Mikel Arteta praised Arsenal’s “exceptional” performance against Liverpool in their EFL Cup last-16 tie and says winning at Anfield is a big step forward for his side.
Three days after losing 3-1 at the same venue in the Premier League, Arsenal prevailed on penalties in Thursday’s match following a goalless draw after 90 minutes.
It is the third time Arteta has got the better of Jurgen Klopp in four managerial meetings this year, two of those victories coming via a shoot-out following August’s Community Shield success.
And while acknowledging Arsenal still have a long way to go before reaching Liverpool’s level, Arteta was delighted with his much-changed side’s display on Merseyside.
“I am really happy with the performance. I think the boys were exceptional. We corrected a few things from Monday and it was superb,” he told Sky Sports.
“We competed much better, the level of aggression we had, the way we pressed them really high was exceptional.
“To come here and play with the determination and courage is a big step forward for the team. They are on the right path.
Nice one, @Bernd_Leno
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) October 1, 2020
“The gap towards Liverpool is still big. We will keep improving to try and reach their level.”
Bernd Leno was the hero for the visitors as he made seven saves in normal time and kept out penalties from Divock Origi and Harry Wilson in the subsequent shoot-out.
Arsenal allowed Emiliano Martinez to leave for Aston Villa last month and Arteta is glad that his faith in Leno has paid off.
“Leno was really good. When we needed him we had him,” he said. “You need a top individual performance to win at Anfield and that is what we had tonight.
“I really have belief in Bernd. I know him really well and what he can give us. We didn’t want Emiliano Martinez to go but it was probably the right thing for both parties to do.”
Leno, one of three players to keep their starting spot from Arsenal’s league defeat at Anfield earlier this week, is grateful to have been given the full support of his manager.
“The club has always given me the feeling I was the number one, I am the number one and will be the number one,” he said.
4/5 – Arsenal have reached the League Cup quarter-final in four of the last five seasons; this was their first penalty shootout victory in the competition since the 2013-14 third round at West Brom. Progressing. #CarabaoCup pic.twitter.com/WI3YxFKfSl
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 1, 2020
“My job is to prove it every week and I feel I have done that tonight.
“It is not easy to come to same place with a big disappointment from Monday. We analysed the game and the manager found the right words to lift us.”
The quarter-final draw took place shortly after full-time, with Arsenal paired against holders Manchester City in the last eight.
Arteta spent three seasons as assistant to Pep Guardiola during an unprecedented period of success for City and knows exactly what to expect in December’s home tie.
“I was waiting and enjoying the victory and then we have to play Manchester City. It is what it is,” he said.
“There are a lot of tough teams left in the competition and we will prepare for it.”
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