Arsenal were knocked out of The Europa League in the semi finals as Atletico Madrid defeated them 1-0 (2-1 agg) at Wanda Metropolitano to progress to the Final. Here are five things we learned from the game.
Not the perfect goodbye for Arsene
“Do it for Arsene” is all we could hear from the whole footballing world over the last few weeks since Wenger’s announcement of his departure. Arsenal fans thought a European trophy, as well as Champions League qualification, would be the perfect send off for their longest serving manager, but the Gunners fell at the second-to-last hurdle, ensuring the season will end trophy-less
Given how many years of his life Wenger has given to the club, the least players could do is give him a trophy at the end of his last season. But unfortunately for Arsene, perfect goodbyes don’t always exist.
Atletico’s defence won them the game
Atletico Madrid, who are not quite having the best season by their own standards, have still managed to defend very well at home this season. The Spanish giants have just conceded nine goals all season at their newly built Wanda Metropolitano stadium.
Once again against Arsenal, they were very good defensively. It certainly did not look like they were missing their first choice full backs. Arsenal tried really hard to penetrate their defence, but Simeone’s men were just too good for the Gunners all night.
Arsenal lost it in the first leg
Knowing the fact that Atletico just don’t concede at home, Arsenal should have taken advantage in the first leg at the Emirates. The Gunners outplayed Atletico in all aspects of the game at the Emirates, except the goals. Playing against 10 men for 80 minutes of the game, Arsenal had clear cut opportunities to score at least two or three, but weren’t clinical enough.
Back against 11 men in a stadium where the home side don’t concede, and knowing they had to score at least once, Arsenal were ultimately made to pay for their lack of goals with their place in the tournament.
A game worthy of the Final
Many have predicted that the winner of this game will ultimately be crowned the Europa League Champions. They were two of the strongest teams in the competition and it would be a matchup that would have been worthy of the final itself.
While Atleti are the clear favourites, it would be foolish to underestimate their fellow finalists Marseille, who scored an extra time goal to beat Salzburg 3-2 on aggregate and progress to the Final. With the Final will be in Lyon, Marseille will be keen to lift the trophy in their home country and at the ground of one of their rivals.
However, taking nothing away from French side, I think it will be difficult game for Marseille. They will be playing against what is probably the best defence they have ever faced, but it will certainly be worth watching.
More than just a defeat for Arsenal
The loss against Atletico means Arsenal will be spending yet another season playing Europa League football next term. With the Gunners currently sixth in the Premier League, 14 points behind fourth placed Spurs, it is now mathematically impossible for them to make it to the top four, and the defeat to Atletico ended their hopes of Champions League football.
While Wenger put all his eggs in the Europa League basket, the gamble has seemingly backfired, and the decision could bring more bad news for Arsenal.
Without Champions League football on offer for a second successive season, this will have an impact on both the finances available, as well as the attractiveness of the club in order to land the top stars. It may also mean that they are unable to bring in the manager of their choice without the lure of Champions League football.