Declan Rice explains how Arsenal must improve to avoid Champions League exit

Declan Rice explains how Arsenal must improve to avoid Champions League exit

Declan Rice has warned his Arsenal team-mates they must start "learning on the job" if they want to keep their Champions League dream alive.

Arsenal were beaten 1-0 in the first leg of their last-16 tie with Porto, after winger Galeno scored in the 94th minute. Rice admitted Arsenal showed "inexperience" at the end by giving the ball away, and many of the squad are new to the Champions League this season.

Kai Havertz was the only player in the team who had previously played in a Champions League knockout game, and Rice believes Arsenal need to learn to be more savvy at this level.

"You look at a load of their players, you look at Pepe especially, with the experience he has got in these types of ties," said the midfielder. "You look at our team, we are such a young group. Some of us have not played in the Champions League before [this season], so it is all about learning on the job.

Declan Rice was playing in his first ever UCL knockout game (Getty Images)
Declan Rice was playing in his first ever UCL knockout game (Getty Images)

"I think the last minute is probably a bit of inexperience. Just probably having a bit more savviness, in terms of — [it's] the 93rd minute, you look up at the clock, it's 0-0, we gave a ball away on the edge of our box twice and then he bends one in the top bins.

"So, we have got to have a bit of savviness to see out the game, because if you can't win, definitely don't lose, especially in a knockout game.

"When you play the European teams, obviously they are going to play and be really different to English sides. The refs are really different. You can't really get away with much in European ties. It is about learning on the job and seeing where we can improve on that front."

Arsenal never got going and, after scoring 21 goals in their previous five games, they failed to muster a shot on target. They made a shaky start and were loose in possession, with Rice booked just over a minute in for a rash tackle on Galeno.

We said some stuff in the [dressing room], positive stuff, and it’s about Saturday now

Declan Rice

"From my [side], I have played in European ties before, so there weren't any nerves from me," he said. "Obviously, getting booked early on was a real kick in the teeth, because that can change your mindset a little bit. But I think it is [sometimes] good to have nerves. You get that experience and you need that to play in the biggest games.

“But whether there are nerves or no nerves, I think these are the type of games we need to learn from on the way and it is going to make us better overall. Not every game is going to be [scoring] fives and sixes. You are going to come up against teams who are watching us and seeing what they can do to stop us.”

Arsenal have a quick turnaround, as they host Newcastle in the Premier League on Saturday night. They are five points off leaders Liverpool, after Jurgen Klopp’s side beat Luton 4-1, and Rice has stressed how Arsenal cannot let this loss derail their title bid.

“Coming into it as a new player, I think I have seen how many leaders there are in the team that drive it on and really want the best for each other,” he said. “I think that is so good that there is an honest-speaking group. If you want to win things, go far in things, you need that.

“We said some stuff in there, positive stuff, and it’s about Saturday now. We have to park this [defeat] and revisit it in two weeks.”