Arsenal failed to make an all-English Europa League final as they were held to a goalless draw at the Emirates that sees Villarreal go through 2-1 on aggregate.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the post in both halves but in truth Arsenal did not create enough to feel too hard done by at missing out on their last chance of Champion’s League qualification.
Villarreal were mostly happy to wait for the Gunners to put them under pressure but created a few chances themselves, particularly when Gerard Moreno made space for himself in the box before directing a tame effort saved comfortably by Bernd Leno.
Frustratingly for Arsenal they came up against a goalkeeper in Geronimo Rulli who looked vulnerable throughout, almost letting in a howler from another Aubameyang effort, but did not put him under enough sustained pressure.
The end of Unai Emery’s time at the Emirates was not mourned by Arsenal fans, but there can be little belief now that Mikel Arteta is their own Pep Guardiola, as was hoped when they appointed the Manchester City assistant 17 months ago.
Over two legs in the semi-final Emery’s tactics were far superior than his successor. Arteta bemoaned the late withdrawal of Granit Xhaka leading to a change of intended set-up but this is unlikely to garner much sympathy amongst supporters.
In a match where Arsenal should have forced Villarreal on the back foot throughout, they rarely made their opponents uncomfortable in defence while the Spanish side was too often unshackled in possession.
After Emery finished in fifth place in his only full season, the Gunners were eighth last year and are currently ninth.
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The FA Cup final win gave Arteta a period of grace but real questions will be asked at the tame way they failed to give themselves full opportunity to win the tie.