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‘We are devastated’ – Arteta Laments Xhaka Injury As Arsenal Crash Out Of Europa League At The Hands Of Villarreal

Mikel Arteta

Mikel Arteta was left lamenting Granit Xhaka’s pre-match injury after Arsenal crashed out of the Europa League at the hands of Villarreal, and said the whole squad are “devastated” by the final result.

Villarreal followed up their 2-1 victory over the Gunners at El Madrigal by earning a 0-0 draw at Emirates Stadium on Thursday night to win the semi-final tie and book their place in the showpiece event against Manchester United.

Arteta felt his side deserved to emerge with a victory in the second leg, but also conceded that his game plan went out of the window after Xhaka was truck down with an injury in the warm-up.

“We are devastated. Really disappointed. We have to congratulate Villarreal,” the Arsenal boss told BT Sport . “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.”

Pressed on the significance of losing Xhaka shortly before kick-off, Arteta added: “It changed our plan completely. We prepared everything with Granit in that position.

“In the first half we struggled with the ball but it’s not an excuse. Too many important players had to define the game but not in their right moments.

“I think we were very imprecise with the ball. We were probably a bit tense. We were much more dominant in the second half.”

Unai Emery will now take a team to the Europa League final for the fifth time in his career, having previously won the competition three times with Sevilla and guided Arsenal to the showpiece in 2019.

The Spaniard was sacked by the Gunners later that year, but has managed to get one over on the man who succeeded him, with the north London outfit now in danger of dropping out of European competition altogether for the first time in 25 years under Arteta.

Arsenal had their chances to seal the 1-0 they needed to reach the final, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hitting the post twice and Nicolas Pepe and Emile Smith Rowe both going close in the second half.

However, Arteta’s men were ultimately unable to find a way through Villarreal’s stubborn rearguard, which he believes was partly down to a lack of match fitness within his squad.

“The way we started in Villarreal wasn’t good enough,” he said. “We didn’t arrive here in the best moment with everyone in their best condition. For 90% 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. Today is a big disappointment because we tried everything.”

 

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