We had 2000 fans but it felt like more! – Mikel Arteta lauds supporters contribution as Arsenal run riot in Europa League
Mikel Arteta hailed the reintroduction of supporters in the wake of Arsenal’s Europa League demolition of Rapid Wien, praising their impact as the Gunners ran riot over their Austrian visitors.
The Gunners boss was quick to praise the impact of returning fans at the Emirates Stadium, thanking them for their contribution to a comfortable win
First-half goals for Alexandre Lacazette, Pablo Mari and Eddie Nketiah ensured an unassailable lead for the hosts in north London before the break while Emile Smith Rowe’s second-half finish cancelled out a consolation effort for Koya Kitagawa netted just after the break.
Having taken just one point from their last three Premier League matches against Aston Villa, Leeds United and Wolves, the Gunners’ European victory offered a reaffirmation of their credentials, ensuring they will be in the top half of the draw for the knockout stages later this month.
The match also represented the first occasion where supporters were allowed back into the Emirates Stadium since the footballing world ground to a halt in March amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Under British government regulations, Arsenal were able to welcome back 2,000 supporters to the 60,704-capacity ground, heralding the first taste of normalcy for both players and fans after several months of matches behind closed doors.
Arteta was effusive in his response to the return of a live crowd for his side’s game, and was quick to pay tribute to the clutch of fortunate ticket-holders who were able to bring the exodus to an end on Thursday evening in the capital, thanking them for their contribution.
“[It was] very special and [we’re] delighted to have them back,” the Spaniard told a post-match press conference after his side assured themselves of top spot in Group B.
“They made a very big contribution. We had 2,000 but it felt like a lot more. They were really supportive with the team, they were very encouraging to the team.”
“I think the lads were saying here it makes a huge difference to feel that encouragement and support from them. Thank you so much to them for coming and supporting the team.
Asked if the presence of fans helps to provide an advantage for home sides, Arteta concured, adding: “Probably. This sport without fans is completely different.
“The players lose a bit of purpose and emotion. We are here to entertain and make the fans enjoy. When they are able to transmit that it gets directly to the players.”
Arsenal will play in front of a crowd again – albeit one likely to be more hostile – when they make the short trip across town for a north London derby against Tottenham on Sunday, as Arteta looks to pick up some much-needed points at the expense of the league leaders.