It was a case of ‘What could have been’ for Arsenal as they were held to a 1-1 draw against Benfica in the first leg of their round-of-32 Europa League knockout tie.

Arsenal's Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang reacts after missing a goal opportunity during the UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg football match between SL Benfica and Arsenal at the Olimpico stadium in Rome on February 18, 2021. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)
Arsenal’s Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang reacts after missing a goal opportunity during the UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg football match between SL Benfica and Arsenal at the Olimpico stadium in Rome on February 18, 2021. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

Stephen Bradley analyses what went right for the Gunners, on how there’s plenty to look forward to from Martin Odegaard and is rather lenient on Mikel Arteta’s substitutions …almost.

Benfica 1 Arsenal 1 – Mikel Arteta press conference

Here’s a full transcript and video of Arteta’s press conference.

On a frustrating game…
Yes exactly that, I think we had to leave the stadium today with much more than we have right now. Everything is completely open for next Thursday. We have some positives to take from the game because we dominated the game and we had patches of really good moments where we created some big chances. We weren’t ruthless enough in the opponents’ box and the disappointing thing obviously was the way we conceded the goal.

On Aubameyang’s performance…
These things happen. He was on the end of the biggest chances we had tonight. He was a real threat and we played against this opponent with a high line they propose all the time, and he was unlucky of course not to score two or three tonight, because in normal circumstances that would be the case.

On Bukayo Saka becoming more important…
I think he’s in a great moment, he’s full of confidence. He’s been really important in recent results. His form is probably the highest that it’s been since I’ve been here and he’s been really consistent. He needs to keep going and (we need to) be wise with him because at the moment he’s a big part of the team.

On finding a balance for Saka given his importance at such a young age…
I think we have to protect him and keep the extractions where they should be, but I’m not going to put a brake on his development or how much he can do week in, week out. We have to support him and give him the best possible advice all the time, and then manage his minutes so he can maintain this level.

On the difficulty of managing Saka’s minutes…
It is (difficult) at the moment because he’s been a real threat. He’s involved in a lot of goals all the time and his consistent performances make him a starter obviously. So it’s a fine balance, but at the same time he’s 19 years old and we have to protect him.

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Gooner and below-average blogger who writes what he thinks, but sometimes doesn't think as he writes. Very occasionally makes a sensible point. Can be found on Twitter rambling away under the username @bradley08. May contain nuts.