Arsene Wenger said Arsenal produced the performance he wanted, but later suffered after his team succumbed to a late Antoine Griezmann away goal to draw 1-1 with 10-man Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-final first leg.
While speaking after his team’s 1-1 draw at home to Athletico Madrid at the Emirate Stadium on Thursday night, Arsene Wenger said that Arsenal missed enough chances to have already reached the Europa League final.
He said further that his players did not benefit from playing for more than 80 minutes against only 10 Atletico Madrid players.
The 10th minute dismissal of Sime Vrsaljko helped Arsenal dominate the match but, even with 76 per cent of possession and 28 shots, this first leg ended with what Wenger called the “worst possible result” in the context of his team’s chances.
Wenger said; “The result is not in line with the performance. Once they went down to 10 men it destroyed a bit the flow of the game and it was not to our advantage. You come out with a bitter taste because we had the chances to be in the final tonight.
“We had the chances in the first half. That’s where the regret is and we were not clinical enough. Unfortunately we gave a goal away, which puts us in a very difficult position. Of course it feels like an opportunity missed.”
Wenger was especially angry at how his team had contrived to concede a goal to Antoine Greizmann following a rare counter-attack from Atletico and a series of defensive errors.
Arsenal must now score away to have any chance of reaching the final against a team who have not conceded in their past 11 home matches.
“Once we were 1-0 up, the task was clear for us: not to be caught on the long ball because they could not combine enough to create a chance. We can only look at ourselves. It was down to us just not to make a mistake and it’s a story we have seen before.
“The whole team is very disappointed. Our fans were fantastic – we created the anti-climax by giving a goal away.”
Wenger was still adamant that Arsenal can prevail in Madrid and ensure that his 22-year reign as Arsenal manager does end in Lyon next month in the Europa League final.
He said; “Yes, we can go there and score. We know we can score from anywhere. For us to qualify we need to rebuild confidence and the desire. The only advantage of that result is we know exactly what we have to do. We have nothing to lose. We have to go there in a positive mood and win the game.”
Atletico manager Diego Simeone was sent to the stands for his protests soon after Vrsaljko’s dismissal and described his team as “heroes” for still managing to withstand so much Arsenal pressure.
Wenger said; “They stood firm after such a long season. When the players defend and defend and defend, you have no idea how difficult it is. It was defensive work that will go down in the history of Atletico. Playing is the fun part – defending you need balls.
“The stadium needs to be exploding with positive energy next week to reflect that passion. I have goosebumps just thinking about it.”