Chelsea defeated Arsenal 4-1 in the Europa League final in Baku on Wednesday, forcing the Gunners to miss a third consecutive season of Champions League.
The match started out extremely underwhelming. At halftime the scoreline was still 0-0 and both Chelsea and Arsenal fans were probably hoping they wouldn't have to sit through another 45 minutes of boring football. We couldn't even imagine this going into extra time and then an anxiety inducing penalty shootout.
Everything changed when Olivier Giroud slotted one past Petr Cech,the ex-Chelsea goalie, and scored on his old team. This opened the flood gates, and four more goals were scored in the next twenty minutes. After Giroud's goal, Pedro made it 2-0. Chelsea's golden boy, (who is rumoured to be leaving) Eden Hazard, made it 3-0 by scoring on a penalty.
Arsenal was stunned at this point, but Alex Iwobi gave them a flicker of hope by finally getting the ball past Kepa and scoring an absolute stunner. The commentators kept reminding their listeners that comebacks were very common in Europe this season and that we shouldn't count Arsenal out. That was wishful thinking, though, because a few minutes later Hazard silenced Arsenal fans once and for all with Chelsea's fourth and final goal.
Was this what we predicted?
Going into the finals, Arsenal looked like the stronger team. They were more convincing beating Valencia in the semi-finals over the two legs. Chelsea, on the other hand, went into the finals a little less smoothly, beating Eintracht Frankfurt on penalties after not being able to comfortably pull away from them in both legs. In addition to that, Unai Emery, Arsenal's manager, is an expert at winning Europa League. Emery has won the Europa League three times with Sevilla between 2014-2016. He certainly seemed to know what he was doing since Arsenal made it to the finals this year, instead of dropping out in the semi-finals like they did the year before.
History was certainly not on Arsenal's side though, because they haven't won a European trophy in decades. They have never won the Europa League either, only making it to the finals twice. Chelsea had better luck in the past, winning two and never the runners up. In addition to that, Arsenal was missing Henrikh Mkhitaryan, a past Europa league winner, who maybe could have made the difference.
Arsenal looked uninspired, and many of the fans have blamed the coach's tactical choices. This isn't to take away from the fact that Maurizio Sarri made sure Chelsea's defense was solid, and gave Arsenal a lot of trouble. Fans also complained that after the match, the players had to be prompted by Granit Xhaka to thank the fans for spending thousands of pounds and flying many hours to see them, and that is truly a shame. Losing 4-1 in a finals is an embarrassment in itself, but they were outclassed and didn't put up an adequate fight when it called for that.
What does this mean for Arsenal?
Besides disappointing their fans once again, Arsenal had made it clear that they shouldn't be in Champions League. They should have been the hungrier of the two teams, and the more motivated. Chelsea had already qualified for Champions League by simply finishing third in the EPL. Arsenal knew that since they didn't fight hard enough to finish in the top four, Europa League was their only shot to make it in the Champions League. They didn't play with the fight you'd expect from a team that is tired of playing the Europa League for the past couple years. As a result of that, they deserve to stay in Europa League until they've truly earned a spot in Champions League.
The last time Arsenal was in Champions League, Bayern Munich ate them up and spat them out to produce an aggregate score of 10-2. Since then Arsenal sacked their longtime coach Arsene Wenger, sold players like Olivier Giroud (how ironic), and bought players with star quality such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who finished joint top scorer of the Premier League even though Arsenal finished fifth. To add insult to injury, Giroud finished the top scorer of the Europa League, and they probably regret selling him.
Something is up with the mentality at Arsenal FC. They've been falling short of glory, made changes and yet still aren't producing favourable results.