Belfast Telegraph

Gunners must stay positive and keep final in sights: Wenger

Arsenal 1-1 Atletico Madrid

By Mark Bryans

Arsene Wenger admitted seeing victory over Atletico Madrid snatched away after a late defensive lapse was a kick in the teeth as his side now face an uphill struggle to make the Europa League final.

"I think looking at the performance and the way the game went it was the worst possible result for us," the Arsenal boss said.

"We have to go there in a positive mood and qualify over there.

"Unfortunately we gave a goal away from nowhere."

Wenger agreed the first leg felt like an opportunity missed ahead of next Thursday's second leg.

"Once we score, even if we did not score again it was important not to concede," he said.

Asked how confident he was that Arsenal would still progress to the final in Lyon on May 16, he added: "How doesn't matter. What matters is we go there with absolute belief to do it."

Gunners striker Danny Welbeck admitted he was equally frustrated with the draw, when a win seemed almost done and dusted.

Welbeck said: "It's disappointing to take the lead and then to concede a goal right near the end. We are disappointed with that," he said.

"We've got to try and make sure that doesn't happen again."

The hosts had a succession of chances early in the game, but were unable to make them count.

"There were opportunities there for us to score, (we're) disappointed with that," said Welbeck. "It gives us a little bit of positivity going into the second leg, knowing we can create chances against a great side.

"We know we can score against them, we did it tonight. We're positive going into that game."

Asked if the chance to win a first European trophy for Wenger in his final season was an added motivation for the players, Welbeck added: "Seeing him at the end lift the trophy would be the icing on the cake, but we don't need that extra incentive."

On the result, goal scorer Alexandre Lacazette said: "We wanted to win tonight, but we need a great result next week."

Meanwhile, Patrick Vieira has been backed to be a successful manager in Europe by one of his former New York City players.

The 41-year-old has drawn plenty of plaudits since taking over at the Major League Soccer side in 2016 and has been one of the names mooted as a potential successor to Wenger at Arsenal.

Helped by the fact he captained the Gunners during their unbeaten 'Invincibles' season in 2003/04, Vieira has emerged as a favourite to replace his former manager - who has announced he will leave the Emirates Stadium at the end of the season.

While other names in the frame, such as Carlo Ancelotti and Massimiliano Allegri, may have more top-level experience of managing in Europe, former New York City midfielder Mikey Lopez believes he witnessed first-hand that Vieira is equally as capable.

"I think any team in Europe would be lucky to have him as their coach," the 25-year-old said.

"Patrick has kind of changed soccer here but to know that a coach who made his name here is being considered for the manager's job at Arsenal is huge.

"If he does take the job there, he would do a really good job."

Belfast Telegraph

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