Arsenal eclipse Olympiakos thanks to late Lacazette goal
Mikel Arteta saw his Arsenal side keep another clean sheet as they secured Europa League victory at Olympiacos before revealing he has told his players to embrace the art of defending.
Alexandre Lacazette’s goal nine minutes from time was enough to ensure a 1-0 victory in Piraeus with Arsenal now in pole position to qualify from this round of 32 clash.
While the France striker wasted a couple of other decent chances to really wrap up the tie, Arteta will again be impressed with the defensive work of his players.
Not since last April have Arsenal gone three games without conceding a goal and, under previous coach Unai Emery, they were one of the most open sides in the Premier League when it came to giving up chances to the opposition.
While Arteta’s start has not been electric, there have been clear strides made at improving a porous backline and the Spaniard was pleased with their efforts once again on a rainy night on the outskirts of Athens.
“We tell them they have to enjoy defending as well,” he said.
“It is a big part of the game and like tonight if you give simple balls away you better run back and get that ball back as quickly as possible.
“But they play with a big heart, I see a lot of big efforts that a team, instead of splitting, it just joins together really quickly.
“The wide players before used to have different behaviours now they are tracking back everybody.
“I think we are doing a lot of work on that to stay as compact as possible in many situations when we don’t have the ball and yes we are pleased with that because it is a big part.”
Meanwhile, Olympiacos coach Pedro Martins has refused to rule his side out of progressing at the expense of Arsenal – with the second leg set for next Thursday at the Emirates Stadium.
“Nobody likes to concede a goal in the final minutes,” he said.
“In general terms, we played well in a match with intensity. Football is all about effectiveness – we didn’t convert our chances, our rivals did.
“But today was just the first half of the tie. As far as I am concerned, the London match is open.
“We have a good team, quality players and I am confident that we can respond to the challenge.”