Mikel Arteta lays out new demand for Arsenal players ahead of Bayern Munich showdown

Mikel Arteta lays out new demand for Arsenal players ahead of Bayern Munich showdown

Mikel Arteta called on his Arsenal players to “stand up and be counted” after a 2-0 home defeat to Aston Villa put a huge dent in their title bid.

Late goals from substitute Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins condemned Arsenal to a first Premier League defeat since New Year’s Eve and leaves Manchester City two points clear at the top of the table, and with a sixth title in seven seasons now in their hands.

Arsenal face Bayern Munich in their Champions League quarter-final decider in Germany on Wednesday night, with the scores level from the first leg, and Arteta says his players must show character to keep their season alive.

“Now the moment is to stand up and be counted,” Arteta said.

“When you win and win and win for four months it’s very simple to do it. The moment to do it is now.

“We don’t have any other solution. If you want to win championships, if you want to be there in the Champions League, when you have these moments you have to stand up. If not that means that you don’t have a quality that is very necessary. Now it’s a big test for us.

“If one result is going to [derail our season] then we are not strong enough. That’s very simple.

“We had one of the best performances that we’ve had all season in the first half against a really good team. It should have been three or four or more. It didn’t happen. In the second half the momentum shifted.

“We could not control and generate what we did in the first half. We conceded two very poor goals and we lost the game. Congratulate the opponent and stand up.”

Bayern will be narrow favourites to reach the Champions League semi-final on Wednesday after a 2-2 draw in north London last week but Arteta believes the game is the perfect opportunity for his downbeat squad to bounce back.

“After losing any game they are frustrated and sad,” he said.

“But we have a beautiful opportunity that hasn’t happened for 14 years in this club to go to the semi finals of the Champions League. It couldn’t come in a better moment.”

City will be crowned champions again if they win their final six League games after Liverpool also lost at home on Sunday, going down 1-0 to Crystal Palace, but Arteta is hopeful of further twists and turns in the run-in.

"Yeah, that’s a possibility," he said. "That’s the reality now. It’s been the same for a few months. We knew this moment could come and now it’s about reacting and keeping believing and doing what we can do.

"When you look at the schedule, the games we have to play every three days, it’s crazy. So [dropped points] can happen to any team. It’s happened in the past. We cannot control that. We can control how we’re going to be now. Prepare from tomorrow to give us the best chance to go to Munich with big belief and win the game to go into the semi-finals."