Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has admitted he was left frustrated by the Gunners’ lack of ruthlessness in the 1-1 draw with Benfica in the Europa League round of 32 first leg on Thursday night.
With good chances going begging, the Gunners ultimately failed to put themselves in a commanding position ahead of the home leg.
Benfica went ahead early in the second half when Pizzi scored from the penalty spot following an Emile Smith Rowe handball. Bukayo Saka equalised for Arsenal soon afterwards, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed two clear opportunities, including a near-open goal, to claim the win for the visitors.
“I think we had to leave the stadium with much more than we have right now. Everything is completely open for next Thursday,” Arteta reflected, via Arsenal.com.
“We have some positives to take from the game because we dominated the game and we had patches of really good moments where we created some big chances.
“We weren’t ruthless enough in the opponents’ box and the disappointing thing obviously was the way we conceded the goal.”
Arsenal take an away goal back to the Emirates Stadium for the second leg next week, although it could have been more and Aubameyang missed big opportunities at 0-0 and 1-1.
“These things happen,” Arteta commented. “He was on the end of the biggest chances we had. He was a real threat and we played against this opponent with a high line they propose all the time, and he was unlucky of course not to score two or three, because in normal circumstances that would be the case.”
Arteta also spoke of the importance of managing Saka’s minutes to aid his development, although he insisted that he will not put the ‘brakes’ on the teenager, who has arguably been Arsenal’s best and most important player during this period of squad improvement.
“I think he’s in a great moment, he’s full of confidence,” the boss said.
“He’s been really important in recent results. His form is probably the highest that it’s been since I’ve been here and he’s been really consistent. He needs to keep going and [we need to] be wise with him because at the moment he’s a big part of the team.
“I think we have to protect him and keep the extractions where they should be, but I’m not going to put a brake on his development or how much he can do week in, week out.”