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Villarreal win 2-1 on aggregate
Arsenal waste chances to equalise
Season over. That is it. Arsenal are out of the Europa League and there will be no redemption in this wretched campaign. No trophy and, for a fifth consecutive year, no Champions League football. They are falling further and further behind.
It was a deserved exit, despite twice striking the goal frame, with Villarreal the better side over both legs of this semi-final and there will be deserved criticism for Arsenal and their under-pressure manager Mikel Arteta who yet again unsuccessfully tinkered with his line-up. He looked callow. He looked stressed. He looked angry. He looked haunted. Like his team, he looked lost.
"We are devastated,” Arteta said, before embarking on some deluded revisionism. “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. So many things happened to us, and so many players were just trying to compete not at their best."
Arteta even claimed an injury in the warm-up to Granit Xhaka, “changed our plan completely”. Xhaka was slated to play left-back but Kieran Tierney had to be rushed back. Rightly Arteta was questioned about his future and his answers were tellingly clipped. “It is not about talking it is about showing,” he said. He needs to start showing.
Former caretaker manager Freddie Ljungberg, in charge before Arteta, said he hoped this was “rock bottom” and called for a “change in how they invest into the club”, and the attention will also focus on the Kroenke ownership. There were protests before and after the match, as fans blocked the roads outside the Emirates, and the dissent is likely to grow until the end of the season.
Arsenal just could not score and had little of the drive, of the desire, of the determination that it takes to get over the finishing line. There was just no intensity. This is a team that has something fundamentally wrong with it, suffering from a kind of rot that has to be cut out before it infects some of their promising young players, such as Emile Smith Rowe, who looked utterly distraught at the end.
Arsenal may start next season out of European competition for the first time since 1996, while even getting this far has been wholly unconvincing. They stumbled into the semi-finals. Maybe they will scrape into the grim, new Europa Conference League.
It was a good evening for Arteta’s predecessor, Unai Emery, who returned to the Emirates 18 months after he was sacked and now leads Villarreal to the final - incredibly their first ever major final of any kind - against Manchester United on May 26 in Gdansk. Remarkably, though, it is the fifth Europa League final in eight years for Emery having won the trophy three times in a row with Sevilla. Maybe he was not the problem after all.
This was it for Arsenal. Win or bust. Instead they were torpedoed by the Yellow Submarine who attacked, who were positive and, led by the immense Raul Albiol at centre-half, put their bodies on the line when they had to. They looked like they just wanted it more and that was the greatest indictment of a pitiful Arsenal.
They had seven efforts on target to Arsenal’s one and also suffered problems with players missing and the loss of the dangerous Samu Chukwueze to a first-half injury.
Yes, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the post twice but they were isolated incidents. For the first the ball flew back and forth in the Villarreal penalty area before falling to Aubameyang who struck a controlled volley back across goal that beat goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli before clipping the outside of his far post.
Then, into the second-half, he rose between two defenders to meet Hector Bellerin’s cross with the ball hitting the inside of the post. Albiol hooked it clear before it could cross the line.
Strangely it was the Arsenal captain’s last involvement before he was substituted, with Arteta continuing to make some curious decisions. In the first leg in Spain he played with a ‘false nine’. It did not work. Here in midfield he paired Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard in front of Thomas Partey, who had an awful game and looks a shadow of the player he was at Atletico Madrid, and that did not work either.
There was more purpose and a bit more panic at the start of the second half. The ball broke to Nicolas Pepe and he struck a powerful cross-shot that bounced a yard wide, with Emery sprinting along his technical area to cajole his team. They were fortunate again when Bellerin’s cross was finger-tipped by Rulli straight to Smith Rowe who took a touch and chipped the ball through a thicket of players and towards the empty net, but it drifted wide.
But Villarreal also threatened and, impressively, regained the initiative. They did not just defend, they tried to score. Partey again lost possession and Paco Alcacer spurned the chance to run at Bernd Leno and instead teed up Gerard Moreno, whose effort was tame. A header from Rob Holding flew across goal but that was it.
Arsenal threw players forward but no-one took charge, no-one accepted responsibility. They never looked like doing it and, at the final whistle, it was the former Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin who had the ball. Like Emery he had come back to haunt his old club. “Good evening,” Emery said, before proclaiming how proud he was. It was probably his best night at Arsenal.
Arsenal's youngsters emerge with some credit
FT: Arsenal are out after a goalless draw!
They can have no complaints, that was a really ragged performance when they really needed things to come together. Just one shot on target.
Nketiah commits another foul. Arsenal have managed the stoppage time really poorly.
FIVE ADDED MINUTES
But Villarreal have a free-kick in their own half. 90 seconds have already elapsed but some of that was for the sub. Nketiah booked.
