Sport Soccer

Sunday 17 February 2019

Arsenal should take confidence from performance against Atletico – Jack Wilshere

Atletico Madrid’s late equaliser was hard to take for the Gunners but the Europa League semi-final remains finely poised.

Arsenal v Atletico Madrid – UEFA Europa League – Semi Final – First Leg – Emirates Stadium
Arsenal v Atletico Madrid – UEFA Europa League – Semi Final – First Leg – Emirates Stadium

By Mark Mann-Bryans, Press Association Sport

Jack Wilshere insists Arsenal must take confidence from their Europa League semi-final draw against Atletico Madrid – even if the result leaves the Spanish side favourites to progress.

With the visitors on the back foot for much of the first-leg contest at the Emirates Stadium following Sime Vrsaljko’s 10th-minute dismissal, the Gunners dominated the game and looked set to take a lead to Madrid next week when Alexandre Lacazette headed them in front.

Diego Simeone’s team, however, had other ideas and – despite being a man light and seeing their coach sent to the stands – Antoine Griezmann capitalised on weak defending to convert a late equaliser and secure a 1-1 draw.

Simeone’s side have lost only twice at home since moving to the Wanda Metropolitano last summer, one of those a Champions League group game against Chelsea.

Atletico have also gone 11 home games without conceding a goal, and Arsenal head to Spain needing two to win the game.

But, ahead of what could be Arsene Wenger’s last European match in charge as he prepares for the end his near-22-year reign in the summer, Wilshere believes there is reason for Arsenal to be positive.

Lacazette had headed Arsenal into a deserved lead on Thursday night.

“It was definitely not the result we wanted but the performance was good and we have got to take confidence from that and take that into the away fixture,” the midfielder said.

“It is half-time. We cannot be too disappointed. We created a lot of chances. If we create chances and put them away then we have got a chance.

“When the first one went in, I was thinking, ‘We are in control of this, have got a lot of possession, let’s make it count’.

“But you cannot give a player like Griezmann that opportunity because he will punish you. We have got to pick ourselves up and go again.”

Wenger (left) will come up against old adversary Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford this weekend

Arsenal travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday but, with a top-four berth seemingly out of reach, Wenger’s mind will surely be on which players will feature in the Spanish capital four days later.

Full-back Hector Bellerin put in one of his best performances of the season in the first leg, but the Spain international concedes Atletico will be expecting to progress from here.

“I think Atletico is the favourite, they have had many years playing knockout football very well,” he said.

“After the season we have had, the people were expecting us to win, but we have a lot of quality and we are still in this.

“Atletico are a team that know how to make you suffer. They know how to create chances and score goals.

“It’s only 1-1, though, and the tie is still open. We know it will be hard playing in their stadium but there are positives that we can take.”

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