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Arsenal verdict: Gunners clearly missing something but is the issue the players or manager?

IF the prospect of reaching a European final and keeping the season alive isn’t enough to fire up Arsenal then things are worse than we thought at the Emirates.

Last chance saloon time, everything on the line, the difference between a potential place at the top table or a spell in the wilderness.

But there’s something missing from this crop of Gunners – and what we need to find out is whether it is down to the players or the manager.

Needing one goal to give themselves the upper hand in the tie, Arsenal tossed away the first 45 minutes of the match with hardly a care in the world.

A more uninspiring effort you will struggle to find as Mikel Arteta’s side hardly got out of walking pace with a turgid display right up there among the worst the team’s long suffering fans have seen this season.

Of course there would be no sense going completely gung-ho right from the off and gifting Villarreal an away goal on the counter attack.

But you’d have liked to have seen Arsenal at least have a go and try and unsettle their visitors, a team so fearsome they are languishing down in sixth in LaLiga.

Here, you have to say, the players have some responsibility, for in such a big game they looked scared stiff of trying anything other than the very safest of passes.

All that served to do was give the Spaniards confidence they were a match for Arsenal, when what the Gunners should have been doing is scaring the life out of them.

Saying that, if the manager can’t fire up his players before such a big 90 minutes then there are serious questions to be raised.

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The second half was no better, barring a brief five minutes immediately after the break when Nicolas Pepe and Emile Smith-Rowe both went close.

If anything, Arsenal got worse as the half wore on, and a more clinical opponent than Villarreal would have killed the tie with a quarter of the match left to play.

Over four matches this season, Chelsea have completely outclassed Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid – teams who are 20-odd points better than Unai Emry’s unspectacular side.

That Villarreal looked the better of these two sides over 180 minutes tells you just how far Arsenal are from being a side capable of competing in the Champions League any time soon.

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