WHAT NEXT FOR ARSENAL AND ARTETA
With Arsenal claiming a precious away goal in the first leg of their Europa League Semi-final with Villarreal, many felt that the balance of the tie had subsequently swung in the Gunners favour and all they then needed, was a single goal at the Emirates on Thursday night.
A classic one-nil to the Arsenal, would be enough to return the North London outfit back to the Europa League final for the second time in three seasons and for those who like a bet or two, this outcome was odds on. However, that single goal never materialised.
Although Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang twice hit the post for the hosts, Villarreal held firm and with Unai Emery getting one over his former employers, the focus now switches to the current man in charge of Arsenal.
That man of course is Mikel Arteta and with the former Manchester City assistant now in something of a tight spot, one wonders if he will still oversee this footballing institution by the start of next season.
Because although the Spaniard may have delivered an F.A. Cup to the Emirates last summer, there is no doubt that this is a club that has gone backwards under his tenure and with no European football next season, Arsenal now find themselves in the wilderness.
Admittedly the blame cannot lie solely with Arteta, as he is seemingly in charge of a club that is operating with diminishing returns and with young players having to carry the slack of more senior professionals, there were always going to be shortcomings on the playing field.
However, the former Arsenal and Everton midfielder will ultimately be considered the fall guy in all of this and with the required rebuild taking far longer to complete than it should, it is always easier to change managerial personnel instead.
Which brings us to the likely end game over the course of the off-season and with owner Stan Kroenke being hit in the pocket due a combination of factors, those being largely two-fold (less Premier League prize money and no European football), this may jolt the American into life.
A scenario, that if it does see Arteta shown the exit door, the question is who would then follow and although Arsenal are still a big club in name – as their attempt to join a European Super League can be pointed to, they are not matching that stature on the field.
At the time when the Arsenal board appointed their current manager, names such as Carlo Ancelotti or Max Allegri were being mooted as in the frame to take over from Unai Emery. Now such a calibre of target could only be considered as wishful thinking.
Ultimately, there will always be someone keen to take on the remit as Arsenal manager, if only because a coach would love the opportunity to wake what is quickly becoming a sleeping giant. The only problem though, is that this giant is in an incredibly large state of slumber.
Therefore, if there is no longer any trust in the process, Arsenal must build a new process and with their ‘Big Six’ rivals edging further into the distance, it may take an incredibly long time before this club is dining at the top table once again.