Four things Mikel Arteta got right as Arsenal draw with Benfica in Europa League
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Arsenal recovered from a sloppy start against Benfica on Thursday night and will be happy to have come away with a draw.
The Gunners started slowly and failed to create any meaningful chances in the first period, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missing a sitter before the interval.
Benfica won a penalty early in the second half after Emile Smith Rowe handled the ball inside the area.
Pizzi slotted home comfortably to give the hosts – albeit in a different country to their usual home stadium – a deserved lead.
But just minutes later, Bukayo Saka got the Gunners out of jail by tapping home after a nice team move.
Arsenal had chances. to win the game late on, but remained patient knowing a second leg is still to come.
Here are four things Mikel Arteta got right as Arsenal draw in Italy.
Playing it safe
Arsenal could easily have gone all-out to try and get the win after equalising against Benfica, but instead they played it safe and smart.
With a second leg still to play for, Arteta didn't tell his players to overload and try desperately to get something out of the game.
Instead, he had his side remain patient and defend solidly, knowing there's a second leg at in Athens still to come.
While Arsenal created chances in the second half, they refused to get ahead of themselves and didn't get carried away – therefore not allowing Benfica to get any meaningful chances.
Letting Martin Odegaard roam
New signing Martin Odegaard was handed just his second start for the club against Benfica, but his performance will give Arteta confidence that he is ready for more.
The Norwegian wonderkid took some time to fully get into the game, but once he did he started opening up the Benfica defence at will.
Odegaard was given the freedom to roam from right to left and did so perfectly, often creating chances out of nothing.
His pass through to Cedric Soares was perfectly weighted and allowed the left-back to put the ball on a plate for Saka.
Smith Rowe out left
With Odegaard starting in the central spot in a three-man attack behind Aubameyang, Smith Rowe was forced to play out on the left.
While that isn't his usual position, he played like a natural left winger and was a nuisance for the Benfica defence.
His eye for creativity was still there for all to see, and he wasn't afraid to drift inside in order to allow space on the left for Aubameyang to run into.
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Dani Ceballos chance
Dani Ceballos hasn't had a great deal of game time this season, and has started just 14 games across all competitions.
But he played in a more defensive role than usual against Benfica, playing as one of the two defensive midfielders in front of the defence.
Ceballos was patient with his build-up play and always looked to get the ball forward whenever he received it.
He didn't dawdle on the ball and never really looked like a passenger in the fast-tempo Arsenal team.
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- Arsenal FC
- Mikel Arteta
- Europa League
- Kylian Mbappe
- Premier League
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