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Arsenal limp out of Europe with a whimper to leave Arteta with his biggest worry

They went out with barely as much as a whimper.

And that is perhaps the biggest worry of all for Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.

This was Arsenal’s biggest game of the season, the last shot at a trophy and the final hope of getting back into Europe next season.

And Arsenal’s players just did not show up – yet again.

There will be no English clean sweep in the European finals as Arsenal were the weakest link as Villarreal sealed their place in the Europa League final with Chelsea and Manchester City taking centre stage in the Champions League.

There was no intensity, no passion and no desire from Arsenal’s players to save their season from finishing in downright depressing mediocrity.

Arteta’s men went out with a whimper

Knocked out by Unai Emery, the manager they sacked 18 months ago and that is perhaps the biggest embarrassment of all for Arsenal.

They are now going backwards, Arteta must count himself lucky the fans were not inside the Emirates and the few that were outside before the game were protesting against the owners rather than the manager.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came closest for Arsenal as he twice hit the woodwork, he really should have scored with a close ranger header but there can be no excuses.

They were just good enough and it raises serious questions about Arteta and whether the players are still playing for him.

It did not look like it.

Villarreal are hardly European heavyweights as this was their first major final of any description.

It was a chastening evening for Arsenal
It was a chastening evening for Arsenal

It was always going to be long job for Arteta, they won the FA Cup last season and yet the least the fans expected was some sign of progress. And yet they have fallen short.

Now they will be out of European competition next season for the first time since 1995/96 and not only will that hurt the club in terms of prestige but also finances.

No wonder they wanted o jump ship and join the European Super League – it is the only way this sorry bunch would be playing abroad.

They only needed a 1-0 win, their away goal in Spain gave them hope and a chance they barely deserved after an equally lacklustre performance last week.

It should have been a reprieve, a chance to make amends and yet too many players do not seem up for the fight. Too many players have not shown up all season – and they got what they deserved.

Thomas Partey was so poor in midfield, the £45m signing on last summer’s deadline day has been a huge disappointment rather like a few others such as record £72m signing Nicolas Pepe and they did not create enough or put enough pressure on.

Aubameyang went close when he hit the post in the first half and yet the lack of intensity and pace was baffling. Aubameyang had promised a big display to make up for his own failings this season and yet he could not save them.

Pepe went close, Emile Smith-Rowe – who was one of few players to stand out – chipped just wide and, while Arsenal pressed forward, they nearly left the back door open as keeper Bernd Leno denied Gerard Moreno.

But the big chance came after 79 minutes. Pepe put over a cross, Aubameyang rose high and should have scored from close range but headed against the post.

That was Arsenal’s moment and they could not take it. It was left for Villarreal to run down the clock and then celebrate wildly while Emery kept a respectful distance but must have enjoyed his own revenge.




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