Arsenal were nervous. Frozen.
Arteta’s demands and demeanour creates some of that. Experience would have said go out and enjoy it, as Guardiola said to his Manchester City team earlier in the week, which would have created some flexibility and allowed the hand-break off and get into second gear far earlier.
But there is a tight brittleness about this side – at one moment capable of brilliance, at another capable of disastrous mistakes leading to goals. As someone said David Luiz epitomises this team.
Instinct says give Arteta until Christmas. But logic says he may not survive until next season.
Always thought Arsenal needed experience after Emery to steady the ship – before a younger manager could come in.
But this crisis has been long in the making. Wenger should have left earlier between 2012-2015. Said at the time every year he stayed after that would probably take an additional year to get back to where Arsenal were. And it is only three years since his departure. Wenger himself has admitted that he stayed too long. The infrastructure around football clubs mushroomed since he began and the model suited to 1996 with one man controlling most things, wasn’t suited to 2016.
The semi-final defeat over two legs will lead to more forceful fan protests and Ek consortium efforts to remove Kroenke. But Kroenke’s ownership isn’t the only problem. The management, given too much power has been unstable, with too many comings and goings with consequent bad decisions, not in keeping with long term progress. £350m has been spent on players over recent seasons.
A Director of Football Operations, Richard Garlick will help, but not a panacea for all ills. And cynics would say his experience of yo-yoing at West Brom going up and down may be useful. With current progression – if nothing changes, Arsenal should be set for a relegation fight between the 23/24 to 24/25 seasons.
Tierney and Lacazette didn’t make the team but Xhaka was injured in the warmup so the Scotsman was drafted in. Aubameyang was up front as a focal point in a 4-1-4-1.
For Villarreal, Coquelin came in for Capoue and Gaspar for Foyte in a 4-4-2. It was their eighty seventh Europa League tie. And they put on a European defensive masterclass with danger on the counter.
There was good vocal support from the Arsenal fans outside. They needed it because they have only scored twice in the last five home games and haven’t won any.
Emery probed Arsenal weaknesses again – exploiting the space behind Tierney when he bombed forward. Partey was also isolated when Smith Rowe and Odergaard were further forward. One of the problems is when Arteta tries new things, and particularly things from Pep Guardiola, City players are used to it and are better at executing the plans.
Villarreal looked dangerous on the counter. Chukwueze shot into the top corner but Leno dived to save. Partey sent an uncomfortable back pass for Leno who had to stretch to head it. Bellerin lost it on the right leading to Partey giving away a free kick just outside the area. Parejo sent it just over the bar. Bellerin gave the ball away three times in succession.
Arsenal did have some efforts. Tierney put in two crosses which Ruilli punched out. From a corner Aubameyang curled a volley onto the post.
Chukwueze, Villarreal’s most dangerous attacker went off with what looked like a bad injury going down with no-one near him.
Smith Rowe set Aubameyang away on the left. He cut in and fired in. Ruilli made a slight hash of it, the ball going through his legs – but he retrieved it.
Arsenal upped the ante at the start of the second. Tierney lobbed a good ball to Pepe who tried to bend a shot into the far corner. The ball fell to Smith Rowe in the area after a poor clearance by Ruilli. He had time to lob – but lobbed wide.
But Partey lost it in midfield and the ball found its way to Moreno who shot – Leno saved.
After 50 the game stretched and Villarreal started some dangerous attacks. But Arsenal had good chances to score. Martinelli came on for Odergaard on 64. Saka won a free kick off Coquelin. He dinked it in and Holding headed it – over. Pepe sent in a swerving cross – Holding connected, but wide again. Martinelli slashed at a chance outside the area.
Aubameyang headed goalwards from a Bellerin cross. But it hit the post and bounced out. A couple of Bellerin shots were blocked towards the end – adding to the frustration.
Arteta said: “We tried everything until the last minute.
“We have to congratulate Villarreal. I think we deserved to win the game, but the details define these ties. We had three big chances, they didn’t have anything, but they are through.
“We are devastated. Really disappointed.”
Arsenal: 1Leno, 2Bellerín (Substituted for Nketiah at 90+1’minutes, Booked at 90mins), 16Holding, 22Marí, 3Tierney (Substituted for Willian at 80’minutes), 18Partey, 7Saka, 11Ødegaard (Substituted for Martinelli at 66’minutes), 32Smith Rowe, 19Pépé, 14Aubameyang (Substituted for Lacazette at 79’minutes)
Manchester City: 13Rulli, 2Pérez Martínez, 3Albiol, 4Torres, 24Pedraza (Substituted for Moreno at 90+1’minutes), 11Chukwueze (Substituted for Pino at 30’minutes, Booked at 86mins, Substituted for Gómez Bardonado at 90+1’minutes), 5Parejo, 19Coquelin, 14Trigueros Muñoz, 7Moreno, 17Alcácer (Substituted for Bacca at 72’minutes)