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Mikel Arteta remains defiant despite Arsenal setback in title race

Mikel Arteta has refused to concede defeat after Arsenal suffered a late defeat against Aston Villa, giving Manchester City advantage

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has refused to concede defeat after his team suffered a late blow against Aston Villa, allowing Manchester City to seize top spot in the Premier League. 

Aston Villa dealt Arsenal a big blow in the title race with their first league defeat in 2024. Two late goals from Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins ensured Manchester City are top of the league for the first time since November.

Speaking after the match, Arteta expressed his disappointment but urged his players to maintain belief and resilience. He highlighted the Champions League clash against Bayern Munich as an opportunity for redemption, noting that reaching the semi-finals would be a significant achievement for the club after a 15-year drought.

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“If one result is going to (make our season fade out), then we are not strong enough,” Arteta said. “Now it’s a big test for us. After losing any game the players are frustrated and sad. But we have a beautiful opportunity that hasn’t happened for 15 years in this club to go to the semi finals of the Champions League. It couldn’t come in a better moment.

“We can’t control City – what we can control is that when we have the run we had when you win, win, win, win, it’s easy. The moment is now. After this blow, it’s how we react. We have the best opportunity to react against Bayern Munich on Wednesday. The team has to show it. If you want to win, you have to overcome these situations.

“With the games we had, and the crazy schedule, this was going to happen. It is now about how we react. This is in our control. In any other league in the world, if you won the number of games in a row that we did, you would be six or eight points clear. That is not the case here. That is the challenge.”

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Reflecting on the match, Arteta attributed Arsenal’s defeat to a lapse in concentration in the second half, describing their performance as “unprecise.” Despite a strong first half display, Arteta lamented the team’s inability to capitalise on their chances and maintain momentum throughout the game.

Acknowledging the challenges posed by a demanding schedule, Arteta stressed the importance of how the team responds to setbacks. 

“The first half was superb, one of the best halves we have played against a top team. It should have been three or four – or more. We didn’t put that scoreline up and didn’t reflect that second half. We lacked momentum. We didn’t have the flow we had in the first half and then we conceded two very, very poor goals.”

“We tried to do 90 minutes being consistent and wait for our moment to control the game. The defence was strong. We tried to be narrow, avoid line passes and stay being compact. Then it as about trying to get time with the ball. We did, better in the second half and we imposed ourselves.”‌

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