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‘It’s a huge blow’: Arteta ‘devastated’ as Villarreal eliminate Arsenal from Europa League

ARSENAL manager Mikel Arteta could not hide his disappointment on Thursday night after watching his team fail to make it to the UEFA Europa League final.

The Gunners could only draw 0-0 with Villarreal at the Emirates Stadium in the second leg of the semi-final, therefore losing out 2-1 on aggregate.

Arteta’s side endured a frustrating evening of few openings and the Spaniard cut an unhappy figure as he spoke to reporters after the match.

“We are devastated,” he said at his post-match press conference.

“We had so much enthusiasm and desire to be in that final. We knew how much it meant to the club, to the fans, to ourselves to be in that final and have the chance to win a title and be in the Champions League next season.

“It’s a huge blow. The night started in a difficult way, losing Granit (Xhaka) and having to change straightaway and put in another player who hasn’t featured for a long time.”

The 38-year-old former Arsenal midfielder broke down his side’s performance, highlighting where they fell short.

“In the first half, we weren’t good enough with the ball and I think we had a lot of problems with our build-up to get anything clean into the final third, to dominate the game, to have composure and a little bit of confidence,” Arteta explained.

“We changed it at half-time, we were much better, but in the final moments we hit the post twice and we missed a chance with an empty goal.”

As Arsenal chased the one goal that would have taken them to the final, Arteta waited until 10 minutes to the end of the match before bringing in on Alexandre Lacazette.

When he was asked about the decision to make the substitution so late in the game, the coach replied: “He was only available to play 10 minutes, 15 minutes maximum. We were already taking a risk because he hasn’t trained fully with the team, but he wanted to take that risk and we believed that it was worth taking it. That was the maximum that he could play.”

Arteta admitted that no words could placate Arsenal fans and assure them that his project was heading in the right direction.

He said: “We have to show them on the pitch, not talking. 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.”

He then refused to be drawn into speculations about the safety of his position, when asked if his job was under threat.

“I think everybody’s job is under scrutiny,” he said.
Villarreal and Manchester United will play for the Europa League trophy on 26 May in Gdansk, Poland.

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