Arsenal FC

Mikel Arteta blames injuries to key players for Arsenal's Europa League exit

Ross Jackson
May 6, 2021, 11:00 PM GMT+1
Mikel Arteta has lamented the injuries suffered by his side
Mikel Arteta has lamented the injuries suffered by his side / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Mikel Arteta has pinpointed the loss of some key players to injury as the reason his Arsenal side were unable to overcome Villarreal in the semi-final of the Europa League on Thursday.

The Gunners headed into the second-leg clash knowing a 1-0 win would be enough to take them through to the showpiece event in Gdansk following Nicolas Pepe's away goal last week.

Arteta's side showed very little urgency on the night and other than a couple of half-chances for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang they never really looked like opening the scoring.

Aubameyang has only recently recovered from a spell on the sidelines with malaria, while Granit Xhaka was forced to pull out of the match after picking up an injury in the warm-up, and Arteta claimed such injuries have cost his side a place in the final.

"So many things happened to us, so many players were trying to be able to be competing but weren't available at their best and that was a big disadvantage to us," he told BT Sport.

"We are devastated, we tried everything up until the last minute. I think over two legs we deserved to win the game. We had opportunities but we didn't score, we hit the post twice and they didn't have anything."

Aubameyang had a frustrating night
Aubameyang had a frustrating night / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Arteta was asked if he believed the late enforced change of bringing Kieran Tierney into the starting XI impacted his side's gameplan following Xhaka's late injury, and he was under no doubt that it affected their performance.

"It changed our game plan completely because we prepared everything with Granit in that position," he said. "In the first half we were struggling with the ball. But no excuses, it is what it is, but so many players injured, one with malaria, one out, another one pulling out it's too many important players."

Despite claiming his side were impacted by their injury woes Arteta did concede his side made a number of key errors over the two legs, with set pieces still a cause for concern for the Arsenal boss.

"It's various things, the way we started the game in Villarreal wasn't good enough, set pieces, we concede at set pieces which we've talked about and we didn't arrive here with everyone in top condition to be at our best."

Despite clearly being disappointed at the result, Arteta did add that the club's journey to the semi-final of the Europa League was the first foray into the latter rounds of a competition for many of his young players and that they can learn from the experience.

"We are a really young team, for 90% of us that was the first semi-final for any competition and we need to learn from that," he added.