Mikel Arteta reveals he produced 'now or never' half-time team-talk

Mikel Arteta reveals he delivered a ‘now or never’ half-time blast to his sloppy Arsenal side before they grabbed a precious away goal to leave their Europa League semi-final finely poised

  • Mikel Arteta revealed he produced a tough half-time team talk for his players
  • Arsenal went into the break 2-0 down and in danger of collapsing in the tie
  • Despite Dani Ceballos being sent off the Gunners scored a crucial away goal
  • Former boss Unai Emery felt his Villarreal side were unlucky to concede penalty

Mikel Arteta revealed he made it clear to his Arsenal players they had to turn up in the second-half to keep their hopes of reaching the Europa League final alive following a narrow defeat in Villarreal.

The first leg of this semi-final clash appeared to be getting away from the Gunners as they fell 2-0 down, before Dani Ceballos was sent off just before the hour mark.

But Nicolas Pepe converted from the spot to send Arsenal home with a 2-1 deficit, and Arteta revealed the Gunners’ dressing room was in a very different mood after the match compared to 45 minutes earlier, when the Spaniard had to rally his troops.

Mikel Arteta revealed he had to lift his Arsenal players’ levels at half-time against Villarreal

Nicolas Pepe scored a crucial away goal as Arsenal produced a better second-half showing

Asked about the dressing room at full-time, Arteta said: ‘Well comparing how it was at half-time, it is very different.

‘I said to them: ‘We have an opportunity. It is a big challenge what we have ahead of us, but we have the opportunity to make it. 

‘But it has to be now. In the return leg it is going to be too late. We have to change it right now. If we are able to do that we are going to get here in a completely different position’.

‘We still had another incident, which was the red card and playing with 10 men against this team, and the team went to a different level again and we got the goal.’

Dani Ceballos was sent off as the first-leg of the tie threatened to get away from the Gunners

Arteta opted to play a different formation with no out-and-out striker as the visitors struggled to create chances from open play.

Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came on late in the game having recently recovered from malaria and had a good chance to equalise – with Arteta left defending his tactical approach.

‘It is the way we prepared the game, it is the decision that I made, thinking that it was the best way to play,’ Arteta said of adopting a strikerless system.

‘But the game was changed after four minutes (with the first goal) so it is difficult to assess whether it would work or not.

Arteta believes it is difficult to assess the system he used after Arsenal conceded so early

‘Conceding the set-piece (for Albiol’s goal) as well changed it and after we have to approach it in a different way.

‘(Aubameyang) was very unlucky because I think he slipped just before he took the shot and at the end it didn’t go through. But that was a big, big chance obviously.’

This is Arsenal’s third Europa League semi-final in four years but they have only made the final once in that time – under current Villarreal boss Unai Emery, who looked to be getting one over his former club as the hosts made a flying start.

Trigueros opened the scoring inside five minutes, driving home a low effort after indecision in the Arsenal box allowed Samuel Chukwueze to play in his team-mate.

Arteta was left ashen-faced as the lead was doubled before the half-hour, Albiol turning home at the back post as Arsenal failed to get anywhere near a routine corner.

Raul Albiol doubled Villarreal’s lead as the hosts went into the interval two goals to the good

But despite Ceballos being sent off, the second half offered hope for the visitors as Pepe levelled with a penalty that Emery was furious to see awarded.

‘We need to keep our hopes high,’ he said of taking his team to the final.

‘There are many circumstances that can affect you one way or another. After a good first half we went in 2-0 up, then they were dominating the game in the second half.

‘Then there was a key moment in the game with a penalty that is not a penalty, VAR should be able to give justice in such a clear-cut situation when a penalty was never a penalty.

‘I’m unhappy about that – certain details escape your control, like the referee, and once the match is finished you put all the cards on the table and we should say that we won the first match.’

Unai Emery felt his Villarreal side were hard done by after they conceded a second-half penalty

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