Europa League - Semi-Final - 2nd Leg
ArsenalArsenal0VillarrealVillarreal0

Arsenal 0-0 Villarreal (Agg: 1-2): Gunners' European hopes ended by old boss Emery

By Phil DawkesBBC Sport
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hits the post with a header
Unai Emery came back to haunt Arsenal as his Villarreal side eliminated the team who sacked him in 2019

Arsenal's Europa League hopes were dashed as Villarreal sealed a semi-final victory that will almost certainly end the Gunners' unbroken 25-season run of appearing in European competition.

Trailing 2-1 from the first leg in Spain and knowing that victory in this tournament represented their only realistic route back into the Champions League, Mikel Arteta's side could not find a way past the visitors' stubborn defence.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck the post with a volley but it was a rare moment of threat in a display strangely passive for large parts.

Nicolas Pepe and Emile Smith Rowe both fired efforts wide early in the second half and Aubameyang hit the post again with a downward header later in the game, but such moments were few and far between.

That the defeat came at the hands of former boss Unai Emery will be especially galling for the Gunners. Emery was sacked in November 2019 after 18 months in charge, ultimately leading to the appointment of Arteta.

With Manchester United seeing off Roma in the other semi-final and Chelsea and Manchester City into the Champions League final, Arsenal's loss ruins hopes of a Premier League clean sweep of European competitions this season.

Villarreal will face United in Gdansk's Stadion Miejski on 26 May.

More importantly for the Gunners, though, the result effectively ends their season and their European chances - a big blow to a club that, a little over two weeks ago, was one of 12 prepared to walk away from the Champions League in order to join the proposed European Super League.

Arsenal blow their chance to save the season

Arsenal have been a mainstay in European competition since the 1996-97 season, much of that time spent in the Champions League under Arsene Wenger, with the last four campaigns in the Europa League.

But that run is now over, serving warning that the Gunners are arguably at their lowest point in terms of on-field performance since George Graham was sacked in February 1995.

There were high hopes when Arteta's side beat Liverpool in August's Community Shield, after winning last season's FA Cup, but what has followed has been a model of inconsistency, every forward stride followed by two steps back.

For such a crucial game, they were too nervous and ponderous in the first half, failing to open up a Villarreal side comforted by their first-leg advantage and determined not to be unbalanced.

Young, talented players showed flashes and then faded, while senior individuals, so crucial to guide a side through such situations, failed to step up when needed with the requisite composure and leadership.

Aubameyang did his best but is clearly still hampered by fitness issues following a recent bout of malaria. His withdrawal late on, when a goal was needed to save the team's season, was a clear nod to this.

Similarly, Kieran Tierney was a late addition to the starting XI, with Granit Xhaka picking up an injury in the warm-up, but after a spell out he was clearly not at his dynamic, penetrative best down the left.

Arsenal's first home meeting with Villarreal - a Champions League semi-final 15 years ago - was the final European game at Highbury.

Without some serious summer surgery, Thursday's game against the Spanish side may well be the last continental encounter the Emirates sees for some time.

Emery has the last laugh

Villarreal's boss is the undoubted master of the Europa League.

He won the competition three times on the trot as Sevilla boss between 2014 and 2016 before leading the Gunners themselves to the final in 2019, where they were comprehensively beaten by Chelsea.

This is another triumph for the Spaniard and a sweet one at that, coming at the ground where he was never fully embraced by a crowd fed on a regular diet of success by Wenger and frustrated at the way the Frenchman's regime was allowed to slide from its early heights.

As in the first leg, in which Villarreal were somewhat unfortunate to concede, Emery won the tactical battle against his successor and compatriot Arteta.

They were disciplined, well-drilled, alive to where the danger might come from and willing to battle when they had to.

They had to face some adversity too, with arguably their most dangerous player, Samuel Chukwueze, departing injured in the first half.

But they adapted and continued to compete with a minimum of fuss.

A sweet moment for Emery, but also for Villarreal, who were beaten by Arsenal in the Champions League semi-finals in 2006 and quarter-finals three years later, and now, finally, have their revenge.

Yellow Submarine sets sail for first European final - the stats

  • Villarreal have reached the final of a major European competition for the very first time, having been eliminated from each of their previous four semi-finals - Uefa Cup/Europa League in 2003-04, 2010-11, 2015-16 and Champions League 2005-06.
  • Having progressed from each of their first six semi-finals in major European competition, Arsenal have been eliminated from three of their four appearances at this stage in Europe since (2008-09 Champions League, 2017-18 & 2020-21 Europa League).
  • Since the competition's rebranding in 2009-10, Unai Emery has reached the final of the Europa League on more occasions than any other manager (5 - 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16, 2018-19 & 2020-21) - indeed, the Spaniard has won the competition on three of the previous four occasions he has reached the final.
  • Arsenal have failed to reach the final of a major European/domestic cup competition for the first time since 2015-16 (reaching the 2016-17 FA Cup, 2017-18 League Cup, 2018-19 Europa League & 2019-20 FA Cup finals since).
  • Villarreal remain unbeaten in 14 games in European competition (W12 D2), last suffering defeat in April 2019 (0-2 v Valencia in the Europa League quarter-final 2nd leg).
  • Arsenal have failed to score in 10 home matches within a single season in all competitions for the first time in the club's history.
  • This was Villarreal's first goalless draw in Europe in 21 matches, since a stalemate against Rangers in November 2018.
  • Arsenal have failed to win in three consecutive home matches in Europe (D2 L1) for the first time since September 2003 (a run of six).

