Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says he will prove himself after Europa League exit | Football News

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says he will prove himself after Europa League exit | Football News

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says he will prove himself worthy of his position after a “devastating” exit to Villarreal in the Europa League.

The Gunners were unable to find a way past a determined Villarreal in their semi-final second leg, drawing 0-0 at the Emirates and ultimately exiting the Europa League 2-1 on aggregate.

It is another bitter blow in a below-par season for Arsenal. They face the prospect of no European football next season for the first time in 25 years and are currently ninth in the Premier League table.

The questions have already begun regarding Arteta’s future at the club following a disappointing campaign, but is adamant he is the right man for the job.

When asked if he was the right man to pick his players up, Arteta said: “I wouldn’t be sitting here if I couldn’t. You will see it. It’s not about talking, it’s about showing it on the pitch.

“I feel the pressure all the time because I want to do as good as I can for the team, for every support that I have here and for the fans. Today is a big disappointment because we tried everything to be in that final.

“I think everybody’s job is under scrutiny.”

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta says he is still the right man for the job

Arteta was devastated by the exit, while also lamenting the number of players in his team who were not 100 per cent fit, but were eager to be involved in the second leg.

He added: “We are devastated, but we have to congratulate Villarreal, they’re in the final. We tried everything right up until the last minute, I think over two legs and what happened today, in the second half, I think we deserved to win the game.

“But the details, they decide these ties and we had opportunities to score. We hit the post twice, we had three big chances, they didn’t have anything, but they are through.

“[In the first half] We were very imprecise with the ball. The process at the back, it wasn’t clean and then everything is much more difficult. We were probably a bit tense as well and when we changed a few things, we got better.

“In the second half, we were much more dominant and created chances, more than them, over the two ties but not enough to win it.

“We are hugely disappointed because we wanted to deliver something special to them [the fans] after the difficult season we had.

Arsenal v Villarreal - UEFA Europa League - Semi Final - Second Leg - Emirates Stadium
Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gestures during the UEFA Europa League Semi Final at the Emirates Stadium, London. Picture date: Thursday May 6, 2021.
Arsenal had a number of chances in the second half of their Europa League semi-final

“But when you are playing these knockout games, you need your best players at their best to make things happen and we did not have enough of those in the best possible condition.

“For me, it’s very important that in the defining moments, you have everybody available, at their best and so many things happened to us and so many players just trying to be able to compete, but not at their best and that’s a big disadvantage.

“We had so much enthusiasm and desire to be in that final. We know how much it meant to the club and our fans, to ourselves to be in that final, win a title and be in the Champions League next season. It’s a huge blow.”

‘Losing Xhaka in the warm-up changed our game plan’

Kieran Tierney was a late addition to the Arsenal XI after an injury to Granit Xhaka
Kieran Tierney was a late addition to the Arsenal XI after an injury to Granit Xhaka

It was not the perfect build-up that Arteta would have hoped for either, with Granit Xhaka pulling up during the warm-up and replaced by Kieran Tierney, who was in the squad for the first time since injury.

He said: “It [Xhaka’s injury] changed our game plan completely because we prepared everything with Granit in the position, he gives us so much.

“We had Cedric (Soares) in hospital 24 hours ago and when Granit got injured, that was the only alternative we had. Cedric is fine now.

“We could see in the first half that we were struggling with the ball, trying to do what we wanted to do, but there’s no excuses. It is what it is, but again, so many players injured, too many important players that define the game and not at their best in the right moments.”

Leno: We must show we love this club

Contrasting emotions at the final whistle as Villarreal seal victory over Arsenal in the Europa League
There were contrasting emotions at the final whistle as Villarreal seal victory over Arsenal in the Europa League

Although their Europa League hopes may be over, Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno has urged his team-mates to fight in the final four Premier League games of the season.

He told BT Sport: “I think that the problem was that we didn’t take our chances. Overall we were the better side. In the first half in Villarreal we were not on our level and that is what beat us.

“In the first half of the first leg we were not at our best but in that second half and today we put everything in. But it was not enough, not good enough.

Wednesday 12th May 7:30pm

Kick off 8:15pm

“A semi-final experience is very important but this is no excuse. We had enough chances to go through. We needed just one goal. It’s too easy to say it’s just experience.

“It’s very hard for all of us. Also for the fans. We are all sad. Hopefully we can make next season better than this season but this season isn’t over and in our final four games we must fight for this club and show that we love this club.”

Emery: We deserved to win

Villarreal manager Unai Emery believes his side deserved to go through to the Europa League final, and predicted a difficult test against Manchester United.

“I’m very proud because we know that the match was very important for us and Arsenal are a very good team, but we need to do the work like we did tonight and in the first leg in Villarreal. I think we deserved it,” he told BT Sport.

“I think we made a very serious match, defensively, we had big performances, helping each other. I think the first leg was very important to do this difference and today. we worked it very well and we defended very well as well. In times with possession, we controlled the match and we took some options in attack to score goals, but they had the best chances to score.

“I know it [the final] is going to be very difficult, but today we will enjoy the moment, then we will prepare for the match against Man Utd. But we deserve to do that and to play in this final and we are going to show our supporters our best performance again to show we want to fight against Man Utd to win this title.”

When is the Europa League final?

Villarreal vs Manchester United will take place in Gdansk, Poland on Wednesday May 26 with the game kicking off at 8pm, UK time.

The Gdansk Arena was originally intended to host the 2020 showdown but the coronavirus outbreak caused the closing rounds of the 2019/20 competition to be staged in Germany.

The Polish authorities have confirmed that up to 9,500 spectators – 25 per cent of the stadium capacity – will be permitted.

VAR will continue to be used in the final, while five substitutions are allowed, with a sixth permitted for each side if the game goes to extra-time.

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