Into stoppage time now!
Nketiah on for Arsenal - a few minutes to save the season.
Pepe does really well to get to the by-line and he cut the ball back for Bellerin whose shot was blocked. Corner comes to nothing but Pepe wants a foul and a penalty. The defender did have his arms around him. Nothing doing. Villarreal making a double sub.
Much better from Arsenal when it looked like Lacazette was about to swivel on a Willian cross, then the ball came back to Bellerin whose shot was blocked.
Willian runs into trouble, then Martinelli sprints back and gives the foul away. Time is running out for Arsenal, this is getting desperate. Pablo Mari then concedes another foul.
Almost a Villarreal own goal! Torres headed over when his goalkeeper had misjudged a Willian cross. Villarreall hack the corner away and they inch towards the penalty area.
Smith Rowe clips a ball in but Lacazette concedes a foul in the box.Arsenal have not scored many late home goals this season but they desperately need one now.
Saka has gone to left-back but has conceded a free-kick near the corner flag. Has Arsenal's big chance come and gone?
Villarreal now have a wide-freekick but it comes to nothing.
Arsenal break though Pepe and Bellerin who swings in a cross and Aubameyang HITS THE POST with a header! Great effort. Now the striker is off, replaced by Lacazette. Willian has replaced tierney.
Arsenal at least sustaining some pressure now, even if they are not carving out clear cut chances. They have another corner...it dropped for Martinelli at the edge of the box but he slashed the shot wide.
Looked like Partey may have won a penalty after contact in the box but the referee called it spot on - the midfielder kicked through the defender.
Arsenal gaining territory and have a corner after Partey's shot was deflected behind. Cleared, but Pepe whips a good ball back in and Holding glanced just wide. Good effort.
Decent chance for Holding, about seven yards out but he had to generate all the power himself and it looped over the bar. Bacca coming on for Alcacer. Arsenal also about to bring Lacazette on.
Holding fires a backpass back to Leno and he takes one too many touches and hammers the ball out of play. Arsenal do get back on the front foot and win a free kick in a dangerous spot after Saka wins a foul from Coquelin.
Too many 50:50s going Villarreal's way at the moment. Arsenal are struggling badly at the moment, but they are only one goal away from being through to the final. They need a strong spell to build confidence.
Villarreal look more like scoring here, really good possession play and testing Arsenal with low crosses. Mari and Tierney do well but the Spanish team have a corner. Mari heads away. Arsenal now making the change: Martinelli on for Odegaard. Saka moving inside perhaps.
Partey is really struggling, he has just hammered a pass straight out of play. Villarreal settle into another period of possession.
A significant stoppage in the game, and Arsenal are introducing Martinelli. I think building play from the back has been their biggest problem, but he will certainly add plenty.
Leno comes and claims a long ball forward. Arsenal looking a little leggy in some key positions. Smith Rowe almost made something happen but then Mari is forced to scramble as Villarreal scramble. Arsenal looking really stretched. Odegaard and Mari are down after some hefty collisions.
After that strong start to the half, Arsenal a little bit scatty again. They just do not look secure playing out from the back. Partey caught on the ball again there after a Villarreal attack down the right.
What were Arsenal playing at there?! So poor from Holding and Partey in midfield after a simple long ball, gifting the ball away and leaving themselves open. Moreno, the right man for Villarreal, had the chance but his shot was tame and at Leno! Huuuuge let off.
Arsenal moving the ball with more tempo so far, There will be a stoppage after Gaspar and Pepe clash heads at the back post after Odegaard stood a ball up to the back post.
Brighter from Arsenal, more aggressive in their off the ball work. Saka with a loose pass and Villarreal break down their right but Tierney defends well.
Ohhh and what a chance for Arsenal! Poor goalkeeping from Rulli who comes for a cross and misses, but Smith Rowe shoots slightly wide with the chip. This is much better though.
No changes from Arteta at the break but straight away they have played a few longer balls forward. Tierney dinks a lovely ball into the penalty area for Pepe to meet but he cracked a half volley just wide of the far post. That's more exciting.
We're back under way!
Arsenal get us started.
The players are back out
Arsenal need better in the second period.
What can Arteta change?
Odegaard and Smith Rowe in front of Partey and a front three of Pepe, Saka and Aubameyang looked very exciting but it hasn't worked so far. Do Arsenal need a more orthodox midfielder next to Partey to help build play? Or would a change of emphasis be enough? Look to turn Villarreal and push in behind it.
A view from the ground
HT: Arsenal 0 Villarreal 0
Not a good half from Arsenal, struggling to build play and get the ball into their forward players in good time. No harm done but needs to improve considerably.