Player of the match

MorenoAlberto Moreno

with an average of 7.88

Arsenal

  1. Squad number3Player nameTierney
    Average rating

    4.63

  2. Squad number1Player nameLeno
    Average rating

    4.04

  3. Squad number35Player nameGabriel Martinelli
    Average rating

    3.96

  4. Squad number32Player nameSmith Rowe
    Average rating

    3.94

  5. Squad number14Player nameAubameyang
    Average rating

    3.86

  6. Squad number7Player nameSaka
    Average rating

    3.84

  7. Squad number16Player nameHolding
    Average rating

    3.75

  8. Squad number22Player nameMarí
    Average rating

    3.65

  9. Squad number19Player namePépé
    Average rating

    3.63

  10. Squad number11Player nameØdegaard
    Average rating

    3.55

  11. Squad number2Player nameBellerín
    Average rating

    3.55

  12. Squad number18Player namePartey
    Average rating

    3.47

  13. Squad number9Player nameLacazette
    Average rating

    3.31

  14. Squad number12Player nameWillian
    Average rating

    2.98

  15. Squad number30Player nameNketiah
    Average rating

    2.64

Villarreal

  1. Squad number18Player nameMoreno
    Average rating

    7.88

  2. Squad number11Player nameChukwueze
    Average rating

    7.67

  3. Squad number5Player nameParejo
    Average rating

    7.61

  4. Squad number24Player namePedraza
    Average rating

    7.61

  5. Squad number17Player namePaco Alcácer
    Average rating

    7.61

  6. Squad number3Player nameAlbiol
    Average rating

    7.59

  7. Squad number23Player nameMoi Gómez
    Average rating

    7.59

  8. Squad number4Player nameTorres
    Average rating

    7.56

  9. Squad number19Player nameCoquelin
    Average rating

    7.55

  10. Squad number7Player nameMoreno
    Average rating

    7.54

  11. Squad number14Player nameManu Trigueros
    Average rating

    7.52

  12. Squad number2Player nameMario Gaspar
    Average rating

    7.46

  13. Squad number9Player nameBacca
    Average rating

    7.36

  14. Squad number30Player namePino
    Average rating

    7.35

  15. Squad number13Player nameRulli
    Average rating

    7.32

Line-ups

Arsenal

Formation 4-1-4-1

  • 1Leno
  • 2BellerínSubstituted forNketiahat 90+1'minutesBooked at 90mins
  • 16Holding
  • 22Marí
  • 3TierneySubstituted forWillianat 80'minutes
  • 18Partey
  • 7Saka
  • 11ØdegaardSubstituted forMartinelliat 66'minutes
  • 32Smith Rowe
  • 19Pépé
  • 14AubameyangSubstituted forLacazetteat 79'minutes

Substitutes

  • 6Gabriel
  • 9Lacazette
  • 12Willian
  • 17Cédric Soares
  • 21Chambers
  • 24Nelson
  • 25Elneny
  • 30Nketiah
  • 33Ryan
  • 35Martinelli
  • 53Okonkwo

Villarreal

Formation 4-4-2

  • 13Rulli
  • 2Pérez Martínez
  • 3Albiol
  • 4Torres
  • 24PedrazaSubstituted forMorenoat 90+1'minutes
  • 11ChukwuezeSubstituted forPinoat 30'minutesBooked at 86minsSubstituted forGómez Bardonadoat 90+1'minutes
  • 5Parejo
  • 19Coquelin
  • 14Trigueros Muñoz
  • 7Moreno
  • 17AlcácerSubstituted forBaccaat 72'minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Asenjo
  • 6Funes Mori
  • 9Bacca
  • 12Rabaseda Antolín
  • 15Estupiñán
  • 18Moreno
  • 20Peña
  • 21Costa
  • 23Gómez Bardonado
  • 30Pino
  • 32Baena
  • 34Niño
Referee:
Slavko Vincic

Match Stats

Home TeamArsenalAway TeamVillarreal
Possession
Home56%
Away44%
Shots
Home14
Away8
Shots on Target
Home1
Away3
Corners
Home8
Away5
Fouls
Home13
Away6

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Arsenal 0, Villarreal 0.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Arsenal 0, Villarreal 0.

  3. Post update

    Willian (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  4. Post update

    Foul by Carlos Bacca (Villarreal).

  5. Post update

    Foul by Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal).

  6. Post update

    Mario Gaspar (Villarreal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  7. Booking

    Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  8. Post update

    Foul by Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal).

  9. Post update

    Francis Coquelin (Villarreal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  10. Substitution

    Substitution, Arsenal. Eddie Nketiah replaces Héctor Bellerín.

  11. Substitution

    Substitution, Villarreal. Alberto Moreno replaces Alfonso Pedraza.

  12. Substitution

    Substitution, Villarreal. Moi Gómez replaces Yeremi Pino.

  13. Post update

    Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Francis Coquelin.

  14. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Héctor Bellerín (Arsenal) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Nicolas Pépé.

  15. Post update

    Offside, Arsenal. Héctor Bellerín tries a through ball, but Gabriel Martinelli is caught offside.

  16. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Héctor Bellerín (Arsenal) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Alexandre Lacazette.

  17. Booking

    Yeremi Pino (Villarreal) is shown the yellow card.

  18. Post update

    Foul by Pablo Marí (Arsenal).

  19. Post update

    Yeremi Pino (Villarreal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  20. Post update

    Foul by Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal).

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