What now for Arteta? Arsenal manager in firing line as Villarreal leave season in ruins

Live stream UEFA Europa League on fuboTV: Start with a free 7-day trial!fuboTV
Mikel Arteta ArsenalGetty Images

Match statistics: Arsenal 0-0 Villarreal

What now for Mikel Arteta?

It was all or nothing for Arsenal and their manager against Villarreal on Thursday night and they failed to get the job done.

The Europa League was Arsenal’s only hope for salvation after a horrible season in the Premier League, but now they have been left to lick their wounds after a painful semi-final exit.

Trailing 2-1 after last week’s first leg in Spain, Arteta’s side knew they had to find at least one goal against a Villarreal outfit who sit sixth In La Liga.

But they couldn’t even do that. In keeping with the rest of their season, Arsenal produced an ugly mess of a performance - one that must raise serious questions about the manager.

Villarreal were comfortably the better side over the two legs and deserved to go through to the final, where they will now meet Manchester United in Gdansk.

And Arteta did not do himself any favours in either game, experimenting with his formations in both, with his team looking confused and unsure of themselves as a result.

Arsenal’s manager will have built up a lot of credit in the bank with the club’s hierarchy following last season’s surprise FA Cup success.

Emile Smith Rowe Arsenal GFX
Getty Images

At that point, the young Spaniard looked an inspired choice. He had galvanised a squad that had looked lost under Unai Emery and there was a real belief that Arsenal were going somewhere under him.

But fast forward less than a year and it’s difficult say that any progress has been made.

Yes, there have been big issues on and off the pitch and players who you would expect to perform, like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, have been woefully off-colour for the majority of the campaign, but that shouldn’t absolve Arteta of criticism.

Arsenal finished eighth in the Premier League last season, their lowest finish since 1995, and this season they sit ninth with just four games remaining.

That is simply not good enough and now, barring a miracle in the final weeks of the campaign, they look certain to miss out on European qualification for the first time in a quarter of a century.

The performance in the second leg against Villarreal was a prime example of everything that is wrong at Arsenal at the moment.

There was no quality, no tempo, no invention. It was a team of individuals hoping for some sort of inspiration, but it never came.

There were opportunities, with Aubameyang hitting the woodwork twice and Emile Smith Rowe lobbing one effort just wide, but they were few and far between.

Eddie Nketiah Arsenal GFX
Getty Images

Arsenal went into the game knowing their season was on the line and knowing they had to score at least one goal to go through.

Yet they mustered just two shots on target throughout 90 drab minutes. If there was a plan before kick-off, it was tough to see what it was.

The inquest will be immediate, but it’s unlikely that Arsenal will pull the trigger and decide to move on from Arteta before the start of next season.

His appointment was viewed as part of a long-term project. There was an acceptance that a rebuild was needed and, up to now, he has retained the backing of those above him.

Article continues below

But that backing will be put to the test now. The credit that he had built up with the FA Cup win has long since expired and failure to qualify for Europe will be massively costly in terms of the summer rebuild plans.

This was a season that started full of optimism under Arteta, but now it’s one that has descended into ruins.

Where things go from here, only time will tell.