Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was a frustrated man last night as he watched his side bow out of the Europa League after a 2-1 aggregate defeat to Unai Emery’s Villarreal.
The Gunners were woeful in the first half and although things improved after the break, we failed to get the one goal that we needed to go through despite having two or three fairly big chances.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the post twice and Emile Smith Rowe missed a pretty easy chance. The luck wasn’t on Arsenal’s side last night, but to be completely honest, we really didn’t deserve to go through considering how poor we were over 180 minutes.
Arteta was quizzed about his side’s shocking display last night and the Arsenal boss put it down to injuries. He claimed that Granit Xhaka pulling out just before the game combined with many other players not being fully fit gave Villarreal a big advantage.
He told BT Sport: “For me, it’s very important in the defining moments you should have everyone available at their best but so many things happened to us, so many players were trying to be able to be competing but weren’t available at their best and that was a big disadvantage.
“It (Xhaka’s late injury) changed our game plan completely because we prepared everything with Granit in that position where he gives us so much.
“In the first half, we were struggling with the ball trying to do what we wanted to do. But no excuses, it is what it is, but so many players injured, one with malaria, one out, another one pulling out, it’s too many important players.”
The Insider’s View:
Arsenal have had terrible luck with injuries over the past few months, there’s no denying that. Xhaka and David Luiz are extremely integral to our squad, and to play our most important game of the season without them is not ideal.
We could see that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Kieran Tierney were nowhere near fully fit. Alexandre Lacazette could only manage the last 10 or 15 minutes as well, which complicated things even more.
However, Arsenal cannot use that as excuses. Our performance over 180 minutes was simply not good enough. Our terrible start at Villarreal cost us, and not going for the kill from the start last night made it impossible for us to qualify.
The pressure is well and truly on Arteta’s shoulders now. Our performances in the Premier League have been shocking and it now looks like we will drop out of Europe completely for the first time in over 25 years.
A section of our fan base are calling for Arteta’s head already. Based on performances alone, you can’t blame the board for sacking him, but can we really trust Kroenke and co to find a good enough replacement? We don’t think so.