Arsenal news: Quartet sent clear message by Mikel Arteta as brutal decision speaks volumes | Football | Sport

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Four stars eager for first-team minutes were left untouched on the substitutes’ bench by on Wednesday night. The misfiring Gunners lost 1-0 to in the first leg of their last-16 showdown, and they didn’t manage a single shot on target at Estadio do Dragao.

It was a dreary night for Arsenal as they kicked off their Champions League knockout campaign with a defeat in Portugal. The game looked to be ambling towards a goalless draw until Galeno popped up in the final minute of stoppage time to curl in a stunning winner.

The Gunners had no time to fight back, and the final whistle confirmed that they had gone the entire length of the contest without landing a single shot on Diogo Costa’s goal, despite dominating possession.

“We lacked threat,” Arteta told TNT Sports after the game. “We lacked aggression, especially with the ball in the final third. We can do better.”

But the Arsenal manager’s complaints will be no use to Emile Smith Rowe, Eddie Nketiah, Fabio Vieira or Reiss Nelson – four attacking, first-team stars who made the trip to mainland Europe without getting a sniff of the pitch.

All four players may begin to consider their options in the summer if Arteta continues to overlook them, particularly in games where a spark from the sidelines is needed.

The only substitution made by the Gunners came just over 15 minutes from time, when Jorginho was introduced for starting striker Leandro Trossard, and Kai Havertz moved up top. Nketiah, watching on from the bench, has a better goals-per-game ratio than Havertz in the Premier League this term, as well as more assists than the German.

Smith Rowe must be wondering what he has to do to see first-team action, with only three starts to his name across all competitions this season.

The 23-year-old was once an electric academy product sparking huge excitement among the fanbase, but Arteta’s trust evidently lies elsewhere as Arsenal enter the crucial weeks of the campaign.

Vieira and Nelson, meanwhile, remain on the periphery, and their morale is sure to have taken a nosedive when they trudged back to the dressing room at Estadio do Dragao having witnessed a lacklustre attacking display, and not been called upon to try and put things right.


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