Arsenal suffered a 1-0 defeat in the second leg of their Europa League semi-final clash with Atletico Madrid, bowing out of the competition with a spirited-but-lacking performance at the Estadio Metropolitano.
For manager Arsene Wenger, this was his last chance to end his Arsenal tenure on a high, but his side couldn’t breach the Rojiblancos’ defence and now have nothing to play for in their remaining three games of the season.
“I think it was a very intense game between two teams who gave absolutely everything. Congratulations to Atletico Madrid and good luck in the final. I would say that the winner of tonight’s game is the clear favourite to win the competition,” Wenger said post-match.
Arsenal boasted the lion’s share of possession but created just seven chances over the 90 minutes, managing only one shot on target. Despite the Gunners starting with Mesut Ozil, Danny Welbeck and Alexandre Lacazette, clear-cut opportunities were few and far between.
Atleti are renowned for their defensive qualities under Diego Simeone and came into Thursday’s game boasting 11 consecutive clean sheets in all competitions at home.
Wenger admitted Atletico “are a team who defends well” but feels his own side should have made their chances count.
“Atletico Madrid are a team who defends well. They broke up a few counter attacks voluntarily in situations where we could have been very dangerous. But overall they are a clever side who defends very well,” he added.
“We missed something in the final third because we had plenty of opportunities. if you look at the number of chances we created over the two games, the least you can say is that we can be very frustrated.”
“In the first game, the tie should be over and in the second game, in the first half, we had plenty of opportunities, but we always missed something in the final ball.
“I’m like the team, very sad and very disappointed. Overall, I’m even very frustrated as well. When you go out of a competition and give the performances we did over 180 minutes, it’s very difficult to take.”
Arsenal in the Europa League this season
Arsenal in the Europa League: 14 games; 8 wins, 3 draws, 3 defeats
A European trophy was the only piece of silverware Wenger was yet to win during his 22 years in charge of Arsenal, having lost in the 2006 Champions League final to Barcelona, so he’ll naturally be disappointed that the Gunners go into next season off the back of their worst campaign since his 1996 appointment.
Arsenal were underdogs ahead of their two-legged meeting with Atleti but put in an impressive showing over the two legs and may feel they deserved more. Conceding late in the home leg on April 26 has ultimately cost the Gunners dearly. The fairy-tale is over for Wenger and now he’ll have to motivate himself in their remaining three games of the season before making his Arsenal farewell.
This season was the first time in eight years that the Londoners made it past the last-16 in Europe and only the fourth time they’re reached a semi-final in a continental competition under Wenger – 1990/00, 2005/06, 2008/09 and 2017/18.