There is something to admire in going out on your shield, with your pride in tact and head held high, but there was absolutely nothing to admire about the way Arsenal sunk without a trace against a poor Villareal side tonight.
With our very season on the line, the Gunners produced a limp display that was entirely unworthy of the club. There was almost nothing about it to like, from the first whistle to the last, it lacked quality, urgency and creativity. 0-0 says it all.
Arsenal were dumped out of the Europa League and deservedly so. To think it was at the hands of Unai Emery, the man who wasn’t good enough to avoid the sack, adds a layer of irony that twists the knife in our guts.
Without doubt, this is the worst season for Arsenal in a generation and the continuation of the steady drip, drip decline that has plagued the club since the move from Highbury to the Emirates.
Tasked with scoring just a single goal against a poor and under-strength Villareal side, the Gunners produced precious few chances of note and managed just a single shot on target in 90 minutes. Consider that in all its dreadful profundity, chasing a goal in a crucial, season-defining tie, Arsenal managed just one shot on target.
Yes, they were unfortunate to hit the woodwork twice and Emile Smith Rowe should almost certainly have scored from eight yards out but, if we’re being honest, it wouldn’t have been deserved. Across the two legs, Arsenal were dour and were frankly luckily to have even been in contention tonight.
I can’t really think of anybody who emerges from this with any credit, nobody who stepped up when needed, nobody who seized this game by the balls and stamped their authority. All we had was fear, caution, and a crippling lack of invention.
This was so far from the football of the Arsene Wenger era, football which became our trademark, that it was unrecognisable. Gone is our verve and fluid attacking magnificence, gone is the excitement, gone is the never-say-die attitude. If this is modern football, I don’t want it.
If the manager keeps his job in the aftermath of this season – and I think it is ‘if’ at this point – then he has got one hell of a task to turn this ship around and probably only a dozen games in which to do it. Any goodwill he had left with the vast majority of the fanbase has withered away to nothing. Patience with his process is spent.
His job tonight was to set this team up to have a go, to motivate his squad to leave it all out their on the pitch – our pitch. Perhaps most worrying of all for him is that he couldn’t do it. In a game of such important to this club’s future, his players responded with timidity and drab, insipid football.
This performance may end up defining his reign.