Mikel Arteta has moved to describe this Thursday’s Europa League clash between Arsenal and Benfica as ‘a final’.
The two sides played out a 1-1 draw over 90 minutes in Rome last week, in what is being considered the away leg for the Gunners, meaning that we will need to target a win in order to seal our route into the next round.
It is believed that our side were the better team in the previous leg, but Benfica didn’t come to play open attacking football, and a change in style could well shock us.
If the Portuguese side come out on the front foot and manage to get an early goal, Arsenal will be under pressure to get back into the match, and the first goal could well be major in who qualifies to the next round.
With both legs of the tie having to be played at neutral grounds in neutral countries, the fact that we have a 1-1 score line to take into the home leg is a false dawn.
Arteta agrees that the game is very much in the air also, and tells his side they simply have to go out to try and win the game, despite a 0-0 scoreline also seeing us into the next round.
“The away goal is always important but in this context I don’t think it’s that relevant,” he said. “We take the game like there is everything still to play for.
“It’s the second half of the game and we need to go there to try to go to win the game. Another thing, without the fans, without being in our stadium, I think makes the game very tricky.
“It’s a big season and a really important [game] mentally and confidence-wise. It’s going to dictate if we’re in another competition or not for a few more weeks. This is really what we need.
“It’s a really tough opponent. It’s a Champions League team who have been playing in these types of games for many years with a manager with huge experience. For us, it’s a final.
“This is why we are here! When you play in these competitions and these games, finals too, it’s the pressure that you want. It’s much better to have the pressure to win than the pressure not to lose.
“I really enjoy the pressure of winning and to be here and to represent this club you have to be prepared to do that. If not, you don’t belong here.”
Will the players bring the mentality of playing in a final on Thursday? Do these players react best under pressure?