Mikel Arteta ‘hurting big time’ after shock Europa League exit but issues rallying call to Arsenal players

Mikel Arteta was hurting after Arsenal’s shock Europa League exit, but called on his players to ‘keep fighting’ for the rest of the season.

The Gunners were stunned by Olympiakos on Thursday night as their Euro campaign ended at the last 32 stage.

Arteta could not believe it as Arsenal were sent crashing out of Europe

Getty Images – Getty

Arteta could not believe it as Arsenal were sent crashing out of Europe

Youssef El Arabi scored in the final minute of extra-time to give the Greek side a 2-1 victory at the Emirates Stadium, making it 2-2 over two legs and sending last season’s beaten finalists crashing out on the away goals rule.

Arsenal’s hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League now hinge on finishing in the top four in the Premier League but they have a mountain to climb to do so, as they sit ninth, seven points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea.

Asked about the difficulty of finishing in the top four, Arteta replied: “(It is) very hard because looking at the table we’re still far from the objectives that we all have, but we’ve been far all season from it and we have to keep fighting.

“The most important thing now is that the dressing room has to be strong and we have to keep going and react.

“First of all, I have to convince them about what happened in the game and why they are not through in the tie.

“If they continue to do that, there will be rewards like we have done in the last 10 games that we played.”

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a brilliant scissor kick but also missed a glorious last-gasp chance to send Arsenal through

Getty Images – Getty

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a brilliant scissor kick but also missed a glorious last-gasp chance to send Arsenal through

Arsenal have impressed since Arteta was appointed as Unai Emery’s replacement in December, but not on Thursday night, with their performance way below the standards the Spaniard expects.

“It hurts, big time,” added Arteta.

“We had a lot of hope in this competition. It was a great way for us to be able to go to Europe and it is a very beautiful competition to try to win.”

Olympiakos boss Pedro Martins, meanwhile, believed his side got everything they deserved.

“I think against Arsenal we had two very difficult games against a bigger opponent,” he said.

“But from the start of our European journey in the Champions League up until now we deserved to go through – perhaps we deserved more from our game against Spurs (in the Champions League group stage) and maybe we got what we deserved today.”