Soccer News: Arteta calls Europa League qualification ‘first step’ for Arsenal to aim for first place

    Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta says qualifying for the Europa League play-offs is just the “first step” after beating PSV 1-0 as the Spaniard is already focused on winning Group A.

    Granite Xhaka’s volley in the 70th minute secured the Gunners’ second place on Thursday with two games to go as they were rewarded for their patience against a solid opponent at the Emirates Stadium.

    Arsenal have won their first four games of the Europa League campaign for just the second time, as they did in the 2020–21 season, and could secure first place with a draw in next week’s second leg against the Eredivisie giants.

    With the group winners earning a farewell to the last 16 of the tournament and avoiding further matchup pressure in the new year thanks to the playoff round, Arteta is aware of the importance of getting the job done.

    “We had really good moments and really dominated a really good team,” he told BT Sport.

    “I think we just missed the last pass or shot. But we are very happy to win the game and we [have] qualified, which is the first step.

    “In Europe, you have to control the opponent. They are very talented, used to winning, and the number of goals scored by them is simply incredible. We were really collected and mature.

    “When you have a chance in Europe, you should take it. The difference between finishing first and second is huge and we want to get the job done.”

    Meanwhile, Arsenal and England fans were spooked when Bukayo Saka lost in the second half, but Arteta allayed fears of being sacked due to injury, adding: “I think he’ll be fine.”

    After beating Walter Benítez, Xhaka has scored as many goals (three) this campaign as he had in the previous three seasons combined, and Thursday’s goal was his first for the Gunners that wasn’t scored with his left foot.

    The midfielder emphasized the importance of Arsenal maintaining their momentum in his post-match interview with BT Sport, saying: “I am so happy the ball came in and happy I scored.

    “I don’t know when was the last time I scored with my right foot, maybe the first in my career, but I am so happy! It doesn’t matter which foot or who scores as long as we keep winning.

    “It gives us confidence and allows us to move on to the next one. When you win games, you should be happy. At the moment everything is going well, but for us it is not a surprise, we are doing a lot of work.

    “At the end of the day, you win and you lose as a team and we are very dangerous at the moment. We wanted to win after this game and we are very happy.”

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