Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta says his side is still in the game heading into next week’s semi-final second leg against Villarreal in the Europa League.
The Gunners had a mountain to climb when we fell two goals behind before the half-hour mark but Nicolas Pepe’s penalty, not long after Dani Ceballos had been sent off, halved the deficit and ensures Arsenal take a precious away goal back to the Emirates.
The game could have ended in a 2-2 but for that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang miss.
“Obviously we are disappointed we lost the game because it is not the result that we wanted to take from it,” he told his post-game press conference.
“But after the story of the game we have to take it because we are in the tie, we are alive and, with the circumstances that developed during the game, it put the game and the tie in real danger at some stage.”
Arteta raised eyebrows when he fielded a team without a recognized striker, but he said it was his players’ sluggish start rather than his tactics that had them on the back foot.
“It’s the way we prepared for the game,” said the boss. “It’s the decision that I made, thinking that it was the best way to play, but the game was conditioned after four minutes, so it was difficult to assess whether it would work or not. Conceding from the set-piece as well also changed it and after, we had to approach it differently.
He added: “I think the first goal was a big shock. It was almost the first action that they went over the halfway line, and they scored a goal, and after that, we were touched, we didn’t expect it, we were touched, we didn’t quite react, and then we conceded the set-piece goal that’s obviously crucial in these ties, and then the team needed a break.
“After that break, we reset, we reorganized, we talked about a few things, and then we were a different team in the second half.”
Asked about the mood in the dressing room, Arteta said: “Well, comparing how it was at half-time, it’s very different!
“But I said to them, we have an opportunity, it’s a big challenge that we have ahead of us, but we have the opportunity to make it, but it has to be now. In the return leg it’s going to be too late, we have to change it right now. If we’re able to do that, we’re going to get here in a completely different position.
“We still had another incident which was the red card and playing with 10 men against this team, and the team went to a different level again, and we got the goal.”