Arsenal denied Europa League victory by late leveller
Gunners lose 100% record after draw against Vitoria Guimaraes
07 November, 2019 — By Steve Barnett
Gunners boss Unai Emery: ‘In the Europa League it’s about being first in the group and at the moment it’s still a possibility to finish first’
SHKODRAN Mustafi pointed to a change in tactics as the reason Arsenal’s 100 per cent record in the Europa League this season was dramatically ended in stoppage-time last night (Wednesday).
Mustafi finally brought a lacklustre game to life 10 minutes from time when he gave the Gunners the lead against Vitoria Guimaraes with an unmarked header from a Nicolas Pepe free-kick.
But the Group F clash ended 1-1 after the Portuguese hosts hit a last-gasp equaliser courtesy of Bruno Duarte’s 91st-minute scissor-kick.
“It’s not that easy. I would love to finish the game in the 90th minute,” said Mustafi.
“They threw everything up front and sometimes it’s not organised anymore. I think we could have done better but in the end we have to accept it and take the point.
“They are a good side. They are in the Europa League for a reason and are quite compact. We played with a back three – a system for a long time we didn’t play.
“We need to stay calm. Everyone wants to show and give everything, sometimes when you are extra motivated it’s more difficult.”
Gunners boss Unai Emery shrugged off the draw, insisting that the most important thing is that his side still top their group.
He said: “We tried. The players tried and we were close to winning but in the last minute they pushed a lot and scored.
“In the Europa League it’s about being first in the group and at the moment it’s still a possibility to finish first.”
Arsenal will still qualify for the last 32 tonight (Thursday) if third-placed Standard Liege lose to Eintracht Frankfurt.
The result, however, will do little to help under-fire Emery.
It was the north Londoners’ fourth consecutive draw in all competitions in a turbulent week that saw Granit Xhaka stripped of the captaincy.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has taken over the armband but was rested against Vitoria.
Going into the game Emery revealed that he told Xhaka on Tuesday morning he was no longer part of the Gunners’ leadership group and said the player “accepted” the decision.
Emery told Arsenal’s website: “I think we need to take time with him, first to protect him and also to be calm and training with us every day.
“But I was speaking with him, and I decided he’s not one of the captains in our group.”