Arsenal bowed out of the Europa League at the round of 32 stage after Olympiacos beat them on away goals. The Gunners had an away-goal advantage after the 1-0 win in the first leg but they were unable to contain the Greek outfit from scoring at the Emirates Stadium.
Pedro Martins’ side cancelled the Gunners’ advantage with a Pape Abou Cisse headed goal in the 53rd minute and that took the second leg to added extra-time with a 1-1 aggregate score.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang appeared to have bagged the winner for the Gunners with a spectacular goal in the 113th minute but that was not the case with Youssef El-Arabi scoring in the 119th minute to eliminate the Gunners from the competition.
Aubameyang had the opportunity to make it 3-2 on aggregate for the Gunners with virtually the final kick of the game but unfortunately, he missed out on the target much to his own surprise.
The 2-1 win for Olympiacos at the Emirates meant that they were level on aggregate (2-2) and progressed to the last 16 of the European competition on the away-goal rule. The Greek outfit were able to beat the Gunners for the second-straight meeting in north London.
Here are three things we learned:
Arsenal’s defensive woes continue: The Gunners have improved their defensive displays under manager Mikel Arteta but they continue to struggle when it comes to set-piece situations. Cisse was offered with a simple header from a corner to put Olympiacos ahead at the Emirates. Right at the end, El-Arabi was similarly handed with an easy tap-in after David Luiz appeared to leave a cross. Mustafi’s substitution due to injury may have contributed to the disappointing finish, given Sokratis, who replaced him, never looked like challenging El-Arabi after Luiz’s misjudgement.
Shkodran Mustafi’s resurgence: Mustafi has been in good form for the Gunners over the past month and during this period, he has impressed with his aerial dominance and the ability to regularly clear the ball away from danger. Against Olympiacos, he was effective with his tackling and came up with a couple of last-ditch challenges including one to deny the visitors from scoring in the closing seconds of normal time. The German picked up a possible muscle injury for which he was substituted in the 103rd minute but the fans will be hoping that he can make a quick return.
Arsenal’s Champions League hopes lie on the Premier League: The Gunners no longer have the chance of winning the Europa League which would have offered them with a direct route to next season’s Champions League group stage. As such, they need to finish in the top-four of the league to qualify for the elite competition. A top-five finish could also be sufficient, suppose Manchester City are unsuccessful in overturning their two-year European competition ban through a CAS appeal. Arsenal are currently four points behind fifth-placed Manchester United and seven adrift of Chelsea in the fourth spot.