‘It still hurts’: Mikel Arteta reveals Arsenal squad still reeling from Europa League exit
Mikel Arteta has revealed – via the Evening Standard – that the Arsenal squad is still reeling from their Europa League exit, but wants to see his players use the pain to fuel a late push for Conference League qualification.
The Gunners can still clinch what seemed an unlikely European berth on Sunday by beating Brighton & Hove Albion and if other results go their way, with seventh-place still achievable.
Arsenal are unbeaten in the Premier League with four-straight wins since losing the Europa League semi-final first leg to Villarreal, which ultimately led to their elimination with a second leg stalemate at home to former head coach Unai Emery.
Failing to qualify for UEFA’s new third-tier club competition would make the first time in 25 years that Arsenal will go without European football (Sky Sports), and need rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Everton to lose their respective remaining games with Leicester and Manchester City.
Arteta believes the pain of losing to Villarreal is now spurring Arsenal on to fight until the final day for a Conference League place, and wants to utilise that pain to show everybody that the Gunners could have done better this season.
“The pain in that dressing room, it still hurts. And I think that is what we are using in the final games to show everybody, and show ourselves, that we could have done better but we are not going to give up,” the Spaniard said.
“And we want to challenge to the last day to give ourselves the chance to be back in Europe, and they have the opportunity again to go.”
Arsenal’s season will be considered a failure by many with a seventh-place finish the best result still achievable in the Premier League, but the Gunners are carrying the form into the final day to best-place themselves to capitalise on the potential misfortune of others.
They will also be playing in front of their own supporters while Everton travel to the champions Man City and Tottenham visit Leicester, who are in a must-win scenario if they are to clinch a top-four finish and a spot in the Champions League.
The presence of supporters could prove crucial, as the Emirates Stadium fanbase will be loath to see their side end on a whimper and will be expected to push their players to live up to Arteta’s admission, that they are using the pain of Europa League heartbreak to prove they could have done better and bring some form of European action back to north London.
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