Ger McCarthy looks at what we learned from Atletico Madrid v Arsenal
So there will be no fairytale ending, no Europa League final lap of honour for Arsenal’s manager of the past 21 seasons. Tonight’s defeat to Atletico Madrid denied Arsene Wenger an opportunity to sign off with a trophy but his final years should not detract from his achievements in North London.
Yes, Wenger stayed on too long as Arsenal manager. Yes, the Frenchman failed to properly invest in the transfer market despite access to ample funds. Yes, the Arsenal manager’s focus on finishing in the top four rather than spending big to challenge for the Premier League ultimately cost the 68-year-old his job.
Yet this is the man that oversaw the complete overhaul of a club both on and off the pitch. This is the man that delivered an undefeated title-winning season. This is the man who took Arsenal to a Champions League final and raised numerous trophies.
Those celebrating Arsene Wenger’s exit may yet be forced to rethink their attitude towards one of the Premier League’s most forward thinking coaches in the coming years .
Whilst at Chelsea, Diego Costa scored six times against Arsenal but thrived on making a nuisance of himself whenever he came up against the North London club. The Spanish international’s return to Atletico has seen the 29-year-old resume his productive partnership up front alongside Antoine Griezmann.
The latter’s pass to release Costa before he raced clear to score with a confident finish suggests Diego Simeone possesses a forward line capable of delivering a European trophy and (more importantly) helping Atletico challenge for the La Liga title.
Costa has his detractors and a temperament that appears constantly on the brink of boiling over. Yet the Los Rojiblancos striker remains one of the most crucial elements of Simeone’s setup and the Argentinean knows how to get the best out of his temperamental striker.
27 minutes had elapsed when Alexandre Lacazette momentarily found himself clear on goal. Arsenal’s top goal scorer’s first touch was poor and an opportunity to test Jan Oblak was lost as Atletico’s defence cleared the danger.
That moment and subsequent second half misses were microcosms of Arsenal’s season. Neat approach work repeatedly failing to translate into goals whilst a porous defence struggled to maintain their concentration, most recently conceding at crucial times to Manchester United and Atletico.
The current first team squad does not lack for quality but the bullish attitude and never say die spirit of previous Arsenal trophy-winning sides remains sadly lacking. Fixing those issues should be the first items on agenda for the club’s incoming manager.