Arsenal may have signed off with a 5-1 win over Everton but manager Mikel Arteta couldn’t hide his disappointment at the way the climax to the season played out.
While a fifth-place finish in the Premier League represents a considerable improvement on last season, the fact the Gunners, off the back of defeats to Sp*rs and Newcastle, squandered the opportunity to seal a place in next season’s Champions League clearly still grates.
Asked how he feels about qualifying for the Europa League, Arteta said: “Today, I don’t get much [satisfaction] if I’m honest. I’m still in pain.
“That’s why I need the dust to settle, I need to go and get a few days on holiday, because I think today that I’m not going to reflect on the season the way that it is.
“But at the same time, I am very grateful for everybody that is supporting our club, the way they are giving us confidence and respect and motivation to drive, forward, because I think they believe in what we are doing, but when you have it there, I am a winner and I hate losing and we lost something that we could win and that’s why I’m in pain. I’m sorry.”
The pain of missing out on the top four continued to resonate throughout his post-game comments.
“I cannot assess today the season, I’m sorry,” said Arteta.
“I am still in a lot of pain after what happened on Monday, and I would like to have a fair assessment on what we’ve done. What I can guarantee you is that I have – we have – tried to squeeze the lemon as much as we possibly can, to every single drop, and we reached to the point where we reached.
“I know – I think we all know, and you can see the reaction from the fans towards the team – that you see what we have on the pitch, and what this club has (achieved) ten years ago, twenty years ago – and we know where we have to go. We are not going to stop it.
“I am extremely disappointed today, because we had generated expectations that we wanted, that I wanted for this football club, because it’s what it deserves. At the end we came short and that feeling of guilt and not reaching that level, is painful.”
For all Arteta’s pain, the club appears moving in the right direction under his watch. A young squad, even if they’ve struggled in key moments, have provided some real high points for the supporters.
On whether he gets the sense that the fans believe in his project, he said:
“Absolutely, they have given me many reasons throughout the season – and they have shown with many factors – in the way they turn up. The atmosphere that they built, home and away for these players.
“I think they can see what we are doing, they see what the players want to do, how they represent the club, the values on and off the pitch, who we are as a group. Then we have the level that we have, and it has not been enough. We have to make a clear assessment on that, and how we are going to take the club now into the next level, and if we want to do that, we know what we have to do.”