Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta admits feeling pressure after Villarreal defeat in Europa League


Mikel Arteta stressed that he is feeling the pressure at Arsenal after his side crashed out of the Europa League with a whimper against Villarreal on Thursday evening. The Gunners went into the match needing a goal to stand any chance of facing Manchester United in this year’s final, but failed to break down the defensive wall of the visitors despite mounting a late push at the Emirates Stadium.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck the woodwork on two separate occasions either side of the interval, but the hosts were unable to prevent the goalless draw that saw Unai Emery’s side earn their shot at European glory later this month in Gdansk.

The result leaves Arsenal facing their first campaign without Champions League or Europa League football in 25 years next season, unless they can use their remaining Premier League games to pull off a miracle and seal an unlikely top-five finish.

The Gunners were unmistakably second-best for the vast majority of Thursday’s match, with Villarreal experiencing little difficulty in holding their own until the half-time whistle.

A second-half onslaught gave Arsenal hope of finding that crucial winner, but the elusive goal never came, leaving Arteta trophyless in his first full campaign at the helm after being humbled by his precedessor on a dark night for the north London club.

The Spaniard is reportedly under pressure ahead of next season, with Arsenal stumbling to their worst Premier League finish since 1995, and Thursday’s latest disappointment will do very little to plead his case.

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Arteta revealed to BT Sport after the final whistle at the Emirates Stadium that he is feeling the heat, explaining that he is always aware of his responsibilities as manager and underlining his desire to succeed in the role.

“I feel the pressure all the time because I want to do as good as I can for the team, and for every support that I had here, and for our fans,” said the Arsenal boss.

“Today is a big disappointment because we tried everything to be in the final.”

Arsenal spurned more than a few opportunities to take control of the tie, with Emile Smith Rowe and Nicolas Pepe joining Aubameyang in going close with a couple of dangerous attempts.

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Arteta also suggested that his side could have taken victory on another day, highlighting the importance of being clinical in the most important moments.

“We are devastated,” he said. “Really disappointed. We have to congratulate Villarreal. 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 Gunners were forced to alter their plans at short notice when Granit Xhaka was injured during the warm-up, with Kieran Tierney drafted in to make his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt since the Premier League win over Newcastle United last month.

The late alteration was blamed by Arteta as a contributing factor in Thursday’s defeat as it disrupted his side’s strategy, but the San Sebastian native added that he was not looking to make any unnecessary excuses for the result.

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“It changed our plan completely,” he said. “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.”

 





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