they could on this pitch, but it wasn’t enough.

“But if we do better on Sunday than today, we have a great chance of winning the game.”

Arsenal have now failed to win any of their last five Europa League knockout games at the Emirates.

Arteta hopes their Europa League days are over and Arsenal will return to the Champions League next season for the first time since 2017.


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