Arsenal’s season came to a screeching halt as Mikel Arteta’s side crashed out of the Europa League.
After a 2-1 defeat to Villarreal in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final, Arsenal needed to win to progress to the final. However, their Thursday night ended in misery after a poor performance earned a 0-0 draw.
Arsenal Crash and Burn in the Europa League Semi-Final
Arsenal’s performance didn’t represent a team on the brink of missing out on European football next season. In fact, the Gunners were passive, showing little tenacity to go and overturn the first-leg defeat.
To make matters worse, former Arsenal manager Unai Emery is the Villarreal Manager. Although the second leg took place at the Emirates, Villarreal played like the home team, steadily controlling the tempo of the match.
At times, Arsenal struggled to get a foothold in the game. When Mikel Arteta’s side found themselves in possession, they struggled to play through Villarreal’s defensive lines, rarely creating any meaningful chances.
Arsenal’s best chance came late on in the game when a Hector Bellerin cross found Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s head. The ball bounced back off the post and with it, Arsenal’s opportunity to make it to the final.
Once again, Arteta showed disappointing game management. The Spaniard hauled Aubameyang off moments after his near-miss, making the final 15 minutes of the match a comfortable affair for Villarreal.
With the likes of Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka failing to influence the match, as they did against Slavia Prague, there was a distinct lack of creativity. Clearly, Arsenal’s young players have been heavily relied upon this season. On this occasion, Arsenal’s senior players needed to stamp their authority on this high-profile match. However, to keep in trend with the rest of the season, they didn’t.
Will Arsenal Bounce Back?
Arsenal’s defeat to Villarreal means the London-based club will miss out on European football for the first time in 25 years. During Arsene Wenger’s final years as manager, Arsenal’s status as a top Premier League club started to tail off. After 19 years of Champions League football, Arsenal became regulars in the Europa League. However, a mid-table finish in this season’s Premier League, means that perhaps Arsenal fans are enduring the club’s most painfully average season ever.
With Arsenal not playing in European competitions next season, recruiting elite players will be a tough ask. Although, with just Premier League football to focus on, the Gunners could potentially make a speedy return. However, with Arteta’s inexperience, any kind of future resurgence looks unlikely.
When looking at the success of the Champions League finalists, Manchester City and Chelsea. It is clear these clubs have the most talented squads. However, not only do they spend money, but they invest in players that will fit the system. When Arsenal have spent money, they have either overspent or bought the wrong type of player.
Additionally, Manchester City and Chelsea have world-class managers. Quite frankly, Arsenal don’t. It’s a nice thought to have a long-term project. Although, if there hasn’t been any progress after 18 months, then it might be time to reassess.
After Arsenal’s European Super League involvement, a shocking Europa League exit means fans’ frustrations with their owners are at an all-time high. To appease their vast fanbase, Stan Kroenke might decide it’s time to sack Arteta. Their London counterparts, Chelsea, are reaping the rewards for acting quickly in the managerial department. However, Arsenal’s owners are behind the pace, not ruthless enough to compete with their Premier League rivals, or they just don’t value sporting success in the same way.
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