There will be no final European glory for Arsene Wenger.
The Frenchman’s hopes for a fairytale ending to his career as Arsenal manager were dashed by a 1-0 loss to Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday.
The result sent the Spanish club through to the May 16 final against Olympique Marseille by a 2-1 aggregate and followed a pattern that’s become all too familiar for Arsenal fans the past few years.
The Gunners controlled possession on the night, but lacked any real finishing quality and were done in by suspect defending.
It was a case of same old Arsenal.
“I’m like the team, very sad and very disappointed,” Wenger said. “Overall I’m even very frustrated as well.
“When you go out of a competition and give the performances we did over 180 minutes, it’s very difficult to take.”
With their Premier League hopes long gone, Arsenal knew that winning the Europa League was their ticket into next season’s Champions League.
And Wenger’s announcement last month that he would end his 22-year reign at the end of the season gave added incentive to the players, who wanted to give their boss his first European trophy.
But they wasted numerous chances to add to a 1-0 lead against 10 men in last week’s home leg and conceded a late equaliser from a defensive mistake by captain Laurent Koscielny.
That away goal forced Arsenal to score in Spain and while they controlled possession and put themselves into good opportunities, numerous heavy crosses and poor touches in the box produced just one shot on target all night.
“We missed something in the final third because we had plenty of opportunities,” Wenger lamented.
“If you look at the number of chances we created over the two games, the least you can say is that we can be very frustrated.”
After losing Koscielny early to a reported ruptured Achilles tendon, the Gunners were hoping to get to half-time goalless.
But the deathblow was delivered just before the break by old nemesis Diego Costa.
The ex-Chelsea striker muscled his way behind defender Hector Bellerin to take a pass from Antoine Griezmann and coolly lifted a shot over keeper David Ospina, who appeared to go down early.
So now instead of riding off into the sunset with a European final in his native France – the decider will be played in Lyon – Wenger ends his glorious Arsenal tenure with Premier League matches against Burnley, Leicester and Huddersfield.
“We’re all disappointed and sad,” Bellerin said. “It’s very hard for us to take.
“We all tried but it just wasn’t meant to be.
“Everyone is really, really sad for the boss. He’s had an amazing career and we wanted to try our best for him to finish on the top.
“That’s what makes it even more disappointing for us.”