MIkel Arteta backs Arsenal to recover from Sporting Lisbon loss against Crystal Palace but Gunners sweating on injuries

Mikel Arteta urged his Arsenal side to focus on their 11 remaining “finals” in the Premier League, starting with their home game against Crystal Palace on Sunday, after they were knocked out of the Europa League by Sporting Lisbon.

Arsenal were beaten 5-3 on penalties at the Emirates Stadium after a sensational long-range goal from Pedro Goncalves cancelled out Granit Xhaka’s opener, levelling the tie 3-3 on aggregate in a second-leg clash in which the hosts were second best for long periods.

The manner of the defeat capped a bitterly frustrating night for Arsenal, who also lost Takehiro Tomiyasu and William Saliba to first-half injuries, with the former leaving the Emirates Stadium on crutches with what Arteta described as a “serious” issue.

“Huge blow,” Arteta said of the result afterwards. “We really wanted to go through and fight in the competition and go for it and today we tried for 120 mins and penalties and it wasn’t enough.

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“First of all, congratulations to Sporting Lisbon for going through. Looking at ourselves, the game started difficult, we lost Tomi early in the game, then we lost Saliba and that left us with really difficult game management because we only had that window to make subs and a few players could not play the 90 minutes.

“But still, we didn’t find our rhythm and our flow and we allowed too many spaces and didn’t win enough duels, and then we gave the ball away many, many times, sometimes time after time.

“Then, the last 20 minutes, we got the flow, the momentum and created three big chances, but we didn’t score.”

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On the injuries to Tomiyasu and Saliba, he added: “Tomiyasu looks pretty serious from his reaction straight away and what he said to me, but it’s very early and very difficult to know.

Image: Gabriel Jesus and Granit Xhaka confront the referee against Sporting Lisbon

“Willy, I don’t know. He had some discomfort and he could not carry on, so we had to take him out.”

Arteta will hope to be able to call on Saliba when the Premier League leaders face Crystal Palace on Sunday but, after comments from Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag in which he claimed Arsenal had benefitted from a clean bill of health this season, he stressed they have already managed injuries and backed them to continue in the same way – despite their European exit.

“We’ve been carrying injuries throughout the season,” he said.

“We had Emile out for four months, we had Gabriel Jesus out for four months, Alex [Oleksandr Zinchenko] for two and a half months, Thomas [Partey] for a month and a half, Eddie [Nketiah] for a month and a half.

“We had quite a lot of injuries already but we dealt with that.

“The disappointment is not going to go away. The disappointment is there now, but it brings clarity. There are 11 Premier League games to play and the next final is against Crystal Place.

“We have to recover and put all our energy and focus there, play better than today and put the same effort as today and win.”

Arteta: Martinelli will react like Saka

It was a particularly tough night for Gabriel Martinelli, whose penalty miss proved costly as Sporting capitalised to win the shootout, but Arteta expects him to bounce back in the same way as his team-mate Bukayo Saka following his missed spot kick for England in the Euro 2020 final against Italy.

“He will react well,” he said. “Obviously he is disappointed today. We all are. When you take that decision, the possibility is always there. He will learn from it like Bukayo did in the past, and move on.”

Arteta expects the same from the rest of his players and insists their work rate in the game gives him encouragement, even if they were a long way from their best.

Image: Gabriel Martinelli is comforted by team-mates after missing his spot-kick

“We gave everything,” he said. “It wasn’t our day, we weren’t at our best individually or collectively, but they gave every drop of effort they could on that pitch.

“It wasn’t enough but if we do things better than what we did today on Sunday, we’ll have a big chance to win the game.

“Now, the 11 games we have is the focus, the only focus we have, and everybody is thinking about one thing, and that is Palace. To be in the best mental and physical condition, with a lot of clarity, with all the energy there.”

Arteta insisted he could not see the defeat as a blessing in disguise despite the fact it lightens their schedule for the remaining months of the Premier League campaign.

“I cannot see it today that way,” he said. “You go through the competition and win, it’s magnificent. If it’s not and it affects your plans in the league, it’s a different story.

“But we wanted to go through and we put everything in. The effort the boys put in, when it wasn’t our best day, the hunger and the desire they showed to win, the way they were tacking back, was incredible.

“They really wanted it and today it didn’t happen. We need to put the head up and now look for Palace. It’s what it is. It’s 11 games and the first one starts on Sunday.”

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