(Reuters) - Arsenal have struggled to keep the goals out this season, but manager Unai Emery said clean sheets are not his top priority as his side prepare to host Standard Liege in the Europa League on Thursday.
Emery’s side have been vulnerable in defence since the start of the campaign, conceding in six of their nine games in all competitions.
While they kept a clean sheet in their opening 3-0 Europa League Group F win over Eintracht Frankfurt last month, they have conceded 11 goals in seven Premier League games this season, more than any other side in the top six.
“For me, it’s to win,” Emery told a news conference on Wednesday. “With a good performance, with good pieces, with also controlling the match and with good positioning on the pitch for good pressing against them. Tomorrow, we need that.
“A clean sheet is important, but I think it’s one process, to be strong, to be competitive defensively and offensively. I think we’re getting better little by little, but each match is a big challenge for us to show how we are improving as a team.
“But above all is to win. After, if we can do a clean sheet, that is better but winning (is our main focus).”
Arsenal have been boosted by the return of defenders Rob Holding, new recruit Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin, who helped the London side keep a clean sheet in their 5-0 League Cup win over Nottingham Forest last week.
Tierney, who was rested for Monday’s 1-1 draw at Manchester United as a precaution, is set to play against Liege while Emery said he would make a late call on Bellerin’s participation.
“(Tierney) didn’t play in Manchester because he had some small problem,” Emery said. “The doctor told us that it’s better for him to be here, working alone and preparing for the match tomorrow.
“Now he is going to play tomorrow and also hopefully he can be good, completely physically and completely tactically ready with the performances that we need.
“Hector Bellerin is the same, but with a small difference because he was injured for more time... For tomorrow, we are thinking that it depends on the training that we are going to do now, on how he is feeling.”
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis