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May 8, 2021

Arteta feels ‘deep pain’ after Europa League semi-final loss

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May 8, 2021

LONDON: Mikel Arteta admits he feels “deep pain” at missing out on qualifying for the Europa League final – a game the Arsenal boss feels could have been a turning point for the club.

Arsenal were held to a goalless draw by Villarreal at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday night, with former boss Unai Emery’s current side advancing to a final against Manchester United having won the first leg 2-1. The exit leaves the Gunners on the cusp of facing a first season without European football in 25 years as pressure continues to grow on Arteta.

European qualification through the Premier League is all-but impossible given their inconsistent form and Arsenal will now go at least five years without playing in the Champions League. Asked whether he questioned himself following the Villarreal stalemate, Arteta replied: “What I felt last night was a deep pain. The moment the club is in at the moment, with everything it has been through over the last months, I had a feeling that if we could take the team to the final, it could be a great turning point.

“I felt that responsibility and I was so eager to achieve that because I knew it could be a defining moment. Not being able to achieve it, has been really tough personally obviously.

“I know that we have disappointed a lot of people as well, and that really hurts because we want to give the best to everybody but one thing I made clear is that to do what we want to do, I have no doubts that we are going to achieve it. If not, I wouldn’t be sat here.”

As well as their Europa League exit, Arsenal are also on course for their lowest league finish since 1995.

Since finishing as runners-up to shock champions Leicester in 2016, they have two fifth-placed finishes, a sixth place and last season’s eighth-place finish.

This year they look like potentially ending the campaign lower still, with Arteta adamant he understands the frustration of the fans and shares their feelings.

“Again, I repeat myself, last night that ball goes in, we win 1-0. You are in the final and it is a different world. But today that world doesn’t look very nice.”