Lovely close control from Smith Rowe and Tierney gets forward well in support of Pepe to cross. Blocked, corner for Arsenal from which they concede a foul.
Mari defends a cross well and then Pepe draws a foul. There will be three minutes of added time to play.
Holding goes through the back of Alcacer just past halfway. The bitty nature of this is suiting Villarreal so far.
Partey wins a challenge in midfield and Arsenal had the chance to break into space, but Saka's cross was skewed behind. He has been below his best tonight.
The corner came to Albiol at the back post at Albiol's volley deflected behind Pepe for another one. Holding heads away well then Aubameyang gets back well to defend. Nervy moments as we approach half time.
Much better from Smith Rowe injecting some pace by pushing the ball forward and pushing it into Aubameyang in the left channel. He cuts inside and shoots at Rulli and the ball very nearly squirmed over the line but the suspect 'keeper recovers. Villarreall have a corner though.
Nice touch from Odegaard in midfield to draw a foul. Surprisingly, Arsenal try to launch one into the box but the ball skims off Mari's head and goes out for a goal kick.
Looks like Tierney is playing the role as it was planned for Xhaka, staying deep almost on the left of a back three. Or perhaps he is not fit enough to get up and down. Leno kicks one straight out of play.
Arsenal caught on the ball in midfield and are living on their nerves again. Gaspar brushed off Pepe and had time and space to pick a cross from the right but he smashed it into the arms of Leno
Chukwueze's night is indeed over. Arsenal huffing and puffing around the Villarreal box again but first Pepe and then Bellerin were lacking quality with the final ball.
Big blow here for Villarreal with Samuel Chukwueze down with a muscular injury. He is waving to the bench, would be very surprised if he is able to continue. The poor lad has his head in his hands.
Gives Arteta a chance to speak to the players and settle them down.
Better territory from Arsenal, and they win a corner. Good delivery headed away, but Odegaard whips it back in. Aubameyang volleys across the goal, it comes straight back at him and his low volley clipped the outside of the post! Better from the home team.
Good cross in from Saka which Smith Rowe tries to meet with a back flick which was blocked, then Tierney slashes wide from distance.
Good attempt from Parejo, up and over the ball and away from Leno but it skims off the top of the net. A nervous moment passes from Arsenal.
Saka's radar is off in the final third as he chips a back post cross out for a goal kick. Arsenal starting to enjoy longer sequences of possession but Bellerin is pressed off the ball after a dicey pass by Holding. Villarreall box Arsenal in and Partey concedes a foul on the edge of the box on Trigueros. In shooting range for Parejo.
Better from Arsenal, starting to win second balls and therefore sustain attacks. Rulli in the Villarreal goal has flapped at a couple of crosses. Bellerin does well to win a foul in midfield.
Villarreal have started this game well, certainly better than they finished the first leg. Partey tries to send Pepe in behind with another diagonal but the ball does not quite fall for him after a loose touch.
A quite ridiculous backpass from Partey very nearly floats over Leno's head but he just about deals with it! Arsenal far too stretched again when one of their attacks break down and Villarreal had so much space to run through midfield. Came to nothing, and at the other end Saka does well to win a corner.
Looks like Emery has Villarreal pressing in a diamond shape, the two strikers on the central defenders and one midfielder pushing on to Partey. Not too much happening so far from Arsenal, they look a little nervy.
Good switch of play from Mari, a raking diagonal to Saka but it comes to nothing. Villarreal looking quite dangerous when they come forward though and this time Tierney blocks the shot from Chukwueze. Arsenal a little loose out of possession so far.
Good move from Arsenal down the left as Tierney lofts a pass into Smith Rowe's pass, but Pepe's ball inside was loose and Villarreal countered into the space. Chukwueze beat Pepe but Mari did well to slow him down. Villarreal force Arsenal into a long ball again with the high press.
The short corner came to nothing before Saka lost his footing. Villarreal box Arsenal in and Bellerin gives the ball away, some good pressing there from the Spaniards. A little ragged the last few minutes from Arsenal after a promising start.
Arsenal showing good authority on the ball and composure so far. Holding goes all the way back to Leno, before Saka gives the ball away with a loose pass inside from the right. Villarreal get their first bit of possession.
Good switch of play out to the right from Emery's team, and Chukwueze cuts inside and bends a shot at goal which Leno tips over. Corner coming up.
Villarreal go long early but offside given. Tierney gets a couple of early passes under his belt before Mari boots it forward. Good play down the Arsenal left involving Aubameyang and Tierney and Pepe wins a corner. Villarreal get a head to it to clear and Arsenal regain possession.
