Bernd Leno suggested Saturday’s narrow defeat to Manchester City was evidence that Arsenal are closing the gap on the top Premier League teams. The Gunners were easily brushed aside in the first game after lockdown, losing 3-0 at the Etihad. But the Arsenal stopper insisted that knocking Pep Guardiola’s men out of the FA Cup in July and going close against City again this weekend showed progress.
Raheem Sterling’s goal was the only thing separating the two sides as the hosts had to battle hard for the full three points.
And as Arsenal go in search of Champions League qualification this season, the German keeper is confident Mikel Arteta’s charges are making real progress.
“On one hand we’re disappointed, but on the other we played a good game,” said Leno.
“We competed against City and at the end you can see that the gap was very small.
“I think when you compare the first game after the lockdown, how we played here and lost 3-0 without any chances and how we played today, there’s a big, big difference.
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“We are on the right track and today we lost this game, but next week we have to win and be confident in our play like this.
“I think we missed a little bit of the lucky punch. We tried at the end with set-pieces and crosses, but we couldn’t finish the action.
“It was our only main problem in the end, because I think we were better in the second-half and controlled the game, but maybe a good chance was missing.”
Gunners boss Arteta admitted their dismal record away to their rivals at the top of the table needs to improve.
Arsenal have now failed to beat any of their big six rivals – City, Liverpool, Man United, Spurs or Chelsea – in the last five years.
It is a record spanning 29 games and stretching back to January 2015 when Olivier Giroud scored to beat City at the Etihad.
Arteta said: “You want to go to every ground and win. To get into that position you have to do so many good things throughout 96 minutes and we’ve done a lot of them but at the end the games are decided in the boxes.
“The big teams, when you get there, you have to put them away. I’ve been in that dressing room for four years and I’ve seen a lot of teams come to the Etihad.
“To put the performance and play with the attitude, belief and resilience that we did, it’s really difficult, believe me.”
The Spaniard added: “Upset obviously not to get anything from the game the way the game went because I felt that we kept growing and growing and having more belief that we could actually get something from it.
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“At the same time I’m extremely proud about the way we played individually and collectively to put the performance that we put in tonight in this stadium. It’s not an easy thing to do.
“You need everything to go your way to get a win here and obviously when you have the three or four big chances we had you have to put them away because you know that in your box that’s going to be the case.”
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