Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta insists his team must improve at defending set-pieces if they want to have a successful end to the season. The Gunners conceded from a corner in their Europa League last-16 first-leg draw at Sporting Lisbon on Thursday.
It was the second game in a row that Arsenal had conceded after giving up a free header from a corner. Marcos Senesi scored for Bournemouth in Saturday’s dramatic match at the Emirates to double the Cherries’ lead.
It was Goncalo Inacio’s turn to be almost gifted a goal in Lisbon. Arsenal’s No 2 goalkeeper Matt Turner hesitated and was left in no man’s land, allowing Inacio to easily head home.
Arsenal have conceded five goals from set pieces in their last 10 matches in all competitions. Their xG of conceding from a set piece has gone up considerably since the World Cup.
Arteta was asked if his side are conceding too many goals from set pieces during his post-match press conference on Friday. And he warned his players a vast improvement must be made in that area.
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He said: “It’s true that it’s something that we must improve massively if we want to keep winning games.”
The Spaniard was not impressed with his side’s overall performance at Estadio Jose Alvalade. William Saliba had given Arsenal the lead before Inacio’s equaliser.
Sporting turned the game on its head in the second half through a close-range Paulinho goal. But the visitors were again level when a Granit Xhaka cross was diverted into his own goal by Hidemasa Morita.
Arteta admits it is all to play for in the return leg in north London next week. He added: “When you concede two poor goals like we did tonight away from home in Europe it’s very difficult to get a positive result. We gave too many simple balls away and gave them hope and capacity to have those transition moments.
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“We lost a bit of threat today with the four players we’re missing in our front line. We need to defend our box much better.
“In this competition, if you want to go through you have to go through difficult moments. We’re still alive and hopefully we’ll play better at the Emirates.”
Arteta singled out Fabio Vieira for praise and says he deserves to feature more regularly. He said: “Really happy with him.
“I think he deserves more minutes than he’s had in the last two months. You saw tonight he was probably our most dangerous player. He’s a player that I absolutely love.”
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