Odegaard issues rallying cry after Arsenal’s Europa League exit – ‘We have to move forward’
Arsenal midfielder Martin Odegaard admits the Europa League loss to Sporting cannot be met by the same run of form that followed their FA Cup exit.
The Gunners crashed out at the last-16 stage as Gabriel Martinelli saw his spot-kick saved in a penalty shoot-out defeat at the hands of their Portuguese opponents.
Granit Xhaka’s first goal since October had the hosts ahead before Pedro Goncalves levelled with a stunning 49-yard effort.
Manuel Ugarte was sent off deep into extra-time for Sporting but they survived a couple of late scares to win the shoot-out and advance to the quarter-finals.
Attention for Arsenal now returns to their Premier League title bid as they look to open up an eight-point lead at the top of the table when they host Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Mikel Arteta’s side have lost just six games in 90 minutes across all competitions this season but two of those defeats came on the back of their FA Cup fourth-round reverse at Manchester City in January.
Taking just one point from the three league games that followed, many thought Arsenal’s title tilt had faltered but they have won their last five outings since.
With the season entering the business end, however, Odegaard knows a similar blip cannot follow the setback to losing to Sporting.
“We talked about it already in the dressing room,” he said when asked how important it was not to see a repeat of that run.
“We have to move forward now. We have to look to Sunday. It started already now in the changing room and we get ready.
“We just have to change the mindset again. I think everyone is disappointed, but we have to move forward and just be ready for Sunday.
“I think every time we have lost this season we have learned something from it. Every time we have come back and changed the situation again.
“That is what we are going to do again and the next game comes quick, so it’s a good opportunity to strike back.”
The visit of struggling Palace is now the first of an 11-game run Arsenal face if they are to claim a first league title in 19 years.
While Odegaard was keen to keep European hopes alive by seeing off Sporting, he admits the task at hand is now more clear with just one competition remaining.
“There are obviously less games, but we wanted to do something special in this competition so it’s disappointing,” he added.
“But also it is straightforward now, we only have the league to focus on. We have to make the most of that and make sure we finish well.
“We just have to focus on every game. It’s 11 finals for us. Just come back on Sunday, that’s all that matters now.”
Arsenal’s night against Sporting was summed up when two areas of supporters had to be moved away from their seating at the front of two stands as water poured down from the roof.
While a downpour at the start of the second-half appeared to be the cause of the problem, Arsenal said ongoing maintenance to the stadium was not to blame.
“The water issue was due to pumps failing to run automatically. They were eventually started manually. It was not connected to the roof works which continue,” a club statement read.
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