Villarreal get us started.
Late drama and the game has not even kicked off
The players are on their way out
Tierney needs to get up to speed quickly against Chukwueze.
Late change in the Arsenal line-up....
Tierney comes in for Granit Xhaka who has taken a knock in the warm up. Strengthens the team on paper, but throws out all of Arsenal's pre-game work.
Was not giving much away but stated Saka would start in the 'forward line'. Looks like Xhaka at left-back then.
Villarreal's danger man: Samuel Chukwueze
Arsenal's main man in Europe this season
'Best player in the Europa League' is a back-handed compliment that rather sums up Pepe's time at Arsenal. Even when he does something positive, there's a caveat. Good, but not £72m good.
It was a bad deal for Arsenal but that is not Pepe's fault and his performances have been far more rigorous and consistent in the last few months. He finally looks part of the team, and always carries a goal threat.
Arsenal's team confirmed
It could be Saka at left-back at course
But given Xhaka has been given a run of games in that position, he seems most likely. Tierney is an option from the bench, but his absence does give a chance for a more progressive midfield option given Xhaka is deployed elsewhere.
Smith Rowe and Odegaard both starting centrally behind a front three of Saka, Aubameyang and Pepe feels the closest Arteta has got to a classical, Guardiola-like set-up.
Villarreal team and subs
Starting XI: Rulli, Mario, Albiol, Torres, Pedraza, Parejo, Coquelin, Trigueros, Gerard, Alcacer, Chukwueze
Subs: Sergio Asenjo, Funes Mori, Bacca, Raba, Estupinan, Moreno, Pena, Jaume, Moi Gomez, Pino, Baena, Nino.
Arsenal team news! Xhaka looks to be continuing at left-back
Arsenal: Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Mari, Xhaka; Partey, Smith Rowe, Odegaard; Saka, Pepe, Aubameyang
Subs: Tierney, Gabriel, Lacazette, Willian, Cedric, Chambers, Nelson, Elneny, Nketiah, Ryan, Martinelli, Okonkwo.
All eyes on what Arsenal do at left-back
If Tierney is deemed fit to start, then he will return at left-back with Xhaka moving alongside Partey in midfield. That would leave Arteta the room to pick four attacking players.
However, if Xhaka continues at left-back with Ceballos suspended, it throws up the possibility of using Smith Rowe and Odegaard in front of Partey behind three forwards in an ultra-offensive front five. Two good options, certainly more potent than what Arsenal had on the pitch in the first leg.
More pictures of the protest
Fans gathering outside the ground again
It is not on the same scale as the anti-Kroenke protests before the Everton game a few weeks ago. Fans were also making an effort to support Arteta and the players as the team coach arrived, so it is important to stress this is not a protest against the team.
More from Sam Dean
Our man at the Emirates
A high-wire night for Arsenal
Two English clubs are in the Champions League final while Manchester United are virtually through in the Europa League, so it comes down to Arsenal to complete the set.
Their situation is by far the most precarious after a 2-1 first-leg loss at Villarreal, on a night when Mikel Arteta did himself few favours. He was short of attacking options without the injured Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, so a compromised starting XI was unavoidable, but the decision not to take off the struggling and booked Dani Ceballos came in for fierce criticism. When Ceballos was shown the second yellow that seemingly everyone but Arteta could see coming, it looked like Arsenal's season was coming to an ignoble conclusion.
And yet...Arsenal just about kept themselves in a tie after Nicolas Pepe converted a soft penalty won by Bukayo Saka and Villarreal had Etienne Capoue sent off. On the ground observers in Spain said the Villarreal players were dejected at the full time, knowing they missed the chance to kill the tie and make tonight's game at the Emirates academic. Unai Emery taking off Paco Alcacer for Francis Coquelin at half-time also hinted at his cautious instincts at a time when Arsenal were on the ropes.
"Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result," said Winston Churchill, and there is a feeling Arsenal have the psychological edge going into tonight's game having been granted a second life. Aubameyang will likely start up front while Arteta could have Kieran Tierney and Lacazette available with David Luiz pushing for a return. Tierney starting at left-back would mean Granit Xhaka could move back into midfield to partner Thomas Partey. Nicolas Pepe has more goals and assists combined than any player in the Europa League this season.
There are no substantive reports of Arteta's job being in trouble should Arsenal go out tonight, but losing to a team placed seventh in La Liga - who have a fraction of Arsenal's budget - managed by the man Arsenal sacked, would be a tough one to come back from. It is a huge night for Arteta and Arsenal, and it could leave them 90 minutes from the Champions League. Those 90 minutes would be against Man Utd, but that's a bridge to cross in due course.
Full team news on the way shortly.