Arsenal failed to make an all-English Europa League final as they were held to a goalless draw at the Emirates that sees Villarreal go through 2-1 on aggregate.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the post in both halves but in truth Arsenal did not create enough to feel too hard done by at missing out on their last chance of Champion's League qualification.
Villarreal were mostly happy to wait for the Gunners to put them under pressure but created a few chances themselves, particularly when Gerard Moreno made space for himself in the box before directing a tame effort saved comfortably by Bernd Leno.
Frustratingly for Arsenal they came up against a goalkeeper in Geronimo Rulli who looked vulnerable throughout, almost letting in a howler from another Aubameyang effort, but did not put him under enough sustained pressure.
Talking point – Did Arsenal make the wrong call on Arteta?
The end of Unai Emery’s time at the Emirates was not mourned by Arsenal fans, but there can be little belief now that Mikel Arteta is their own Pep Guardiola, as was hoped when they appointed the Manchester City assistant 17 months ago.
Over two legs in the semi-final Emery’s tactics were far superior than his successor. Arteta bemoaned the late withdrawal of Granit Xhaka leading to a change of intended set-up but this is unlikely to garner much sympathy amongst supporters.
In a match where Arsenal should have forced Villarreal on the back foot throughout, they rarely made their opponents uncomfortable in defence while the Spanish side were too often unshackled in possession.
After Emery finished in fifth place in his only full season, the Gunners were eighth last year and are currently ninth. The FA Cup final win gave Arteta a period of grace but real questions will be asked at the tame way they failed to give themselves full opportunity to win the tie.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - FC Arsenal
Image credit: Imago
MAN OF THE MATCH:
Francis Coquelin (Villarreal)
Emery was not the only man who had a fine return to the Emirates. In truth, in this strangely subdued game, there was no outstanding player on display but the roles of Coquelin and Daniel Parejo in the centre of the midfield were crucial to Villarreal's fortunes.
The midfielder, who spent ten years at the Emirates, hardly wasted a ball ensuring the team moved forward in possession and did not just sit in front of their area. This was especially crucial after the potentially deflating absence of Samuel Chukwueze who was the best player on the pitch before leaving the field on a stretcher with a leg injury.
Coquelin was also a key figure when Arsenal broke forward as shown by his block late on of Hector Bellerin's shot after Nicolas Pepe pulled the ball back for the full back to shoot from just eight yards out.
Villarreal's Spanish midfielder Manuel Trigueros Munoz (R) turns away from Arsenal's Norwegian midfielder Martin Odegaard
Image credit: Getty Images
27' Off the post! Aubameyang on the volley with the outside of this boot hits the outside of the woodwork with the goalkeeper beaten.
39' Almost an absolute howler! Smith-Rowe on the break moved the ball forward quickly before playing in Aubameyang on the left wing and though his shot after cutting in was weak and straight into Rulli's arms, it went through the keeper who gratefully turned round to see it within diving range.
53' Moreno with a fine chance to score on the break but after turning on his left foot could only hit a tame effort that Leno comfortably saved.
79' Aubameyang hits the post again! On the break Bellerin hit a perfect cross to the back post and the Gabon striker heads down at goal but with the keeper beaten it comes back off the post.