Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have said the Gunners’ stunning Europa League exit at the hands of Olympiakos on Thursday is very painful and difficult to believe.
The Greek club knocked out Arsenal at the Emirates stadium and advanced to the next round 2-2 on away goals following Thursday’s 2-1 extra-time victory. Olympiakos took the lead through Pape Abou Cisse’s header and restored parity for Olympiacos after suffering a 10-defeat in the first leg. The striker’s goal took the tie into an additional 30 minutes.
Aubameyang thought he had sent the north London club through to the next stage when he equalized in the 113th minute, but Youssef El Arabi’s goal in the dying minutes of extra time ensured the Greek side advanced to the last 16. Aubameyang squandered a last-gasp opportunity in the final seconds of the game to ensure Arsenal will not be playing in Europe next season.
Speaking after the game about the difficulties of reaching the top four, Arteta said winning the competition would have given his side access to the Champions League next season after missing Europe’s premier club competition since 2016-17. The Spaniard added that the only chance for his side is to be among the top four in the Premier League.
“Very hard because looking at the table we’re still far from the objectives that we all have, but we’ve been far all season from it and we have to keep fighting,” Arteta said.
“The most important thing now is that the dressing room has to be strong and we have to keep going and react. First of all, I have to convince them about what happened in the game and why they are not through in the tie.
“If they continue to do that, there will be rewards like we have done in the last 10 games that we played.”
Arteta added: “I just want to concentrate now on lifting those players and getting back the belief, and convince them that there is still a lot to play for, and move on.
“It’s part of this sport that a big disappointment can happen and it happened. We have to learn and react as a team and as a club.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal captain Aubameyang has said he is still surprised how he missed the late chance to give his side the opportunity to advance to the next round.
“Very, very disappointing. What can I say? It is very, very hard. It was a tough game again,” the club captain told BT Sport.
“The last-minute goal was, yeah, unlucky for us. That is it.
“I don’t even know [how I missed that chance late on]. I feel very, very bad. It can happen but I do not know how I missed this chance. I was tired, I had some cramps but it is not an excuse.”
The Gabonese international added that Olympiakos’ defensive tactics prevented Arsenal from finding spaces to score.
“It was tough because they played very deep. It was hard to find the solutions in the final third. It was a really tough game and tough to find spaces.”