Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta picked out one exact moment where their plan changed “completely”, and hinted at a concerning trait running through 90% of the Gunners’ squad.
Arsenal missed out on their last hope of securing Champions League qualification by bowing out of the Europa League at the penultimate stage. The Gunners required just a single goal to put themselves in a winning position after notching a vital away goal in the first leg.
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But despite their best efforts and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang striking the woodwork twice, Arsenal could not find the decisive moment they so craved.
The exit also denies what would have been a showpiece final with fellow English side Man Utd. Progression to the final would have ensured both the Champions League and Europa League finals were both all-English affairs.
Speaking to BT Sport after the match, Arteta said: “We are devastated. Really disappointed. We have to congratulate Villarreal. We tried everything until the last minute. I think we deserved to win the game but the details define these ties.
MATCH REPORT: Woodwork thwarts Aubameyang twice to deny Arsenal showpiece Man Utd final
“We had three big chances, they didn’t have anything but they are through. So many things happened to us, and so many players were just trying to compete not at their best.”
On losing midfielder Granit Xhaka during the warm up, the Spaniard said: “It changed our plan completely.
“We prepared everything with Granit in that position. In the first half we struggled with the ball but it’s not an excuse. Too many important players had to define the game but not in their right moments.
“I think we were very imprecise with the ball. We were probably a bit tense. We were much more dominant in the second half.”
Arteta hints at big match naivety
When asked to pinpoint precisely why they lost, Arteta concluded: “It’s various things. The way we started in Villarreal wasn’t good enough.
“We didn’t arrive here in the best moment with everyone in their best condition. For 90% of them it was their first semi-final and we have to learn.
“The only way [to qualify for Europe] is through the Premier League so we know what we have ahead of us. Today is a big disappointment because we tried everything.”