Mikel Arteta said Arsenal are ‘conceding too many simple goals’ after they were held to a 2-2 draw by Sporting Lisbon.
Arsenal took the lead in their Europa League last-16 first-leg tie in Lisbon through William Saliba, before Goncalo Inacio headed home a Marcus Edwards corner unmarked from close range.
Paulinho put the Portuguese side in front just after the interval after Matt Turner had parried Pedro Goncalves’ effort into a dangerous area, before an unfortunate Hidemas Morita own goal left the tie nicely poised ahead of next weeks second leg.
Speaking at his post-match press conference, Mikel Arteta was pleased with the ‘resilience’ his side showed, but admitted they conceded ‘poor goals’.
“When you concede two poor goals like we did today away from home in Europe, it’s very difficult to get the positive result that we expected.
“I think the game had different phases, especially because we gave too many balls away, too many simple balls in our own half and we gave them hope and we gave them the capacity to go into transition moments that they are good at. In the moments we had to take control of the game and we lost a little bit of threat today, especially with the front players that we are missing in our frontline.
“We had some positive because we showed a lot of resilience to get back in the game, but we need to defend our box much better and we have to be in the return leg to beat them.”
Asked if Sporting’s equaliser was down to a lack of communication, Arteta said: “I don’t know what it was. It’s very difficult when it happens in a second, but for sure in that space, somebody cannot have a free header and you concede a goal because it’s too simple.”
Neither Matt Turner nor Jakub Kiwior covered themselves in glory for Sporting’s first goal, and while saying that set pieces are determined by small margins, he added that is an area that his side ‘must improve dramatically’.
“Sometimes the opponents and really good at what they do. When they get the delivery right, in the right space, it’s just half a centimetre sometimes whether you get that header out of the box or if it goes in. It’s true that it’s something that we must improve dramatically in the next few games if you want to keep winning games.”
The Gunners have now conceded 16 goals in their last 10 matches in all competitions, including four in their last two, and the Spaniard reiterated the need for defensive improvement.
“We are conceding too many simple goals and we’ve talked about the importance of boxes, and especially in a competition where you are in or out. Today we didn’t defend that well enough, and we have to do better up against our opponents.
“We’ve had a lot of really emotional games recently, and today we made a lot of changes, meaning that cohesion needs some time. You could feel that in the first 10-15 minutes that we needed some time to adapt and to click, but if we don’t expose them, that’s never going to happen.”