Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta hailed his side’s “superb” penalty shoot-out victory over Liverpool in the Carabao Cup fourth round – but admitted his joy was dampened by the draw that followed. After edging the Reds 5-4 on spot-kicks, the Gunners were rewarded with a last-eight showdown with cup holders Manchester City at the Emirates in December.
The north Londoners have now dumped Leicester and Liverpool out but City have won this competition in all of the last three seasons thanks partly to their incredible squad depth.
And Arteta admitted his mood was ruined a little bit by being put up against his former mentor Pep Guardiola.
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That’s despite Arsenal having eliminated City in the FA Cup semi-finals last term en-route to their Wembley triumph over Chelsea at the start of August.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the Spaniard insisted after watching his team knock out Liverpool: “I am really happy with the performance. I think the boys were exceptional.
“We corrected a few things from Monday and the way we played against this team was superb.”
Asked exactly what Arsenal did better than their Premier League loss to the same opponent just days earlier, he continued: “A lot of things. We controlled so many more things they tried to do against us much better, some of the spaces they like to attack.
“We competed much better in second balls, some of the duels, the level of aggression we had as well, the way we pressed them, really, really high and put them under a lot of pressure was exceptional I think.”
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Asked about the draw with his former club City, where he was Guardiola’s No 2 for three years, Arteta added: “I was here waiting, enjoying a bit the victory, now we have to play Man City on December 22/23!
“It’s what it is. There are tough teams now in this competition. Another big challenge and we’ll be prepared for that.
“We want to take every competition as a chance to win a trophy and we have to do that with the club we represent.”
Arteta was delighted with the display of Leno, who saved two penalties from Divock Origi and Harry Wilson to help put the Gunners through.
The German shot-stopper was also outstanding in the first half to deny the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Diogo Jota and Marko Grujic.
Arsenal have now won three times in their last four meetings with Liverpool, also beating the Premier League champions on penalties in the Community Shield.
And their shootout win here saw Arteta’s men – albeit with a much-changed side facing a Liverpool team that also made plenty of changes – gain some revenge for their Premier League loss on the same ground earlier this week.
“It’s the third time we’ve played in the last eight weeks against the best team in Europe in my opinion,” Arteta said.
“To come here to Anfield and play with the determination and courage we did tonight is a big step for the team.
“I felt after Monday that we made a big step forward, now we have a lot of things to learn from an exceptional team, but we are on the right path I think.
“It’s incredible [to beat them three times in a row]. I keep saying that the gap towards them is still big but the fact the team, the players believe all the time we play against them that we can beat them. We will keep improving to try to reach that level.”
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