Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was frustrated with his players for missing “big, big chances” after they threw away victory over Slavia Prague at the death in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie on Thursday night.
After squandering several chances in both the first-half and the second-half, both Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette guilty of wasting gilt-edged opportunities, Arsenal appeared poised to take a slim lead to Prague thanks to substitute Nicolas Pepe’s cute chip in the 86th minute.
But the Gunners, who hit the woodwork twice, conceded a last-gasp equaliser from defender Tomas Holes at a corner, giving Slavia a vital away goal and the advantage heading into the return fixture.
And that means the north London outfit have left themselves a huge task next week as they look to reach the final four at the expense of a team who have already eliminated Leicester and Rangers.
Arteta told BT Sport: “The game was under control, we had the game we wanted. We missed some big, big chances.
“We played two or three balls in areas we shouldn’t, put ourselves on the back foot. It changes a lot the feeling after the game.
“We know we have the possibility to change things with the five subs, we believed it was the right time and the right moment to do it. They had a big impact.
“We know the subs have a lot to say. They made the impact we needed but unfortunately we didn’t capitalise with the result that we wanted.
“It was difficult because they are a really good opponent, have beaten some big teams and are really difficult to play against.
“It’s more about the final result. That leaves a difficult taste. We need to win the game [in the second leg]. The mindset is to win the game. We need to score. We’ve done it in the past and we know we need to do it again.”
Asked about Slavia’s ecstatic post-match celebrations, he added: “I just worry about our players and everything we have to do.”
Arsenal legend Martin Keown meanwhile reflected: “It’s gut-wrenching. You thought that Arsenal had just about done enough.
“They had good opportunities in the game, Lacazette with a great opportunity, then they just got ahead through Pepe after making the changes. The substitutes gave Arsenal much more energy.
“Then the marking for the corner is atrocious or non-existent. Gabriel, in the build-up to that there’s a bit of panic, a nervousness.
“As you say, no clean sheet in 14 games for Arsenal and it showed tonight. When they needed it most, to keep a clean sheet in the last five or 10 minutes, they just couldn’t do it.
“[Thomas] Partey, as well, tonight, was another player that really disappointed me. Watching it live here, and we’re not getting into the stadiums that often, he didn’t look like he had the legs to get around the pitch.
“He wasn’t really bossing that midfield, and credit to them, by the way, Slavia Prague because they’ve got lots of good players and made good substitutions.
“But that’s an area of the pitch that I would’ve thought by now, he would be bossing.”