Arsenal’s disastrous season continued as Villarreal held on for a 0-0 draw at the Emirates Stadium to secure a 2-1 aggregate victory and a place in the Europa League final against Manchester United.
Arsenal were forced into a late change to their starting line-up as Granit Xhaka pulled up with an injury in the warm-up. Kieran Tierney, making his first appearance since April, came into the side at left-back after returning from injury. Villarreal started with Paco Alcacer and Gerard Moreno up front.
Following a 2-1 defeat in Spain in the first leg last week, the Gunners were sluggish as they tried to find the goal they so desperately needed. In the 27th minute, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s volley struck the outside of the post and the Gunners skipper’s header hit the inside of the upright in another attempt at goal.
Villarreal then had to contend with an injury blow of their own and they were forced into an immediate change when Nigeria international Samuel Chukwueze was stretchered from the field and replaced by Yeremi Pino.
The visitors would have been happy with their work in the opening 45 minutes, keeping Arsenal relatively quiet after a lacklustre first half. The Gunners came out with much more urgency for the second half.
Nicolas Pepe fired wide of the far post before Smith Rowe’s chipped effort drifted agonisingly wide of the far post after Rulli had made a mess of Hector Bellerin’s cross.
Villarreal were still a threat on the counter attack, and with the game starting to get stretched, Gerard Moreno had a glorious chance to make Arsenal’s task even more difficult, but the Spanish forward could only hit his shot straight at Leno.
The hosts, who threw on Gabriel Martinelli, Alexandre Lacazette and Willian in the closing stages, piled forward, but it was not to be their night as Unai Emery got the better of his former side, with Villarreal reaching its first European final, where they will face United in Gdansk on May 26.
Meanwhile, defeat in the tie capped yet another bad night in what has been a difficult campaign for Mikel Arteta and Arsenal.
The Gunners now face the prospect of not qualifying for European competition for the first time in 25 years.
#UEL | 0-0 | ⏱️ 90’+5′ | FULL-TIME!
— Villarreal CF English (@Eng_Villarreal) May 6, 2021
“We are devastated. Really disappointed. We have to congratulate Villarreal,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said after the match. “We tried everything until the last minute. I think we deserved to win the game but the details define these ties.”
“We had three big chances, they didn’t have anything but they are through. So many things happened to us, and so many players were just trying to compete not at their best. The way we started in Villarreal wasn’t good enough.”
“We didn’t arrive here in the best moment with everyone in their best condition. For 90 per cent of them it was their first semi-final and we have to learn. The only way [to qualify for Europe] is through the Premier League so we know what we have ahead of us.”