Arsenal spurned the chance to take a 1-0 aggregate lead to the Wanda Metropolitano after conceding late in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final clash with Atletico Madrid.
After Alexandre Lacazette put the hosts ahead after the hour mark, countryman Antoine Griezmann equalised in the last few minutes of the game, capitalising on a catalogue of defensive errors.
The Gunners will travel to the Spanish capital for the return leg on May 3 and will be underdogs given their woeful form on the road and the strength of the Rojiblancos on home soil.
Arsenal’s away form in 2018 (in all competitions)
Atletico Madrid’s home form in 2018 (in all competitions)
Arsene Wenger said in his post-match interview: “Everything is open. They are a team who defend well, we know that. They have one of the best defensive records in Europe. That’s no coincidence. We knew that out of the four teams left, we played the favourite.
“The only advantage of the (1-1) result is we know exactly what we have to do over there. We have nothing to lose. We have to go there and really play to win the game.”
Before the lock horns with Diego Simeone’s side again next month, Arsenal travel to face Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon. The Gunners won’t want their confidence shattered ahead of the second leg by losing their league outing over the weekend, but Wenger may want to rest his stars to keep them fresh.
Arsenal (57 points) look set to finish sixth in the Premier League table this season, as they’re four points clear of seventh-placed Burnley (53) with a game in hand, and aren’t likely to catch Chelsea (63) in fifth unless results go their way in the last four matches.
As a result, Wenger’s focus may be on Europe and sealing a result at a ground only Sevilla and Chelsea have managed a win at this season. A high-scoring draw would also be enough to put Arsenal through, but Atleti have kept 11 consecutive clean sheets at the Wanda Metropolitano.
With Wenger stepping down as manager at the end of the season, a first European title with Arsenal would have been the perfect way to depart. But does Arsenal’s poor away form mean their Europa League dream is over?