Granit Xhaka was damningly hesistant when asked if Arsenal have made progress this season under Unai Emery after a calamitous collapse saw the team ship four goals in a dismal second half on their way to defeat in the Europa League final against Chelsea.
Arsenal and Chelsea were goalless at half-time but Maurizio Sarri’s side struck three times in 16 minutes early in the second half to take the game away from Arsenal and crush their dreams of Champions League qualification.
Arsenal, who finished fifth in the Premier League, must now spend a third consecutive season in the Europa League and Xhaka revealed that manager Unai Emery said ‘nothing’ to his players in a stunned dressing room afterwards.
Granit Xhaka has given a ruthless verdict of Arsenal after their Europa League final defeat
Xhaka said: ‘He is disappointed of course. Him, the players, nobody speaks in the dressing room.
‘We opened the game too fast in the second half. I think we have Chelsea over 60, 70 minutes, good in our hands. We have chances as well but we make too many mistakes.
‘After the Premier League, we had a second chance to come back and go to the Champions League but if you don’t take your chances, you will stay in the Europa League. Today was a big chance for us, we didn’t take it.’
At the final whistle, Emery shook hands with his counterpart Sarri but appeared shell-shocked by his side’s implosion. He stood rooted to one spot in his dugout for close to 10 minutes and his players sank to their haunches on the field.
Curiously, when asked whether Emery had taken the club forwards in his first season in charge since taking over from Arsene Wenger, Xhaka said: ‘I don’t know. I’m not the right person to give you an answer about this.’
Xhaka revealed Unai Emery was speechless in the changing room after the Chelsea defeat
HAS EMERY TAKEN ARSENAL FORWARD THIS SEASON?
Premier League: 6th with 63 points
Europa League: Semi-finals – lost to Atletico Madrid
FA Cup: Third round – lost to Nottingham Forest
League Cup: Runners up – lost to Manchester City in final
Premier League: 5th with 70 points
Europa League: Runners up – lost to Chelsea in final
FA Cup: Fourth round – lost to Manchester United
League Cup: Quarter-finals – lost to Tottenham
An emotional Xhaka described it as one of the most painful nights of his Arsenal career and conceded he cannot bear to watch back a repeat of the game.
‘No,’ he grimaced. ‘It is finished.’
Xhaka also said ‘maybe’ when asked whether he fears his team-mates will he tempted by offers from Champions League clubs.
Questioned as to whether he personally wished to remain, Xhaka was hardly enthusiastic: ‘Me? I have a contract here.’
This latest setback will pose renewed questions of Arsenal’s mentality. Petr Cech, who played his final game in professional football, had criticised Arsenal’s mentality in the lead-up to the game. He argued that the environment at former club Chelsea was more demanding, where the atmosphere would be funereal after losing a game.
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Xhaka insisted the players were hurt by this defeat but sadness rather than confrontation gripped the dressing room. He said: ‘If you smile after this game… We know what we played. We know we lost the game. It is not about shouting. It is not about shouting everything if we lose.
‘We are hungry. Maybe we don’t show each other we are hungry but inside we have a lot of players who are hungry if we lose.’
Arsenal’s week could go from bad to worse on Saturday night as bitter north London rivals Tottenham can lift the Champions League by defeating Liverpool in Madrid.
Xhaka says he will watch the game and admitted Spurs are currently top dogs in north London.
He added: ‘If you see them, they deserve to be in the Champions League Final. It is disappointing for us. It is life. You have to accept it sometimes.’