Mikel Arteta: Arsenal’s Europa League exit hurts ‘big time’

Mikel Arteta watched Arsenal suffer late Europa League heartbreak against Olympiakos and said: “It hurts, big time”.

Youssef El Arabi’s goal in the dying minutes of extra time ensured it was the Greek side who advanced to the last 16 on away goals following a 2-2 aggregate draw.

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The Gunners struggled to get going and fell to a 2-1 defeat on the night, though Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang thought he had done enough to send Arsenal through when he equalised minutes earlier (113) with an overhead kick, after Pape Abou Cisse’s header took the tie into an additional 30 minutes.

“It hurts, big time,” Arteta said.

“We had a lot of hope in this competition. It was a great way for us to be able to go to Europe and it is a very beautiful competition to try to win.

“I think we did a lot of positive things in the game. I think we created enough chances to win the game, but if you concede two set-pieces again in a tie like this, then you put yourself in big trouble.”

‘Unacceptable… we have to improve’

Gunners goalkeeper Bernd Leno conceded a cheap corner from which the visitors passed the ball around before El Arabi turned Giorgos Masouras’ cross beyond the German.

On whether Leno could have done more, Arteta said: “Yes, obviously he could have kicked it out, but then there is another situation to defend.

“It’s not only the first phase but it’s the second phase of that corner that we concede and the player steps in and just taps in the ball in the six-yard box, which is unacceptable.

“It is something we have to improve on.”

Arteta faces huge challenge after dramatic exit

Analysis from Sky Sports’ Oliver Yew:

The pain of this Europa League exit will take a lot of getting over for Arsenal and Arteta.

This competition was a big chance of silverware and a route into the Champions League, but that all disappeared in dramatic circumstances as Olympiakos snatched a place in the last 16 at the expense of the Gunners.

There was a positive atmosphere starting to build around the Emirates Stadium as Arteta led his side to unbeaten start to 2020. They had just had three wins in a week and everything was starting to look better, but now, the Spaniard faces the biggest challenge of his short managerial career as he attempts to lift his players after that heart-breaking exit.

There is still the FA Cup to play for and although it’s an outside chance, they can still finish in the top four of the Premier League to qualify for the Champions League. Arteta must now find a way to brighten the mood in the Arsenal camp, and quickly, because if he does not, all his good early work at the Emirates Stadium will be undone.

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