After last night’s exit from the Europa League, the inquest into Arsenal’s terrible season will begin in earnest.
It remains to be seen whether Mikel Arteta is charged with overseeing it, but one thing was clear after last night’s Europa League exit to Villarreal, he was in no mood to start the discussion in public.
Asked if Arsenal have made progress this season, he said: “Obviously, looking at everything right now it’s hard to focus on that. I understand that and I leave it to you guys.”
While Arteta has had numerous off-field issues to contend with since he took over, success in last season’s FA Cup – silverware that sneaked us into Europe – ensured hopes were high coming into the campaign that he had the necessary foundations to mount a serious challenge for the top four. By Christmas, that plan was in tatters and once again the club was pinning its hopes on a cup run to paper over the cracks.
The least supporters expected from last night’s semi-final second leg against ex-boss Unai Emery was some blood and thunder.
Instead, needing a single goal to progress to the final, we were treated to one of the most tedious performances you could have imagined.
Unsurprisingly, the boss found it hard to deliver a rallying call to supporters after overseeing such listlessness.
“We have to show them on the pitch, not talking,” he said. “We are hugely disappointed because we wanted to deliver something special to them after the difficult season that we had.
“But when you play in these knockout games, you need your best players at their best and many things happened where we didn’t have enough of those in the best possible condition.
“But still like that, we fought until the end and I think today, in the second half, we deserved to win the game 1-0. If it had happened, we would’ve been through. But we didn’t do it and there is a reason for that.”
In theory, Arsenal could qualify for Europe by climbing up to seventh in the Premier League table before the season ends. Our reward would be a place in the inaugural Europa Conference League. The chances of that happening over the remaining four games are minimal.