Mikel Arteta has praised the character of Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after his skipper missed a late chance as the Gunners suffered a shock Europa League exit at the hands of Olympiakos.
The Gunners lost 2-1 after extra time at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday and that meant they were knocked out by their Greek opponents on away goals.
Aubameyang equalised with just six minutes remaining, only for Youssef El Arabi to score late on as the visitors qualified for the last 16.
But it would have had been a different story had Aubameyang, Arsenal’s leading goalscorer so far this season, been on target with another chance soon after El Arabi’s effort.
Aubameyang apologised after the game and Arsenal manager Arteta was pleased by the 30-year-old Gabon star’s “mature reaction” to a desperately disappointing loss.
“He (Aubameyang) was gutted,” Arteta told reporters at Arsenal’s training ground on Saturday.
“Obviously he scored a wonder goal that was putting us through in the competition, and with the last kick of the game, he had the best chance of the game.”
The Gunners boss added: “He felt very responsible about it, we will try to be right behind him. He has been phenomenal all season for us and now the players have to support him.
“I think his reaction after the game — to face the media and the way he talked, it was a very mature reaction from him.”
Thursday’s defeat by Olympiakos left Arsenal, well adrift of the Champions League places, looking to the FA Cup to salvage their season.
However, they face a tricky last 16 tie away to third-tier high-flyers Portsmouth, the 2008 FA Cup winners, on Monday.
While some managers now downplay the importance of the world’s oldest senior knockout football competition, Arteta remains fond of the FA Cup, having twice won it as as a player with Arsenal.
“It’s probably one of the nicest games and days of the season when you play the final day in England, at Wembley, nice weather and an incredible atmosphere,” said Arteta.
“And you know, it’s a trophy that’s been very much linked with our history,” the Spaniard added.
“So we want to continue to be attached to that, knowing that on Monday night in Portsmouth, it will be tough.”