As you might expect, there was a distinct lack of sentiment as Atletico Madrid put paid to Arsene Wenger’s Europa League curtain call with a slim second-leg victory.
Things got off to a familiar start for the visitors when, with less than 10 minutes gone, Laurent Koscielny collapsed in agony at a crucial point in a big game.
The French centre-back was later confirmed to have torn his Achilles, thus ruling him out of the World Cup and the four or five months beyond. Surely, given his recent track record, it must be time to think about putting Kos out to pasture?
Still, Arsenal battled on, holding their ground while routinely finding their attacking play diffused by Atletico’s brilliantly marshalled defence, personified by yet another rock solid, dominating shift from Diego Godin.
Indeed, on a night when their opponents mustered just one single attempt on target, all it took was a single goal from Diego Costa – so often the scourge of the Gunners’ back four during his Chelsea days – to secured the aggregate win for Atleti.
After a long punt upfield from goalkeeper Jan Oblak, one incisive through-ball from Antoine Griezmann was enough to scatter the Arsenal defence, with Costa muscling out Hector Bellerin to deliver the killer blow mere seconds before half-time…
And that, by and large, was that.
Arsenal enjoyed brief moments of coherent possession and even spent large swathes of time camped on the edge of Atleti’s box, but an infuriating combination of avoidable errors, aimless crossing, poor anticipation and over-complicated approach play ensured it all ended some way short of breaking the hosts down.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.
There were a couple of plus points for Arsenal: Callum Chambers played really well after coming on for the crocked Koscielny and Mesut Ozil buzzed briefly in the second half, sending a few inviting passes across the edge of the six-yard box.
But, overall, it transpired to be another in a long succession of ‘nearly’ nights for the Gunners, who in all honesty never looked like they were confident of overcoming Diego Simeone’s battle-hardened party-poopers.
Now, instead of a glorious swansong in the Europa League final in Lyon on 16th May, Wenger’s grand 22-year odyssey will end three days prior with a dead-rubber in Huddersfield.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) May 3, 2018
Such is football; such is life.