Mikel Arteta admits Europa League exit is ‘huge blow’ for Arsenal after penalty shootout defeat

Mikel Arteta admits Europa League exit is ‘huge blow’ for Arsenal after penalty shootout defeat

Mikel Arteta was left frustrated by a sluggish display from Arsenal as they were knocked out of the Europa League by Sporting.

After a 2-2 draw in Lisbon, the last-16 tie remained level after 90 and then 120 minutes in north London, with Granit Xhaka’s first-half finish cancelled out by a stunning Pedro Goncalves strike from near the halfway line that floated over Aaron Ramsdale.

It went to a penalty shootout, with Gabriel Martinelli the only player to miss his spot-kick as the Gunners were beaten 5-3 and had their European campaign ended.

Arteta has repeatedly insisted that he would not solely focus on the Premier League, and that his squad could balance a Europa League run with their title challenge, but that is no longer an issue he has to contend with.

“Huge blow obviously,” Arteta told BT Sport.

“There were moments, especially in the first 75 minutes, when we weren’t at our level. We gave every single ball away and we didn’t have the capacity to dominate the game and take the game where we wanted.

“Then the last 15 minutes we had the chances and in extra-time the chances to win it, and when it goes down to penalties it’s a lot of uncertainty.”

Tahekiro Tomiyasu and William Saliba were both forced off with injury inside 20 minutes at the Emirates, with the Gunners now left to hope neither are serious issues as focus shifts back to the Premier League.

Arsenal host Crystal Palace on Sunday in their final match before the international break and, with Manchester City not in League action, have the chance to take an eight-point lead into April.

“Look at ourselves, what we’ve done and why we weren’t good enough to go through,” Arteta responded when asked how his side would reset.

“Congratulate Sporting, and after that now we have 11 games. The first one is Palace, which is a final. Every word now has to be towards Palace, be better than today.”