Mikel Arteta was banking on an appearance in the Europa League final being a “great turning point” and admits his failure to guide Arsenal through their semi-final double-header with Villarreal has caused him a “deep pain”.
After a lamentable season on the domestic front, the Gunners only route back into the Champions League was to win Europe’s second-tier competition. Those dreams were crushed by former coach Unai Emery whose dogged side ground out a 0-0 draw at the Emirates to progress 2-1 on aggregate.
Facing the media on Friday morning, Arteta reflected on a devastating blow to his project.
“What I felt last night was a deep pain because the moment the club is in at the moment, with everything it has been through over the last months, I had a feeling that if we could take the team to the final, it could be a great turning point.
“I felt that responsibility and I was so eager to achieve that because I knew it could be a defining moment. Not being able to achieve it, has been really tough personally obviously.
“I know that we have disappointed a lot of people as well, and that really hurts because we want to give the best to everybody but one thing I made clear is that to do what we want to do, I have no doubts that we are going to achieve it. If not, I wouldn’t be sat here.”
It remains to be seen whether Arteta is still in charge at the start of next season. Having streamlined the club’s decision-making structure last summer and given the Spaniard a promotion in the process, it seems likely that the owners will give him more time.
Whether they back him financially in the transfer market remains to be seen. The club risks falling further adrift of its traditional rivals if they don’t strengthen the squad but at the same time, it’s clear that commercial, broadcast and matchday revenues, already pummelled by the pandemic, will take a further hit as a result of this year’s underperformance.
Arresting the downward spiral already has Arteta soul-searching.
“They are things to analyse more internally, I am sorry. We have done that. There are things that we cannot discuss here.
“I take full responsibility for my part, for sure, since I arrived here what I have tried to do, giving my life, my best ability, investing every drop of energy that I have emotionally to support everything that has been going around with my knowledge, with staff, with all the players that are trying to contribute with all the club to give our best.
“But so far it has not been enough and this when the question mark comes, why it is not enough? Is it just a thing? Is it the manger? Is it many other stuff? What is it? And then this is football. Again, I repeat myself, last night that ball goes in we win 1-0. You are in the final and it is a different world. But today that world doesn’t look very nice.”
He’s not wrong. It’s a grim state of affairs.