Mikel Arteta believes his Arsenal side have shown enough in the group stage to prove they can compete back in the Champions League.
The Gunners drew 1-1 at PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday night in the final game of Group B – with both sides already assured of their place in the last 16 before kick-off in the Netherlands.
Arteta made eight changes for the game and Eddie Nketiah’s first Champions League goal put them ahead only for Yorbe Vertessen’s smart finish to seal a share of the spoils.
First @ChampionsLeague goal
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) December 12, 2023
Arsenal had already secured safe passage as group winners on their return to the elite level of European football following a seven-year absence – and Arteta feels his team have proven they belong at the top table.
“Overall, I think, very positive,” he said in his press conference when asked how Arsenal’s return to the Champions League had gone.
“Having not been in the competition for six or seven years and having a team that hasn’t got that much experience, I think we’ve competed really well.
“I really liked the approach of the team in every single game, the way we’ve tried to play. We had some big results and big experiences, like the one we had in Seville or Lens, or even today looking at how the team can act and how fair it is to give certain players that exposure when you make so many changes.
“Overall finishing first with a game to play we have to be really happy. Now we have to now close that chapter until February and make sure that when that chapter opens up again that we’re in the best place to compete against another top side.”
Arteta had taken three young players to the Netherlands but none of them made it onto the pitch, instead Declan Rice was a second-half substitute into the defensive line.
Normally operating in midfield, Arteta admitted he wanted to see how Rice fared at centre-back, adding: “He has played there before.
“We have to try as if we have an emergency, we have to understand and to be sure that we can fill that gap in the right way. He has a lot of composure on the ball, he wins a lot of duels for a player of his size and he has done it in the past. He is a good option.”