If Arsenal and Mikel Arteta are to learn one lesson from last night’s victory over Benfica, it must be that they cannot play like this again if they are serious about winning the Europa League this season.
Arteta admitted Arsenal gave Benfica two of their three goals over the course of this last-32 tie, with the penalty in Rome last week and then Dani Ceballos’ poor defensive header allowing Rafa Silva to score last night.
“When you do that against any opponent, and an opponent with the quality of Benfica, you’re going to be in trouble,” said Arteta.
“That’s why we were in trouble. We gave away a penalty in a situation that we knew was going to happen, and then today we gave away a goal after our own corner.”
Arsenal managed to fight back last night, largely thanks to the heroics of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - who struck twice from two brilliant Bukayo Saka assists. The pair came to the Gunners’ rescue, but they will know that as the opponents get tougher in the Europe League such a game plan is not sustainable.
Arsenal have essentially played their get-out-of-jail free card and now, from the last-16 onwards, they must be more ruthless.
It has been a complaint of Arteta’s all season and it nearly undermined his side here. Arsenal should really have killed this game off in Rome last week or even in the first half last night.
They were by far the better side against a Benfica team who lacked any threat, but somehow they left themselves in the situation of needing two goals in 29 minutes to save the tie.
Arsenal pulled that feat off thanks to Aubameyang and Saka’s heroics, but as the Europa League hots up they will know they cannot afford to leave it so late again.