To lose 2-1 on aggregate against Atletico Madrid is not a disgrace.
Whilst they struggled in the Champions League this season, finishing 3rd in their group, they currently sit 2nd La Liga, above Real Madrid. They are one of the top 10 sides in Europe.
The tie was not lost yesterday.
Atletico Madrid are unbeaten at home in the league this year, conceding just 4 goals. They have not conceded a home goal since 21st January against Girona. Coming away from the Wanda Metropolitano was always going to be tough.
Diego Simeone has got his side well disciplined and organised. Whilst I would still not take him at Arsenal, in the last 7 years has to be praised. You do wonder, however, if he could repeat the act elsewhere.
To play his way, you need players with a certain skill set. Disciplined, tough, and buying into his methodology. There are not too many of those players in world football. Over 7 years at Atletico, the likes of Diego Godín, Juanfran, Filipe Luís, Gabi, Koke and Saúl Ñíguez have pretty much been ever presents. They have built their careers around the Simeone way of playing.
You have to question as to whether Simeone could come into an Arsenal, PSG, Bayern Munich, Manchester City or Juventus and get the buy in from the crop of players those clubs have. Or if he is flexible enough to change his style to suit those clubs? I digress.
When the draw took place, Arsenal knew that they would have to head out to Spain with something to defend. Beating Atletico in Madrid would be near impossible to beat if the Spanish side had something to defend.
Arsenal needed to go out their with something, to then draw Atletico out and hit them on the break. Instead, Arsenal went out there behind on away goals.
The tie was lost in Islington.
Down to 10 men after 9 minutes, Arsenal really should have left with a comfortable victory and a clean sheet. 76% possession and 28 shots on target produced just the single goal.
Some might point to Jan Oblak’s performance, but he only really had one hard save to make. The rest were fairly routine. The types of shots you would criticise the keeper if he let them in.
Arsenal were unable to break down the 10 men further, and eventually conceded the equaliser following a Laurent Koscielny error.
It was the story of Koscielny’s career. Kicking the ball into his own face trying to do “too much”. He could have passed the ball back to David Ospina, or smashed the ball out of play. Instead, under pressure, he made an error – the type of one which has plagued his career.
1-1 in the 82nd minute, and the entire complexion of the tie had changed.
You have to wonder if Koscielny will be seen again in an Arsenal shirt.
His long term Achilles problem reared its head last night, as he was forced off after just 12 minutes. It is likely that he is now set to miss the World Cup.
Koscielny turns 33 in September, and with his injury record and mistakes, Arsenal might be tempted to cash in sooner rather than later.
The Frenchman has 2 years left on his contract. That will take him to 35. I would be surprised if he sees out both years. The likelihood is he will have 1 more year providing a cross over between the old guard and the new guard, but I would not bet against a new centre back coming in this summer and the new manager deciding to let him leave.
After so much pressure in the first leg, Arsenal managed just a single shot on target in the second. It was always going to be tough in Madrid, and the side will be left rueing the missed opportunity in London.
The fact just one substitute was used over 2 legs perhaps highlights how fragile the squad is.
Despite so many players having poor games, there were little options on the bench to change things.
Mesut Ozil has taken the brunt of the criticism, but the reality is no one can really hold their heads up high. From Ospina to the centre backs, Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin, through the midfield and up top, no one has performed over the two legs. And you do not beat a side like Atletico Madrid with everyone underperforming so much.
There is not point complaining too much. Arsene Wenger is leaving in 3 games. In 10 days time the new era will begin. Spending energy promoting negativity will only affect yourself. It will not change the club – as changes are already being made. We are out the Europa League and it is another opportunity missed for a trophy.
There are still plenty of positives to be taken from the season. Wenger is going, a new man is coming in, our U23s won the Premier League 2 and our U18s made the FA Youth Cup Final.
Rather than dwell on the past, or become angry with the present, let’s focus on the future.
There is plenty to be excited about.