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Arsenal players should thrive on the pressure of winning – Mikel Arteta

Mikel Arteta has told his Arsenal players they should enjoy the pressure of needing to deliver a result against Benfica – otherwise they do not belong at the club.

The Gunners head into the second leg of their Europa League round-of-32 clash with the tie finely poised following a 1-1 draw in Rome last week.

Current coronavirus travel restrictions meant neither side could host their respective home legs, with the Stadio Olimpico used for Benfica’s venue and Arsenal’s ‘home’ moving to Athens on Thursday.

Bukayo Saka scored Arsenal's equalising goal in the first leg.
Bukayo Saka scored Arsenal’s equalising goal in the first leg. (Marco Iacobucci/PA)

Arteta’s side sit 11th in the Premier League and have already been knocked out of the FA Cup, meaning winning the Europa League now seems the most viable way of ensuring European football next season.

That only adds to the pressure of the Benfica clash – but Arteta wants to see his players thrive under it.

“This is why we are here,” he replied when asked whether he enjoys big games where everything is on the line.

“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.

“I always feel that it (pressure) is on me, every time you’re playing in a competition and you can go out you know the consequences, and with this club it is always to win the competition that you are in, so that doesn’t really change much.”

Arsenal were the better side in the first leg but wasted a number of chances to give themselves the advantage.

The Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Athens will host Arsenal's 'home' leg against Benfica.
The Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Athens will host Arsenal’s ‘home’ leg against Benfica. (Nick Potts/PA)

Now they travel to the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, home of Olympiacos – the side who knocked Arteta and Arsenal out at this stage of last season’s Europa League – for what the Spaniard concedes is a massive game.

“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 tomorrow, it’s a final.”

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