Arsenal were knocked out of the Europa League by Villarreal after playing out a 0-0 draw in the second leg, with the tie ending 2-1 on aggregate.
The first half was seriously flat, with neither side able to create anything clear cut. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had the best chance of the opening 45, doing well to strike a volley against the outside of the post.
As for the visitors, the closest they came to changing the scoreline was through Dani Parejo. The former Queens Park Rangers loanee took a free-kick from just outside the box but put it marginally over the crossbar.
It was a first half that will have satisfied Unai Emery more than Mikel Arteta. On his return to the Emirates Stadium, his side were limiting Arsenal to half-chances while also providing a bit of threat.
The second half began with much more life. Nicolas Pepe and Emile Smith Rowe both came close within five minutes of the restart, while Villarreal star man Gerard Moreno scuffed an effort inside the box after the Gunners had lost the ball in their own half.
Approaching the closing stages, and Arteta’s men became more desperate for a goal. They cranked up the pressure, with the away side beginning to sit back a lot more.
Rob Holding twice came close to netting in the final 20 minutes, first heading over from a corner and then putting another header wide.
Into the final ten minutes, and Arsenal came within an inch of getting that all-important goal. Hector Bellerin lifted a cross towards the back post for Aubameyang, who leapt above two Villarreal defenders. It looked to be their moment, but the forward’s header came back out off the inside of the post.
That was the last chance for the hosts, who continued to press but could not break down the away side’s defence.
The goalless draw ensured that Villarreal reached the Europa League final. They will face Manchester United, who comfortably saw off Roma.
Is this the end of Arteta’s time at Arsenal?
It seems like a long time ago, but there was once a time when Arsenal fans were highly dissatisfied with Arsene Wenger and his constant fourth-place finishes. Nowadays, those fans would give anything for a Champions League spot.
Arteta took over from Emery in December of last season, with the club in 11th place. Things slightly improved, but they ended in eighth – their lowest finish since 1994/95.
However, they had better fortunes in the FA Cup, defeating Manchester City and Chelsea to lift the trophy – although many credit the individual brilliance of Aubameyang for this triumph.
This was enough for the supporters to trust the Spaniard. The addition of the highly-rated Thomas Partey from Atletico Madrid was also expected to have an impact.
Things haven’t panned out as hoped, and now they look as bad as they’ve been in decades. Silverware is now completely out of the question, and the chances of European qualification for next season are looking extremely slim. Frankly, they’re more likely to finish in the bottom half.
The lack of European football will be incredibly damaging to the club. Financially it will hurt, and it will be a stumbling block for attracting top-quality players.
Do the men in charge believe that Arteta can get them back into Europe? Because their patience must be wearing thin by now.