Mikel Arteta insists Arsenal 'must improve MASSIVELY' to progress

Mikel Arteta insists Arsenal ‘must improve MASSIVELY’ after giving away two more sloppy goals in Sporting Lisbon draw, with Spaniard frustrated at Gunners’ inability to defend box

  • Mikel Arteta sends warning to his players following the 2-2 draw with Sporting 
  • Arsenal took the lead in the game only to end up 2-1 down in the second half
  • The Gunners boss says this team must improve in the second leg next week 
  • Europa League explainer: All you need to know ahead of the quarter-final draw 

Mikel Arteta admits his Arsenal side will need to ‘massively improve’ if they are to progress in the Europa League after the 2-2 draw with Sporting Lisbon. 

The Gunners boss made six changes to his starting line-up for the last-16 Europa League tie, with a debut for Polish defender Jakub Kiwior and Gabriel Martinelli deployed down the middle in the absence of Eddie Nketiah, Leandro Trossard and Gabriel Jesus.

Those changes looked to have paid off when William Saliba put Arsenal into an early lead, but the Premier League leaders were pegged back before the break and would go on to play out a 2-2 draw in Portugal to take back to the Emirates. 

After the game, Arteta warned his players that his side need to stop conceding goals and will need to up their game if they are to make it through to the next round. 

‘It’s true that it’s something that we must improve massively if we want to keep winning games.’ The Spaniard told BT Sport

Mikel Arteta says his side must improve if they are to progress in the Europa League 

Granit Xhaka’s deflected shot saw Arsenal earn and 2-2 draw with Sporting on Thursday 

‘When you concede two poor goals like we did away from home in Europe it’s very difficult to get a positive result.

‘We gave too many simple balls away. We need to defend our box much better.’

Saliba’s header was cancelled out by Goncalo Inacio, with a header of his own from a corner, as he found himself unmarked in the box. With stand-in goalie Matt Turner criticised for not coming for the cross and failing to command his area. 

Paulinho then put Sporting in front after the break, before the Gunners levelled in fortuitous fashion, when Granit Xhaka’s attempted pass took a huge deflection off Hidemasa Morita and made it’s way into the net. 

‘I don’t know if it’s lucky – the second goal was lucky,’ Arteta admitted. 

‘Martinelli was through, we had a big chance with Fabi [Vieira] too, but it’s true that at 2-1 we conceded a big chance that they had to make it 3-1.

A lot of things to improve, that’s for sure. But as well we showed a lot of resilience to stay in the game and be alive in the tie.’ 

Although Arteta made changes for the European tie, Bukayo Saka was once again called on to play, with the Gunners without several key stars, and the Spanish boss has warned his players that they must be prepared to rack up the minutes in the final months of the season. 

William Saliba got Arsenal off to the perfect start when he headed the Gunners into the lead 

Arteta’s men were pegged back before half time when Goncalo Inacio headed home 

He continued: ‘At this club you have to play every three days and you have to be fit and available to do that. If not, it’s not worth it.

Making six changes you lose a little bit of the cohesion but we had to make the changes because some players were unavailable, some players have to play in different positions because we don’t have any strikers. We have to adapt to it.’

Arsenal play host to Fulham this weekend before the second leg against the Portuguese side next week, where Arteta knows his side will need to play better to make it through to the next round. 

Adding: ‘In this competition if you want to go through you have to go through difficult moments. We’re still alive and hopefully we’ll play better at the Emirates.’ 

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