Mikel Arteta says that Arsenal players should learn to ‘enjoy’ the defense, but reserve special praise for broad players for ‘tracking back’ after Gunners have scored zero in a 1-0 win over Olympiacos
- Mikel Arteta says he requires Arsenal players to get the ball back if they lose it
- Arteta has praised its players for playing with a ‘big heart’ after winning in Athens
- The Spaniard says that the team works hard to stay ‘as compact as possible’
Mikel Arteta has told his Arsenal players to enjoy the art of defending while the Gunners kept their third consecutive zero in a narrow Europa League win over Olympiacos.
The goal of Alexandre Lacazette nine minutes before time was enough to ensure a 1-0 win in Piraeus with Arsenal now in pole position to qualify for this 32-collision round.
While the French striker wasted a few other decent chances to really complete the band, Arteta will once again be impressed by the defensive work of his players.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta says his players must learn to enjoy ‘defending’ after Olympiacos wins
Arteta says that he works hard to ensure that his side is more compact and admits fewer goals
The Spaniard reserved special praise for his broad players for their ‘tracking back’ in Athens
Arsenal has not been able to give up three matches since April, and was one of the most open parties in the Premier League under previous coach Unai Emery when it came to giving up opposition opportunities.
Although the start of Arteta has not been electric since the replacement of his countryman, clear steps have been taken to improve a porous back line and the Spaniard was again satisfied with their efforts on a rainy night on the outskirts of Athens.
“We say they should also enjoy defending,” he said.
‘It’s a big part of the game and just like tonight, if you give away simple balls, you’d better run back and get that ball back as quickly as possible.
Arteta says that if his players lose the ball, they must run back and get it back as quickly as possible
“But they play with a big heart. I see a lot of great efforts that, instead of splitting it, a team simply goes together very quickly.
‘The broad players used to have different behavior in the past, now they follow everyone up.
“I think we are doing a lot of work to keep it as compact as possible in as many situations as possible if we don’t have the ball, and yes, we are happy with it because it is a big part.”
While Lacazette continued a mini-revival – after having played nine goals without a goal before scoring off the bench in Sunday’s 4-0 win over Newcastle – teenager Bukayo Saka was again deeply involved.
His cross for the late finish of Lacazette was his fifth Europa League assist of the season, more than any other player in the league.
Arteta has praised Bukayo Saka for his inquisitiveness and quality in the last third
The 18-year-old is of course a winger, but is impressed after filling in the left wing in recent weeks and Arteta was once again full of praise for the English youth international.
“Absolutely, I’m really happy with (how) it was developed,” he added.
“I think he is very satisfied with the way he deals with this situation, because there are many highlights on him right now, but he is really modest.
‘He always asks questions, meets my assistants and is willing to improve. He is a great boy and he is very brave.
“He makes big decisions in the last third, he doesn’t hide and he has the vision and the ability to perform in very tight spaces, which is a great gift.”
Alexandre Lacazette’s second goal in so many games resulted in a 1-0 win over Olympiacos
In the meantime, Olympiacos trainer Pedro Martins has refused to exclude his party from progress at Arsenal’s expense – with the second leg to be held at Emirates Stadium next Thursday.
“Nobody likes to give a goal in the last minutes,” he said.
‘In general, we played well in a match with intensity. Football is all about effectiveness – we have not converted our chances, but our rivals have.
“But today was only the first half of the score. As far as I’m concerned, the competition in London is open.
“We have a good team, quality players and I am convinced that we can meet the challenge.”