Unai Emery's defensive master-class helped Villarreal to hold Arsenal to a goalless draw at the Emirates on Thursday.
Villarreal displayed a defensive masterclass to hold Arsenal to a goalless draw in the Europa League semi-final second leg. Unai Emery’s side denied any clear opening to the home side. The closest Arsenal got to scoring was through Aubameyang, who hit the post twice. Villarreal is through to their maiden Europa League final. Mikel Arteta’s side is languishing at the 9th spot in the Premier League and winning the Europa League was their only realistic chance of playing in the Champions League next season.
Villarreal started the game on the front foot. Samuel Chukwueze forced a diving save from Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno with a left-footed long ranger in the 4th minute. Arsenal’s first real chance came in the 25th minute. Aubameyang’s first-time volley with the outside of his right foot from inside the penalty box stuck the post and went out. The Gabon striker hit the woodwork again in the later stage of the game. Hector Bellerin’s cross from the right flank found Aubameyang inside the penalty box. He rose high to head the ball down, only to hit the post and Raul Albiol cleared it.
Former Arsenal boss Unai Emery’s side were like a well oiled machine. They denied the Arsenal attackers time and space and were not afraid to put in strong challenges. The Spanish side’s only concern after the match would be the fitness of Chukwueze, who was substituted in the first half following an injury. Former Arsenal midfielder Coquelin was solid in front of the defence. The Frenchman was calm and composed with the ball and strong in the aerial duels.
Aubameyang, who was coming after recovering from Malaria, couldn’t complete the 90 minutes. He was substituted when Arsenal were desperate for a goal. Left-back Xhaka’s injury during the warm-up was also a blow to the home side who desperately wanted to overturn a 2-1 deficit from the first leg. The loss has all but ended Arsenal’s dreams of a European spot. The Gunners won’t be taking part in the Europa League/Champions League for the first time in almost 25 years.
Unai Emery was sacked as Arsenal manager in November 2019 and took charge of Villarreal after that. The Spanish coach has won three consecutive Europa League titles with Sevilla between 2014 and 2016. He will be up against Solskjaer’s Manchester United on May 26th in his quest to win the fourth title.