Arsenal boss Unai Emery saw his stars fail to cash in on a crop of chances to leave them probably having to rely on winning the Europa League to qualify for the Champions League next season.
The Gunners were profligate in front of goal in a 1-1 draw with lowly Brighton at the Emirates yesterday and with Chelsea winning and leapfrogging Tottenham it seems like the Premier League top four is decided.
But Arsenal can still qualify for next season’s Champions League by winning the Europa silverware and face Valencia on Thursday in the second leg of their semi-final tie holding a 3-1 advantage.
Yet it isn’t a missed chance that Emery should blame for failing to sneak into the top four. The stark fact is that his underperforming outfit have garnered just one point in 12 in the past three Premier League games – losing to Crystal Palace, Wolves and Leicester City before the draw with the Seagulls.
It could have easily been so, so different for the North Londoners but the chances just weren’t taken. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put his side in front from the spot in the first half before veteran frontman Glenn Murray did the same from 12 yards to bring Chris Hughton’s men level.
A clearly frustrated Emery said he was disappointed with the draw although he maintained that his team did enough to taste victory. He said: “We had our chances to score, the first half was probably the difference in the result. And in the second half after their goal we had chances but they defended very well, congratulations to them for their work. We fight and try to win each match in the Premier League but every match is difficult and today is an example of that.
“We wanted to win and we worked in the Premier League to have the possibility of a top four place, but we drew and lost the chance. Now we are going to prepare for our match in Valencia.”
Arsenal said farewells to keeper Petr Cech, midfielder Aaron Ramsey and striker Danny Welbeck as the curtain came down on the Gunners’ games at home. Cech is retiring from playing, Ramsey is heading to Juventus and Welbeck, recruited from Manchester United, is at the end of his deal and isn’t being offered a new contract.
Cech will play in the game in Spain on Thursday and in the final in Baku should the Gunners progress. And he said he hopes that he can lift the Europa League as he bows out of the game.
He told the club’s official website: “I have mixed emotions because we wanted to win and obviously in this moment it’s a very strange and a new feeling for me because I know this will be my last time here at the Emirates. I wish that we could have won the game and finished the season at home on a high. We put ourselves in a good position to play until the last game of the season for a chance of the Champions League, but obviously we didn’t manage to do that today, so it’s mixed feelings for me.
“I’m sad on one side because my journey here is over, but we still have hopefully three weeks to go until Baku. We need to pick ourselves up and get ready for Thursday because this is most important. I have to say I’m very grateful to everyone because I came from a rival club and everyone accepted me. I’ve always believed that if you work for the team and work hard, then you’ll give everything for the shirt. Hopefully I’ve done that. I have to say that I hope my last game will be in Baku. That would be the best thing.
“I want to progress to the final and lift one last trophy. I think everybody at Arsenal deserves that, so I hope we can make it.”