Arsene Wenger admits he is “very, very sad” to be leaving Arsenal on the back of a Europa League semi-final defeat at the hands of Atletico Madrid.
The 68-year-old announced last month he will stand down as Gunners boss at the end of the season, a campaign now set to end in bitter disappointment and with no silverware following a 1-0 defeat at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Diego Costa scored the only goal of the second leg to rubber-stamp Atletico’s progress into the final in Lyon, a 2-1 aggregate scoreline enough to take Diego Simeone’s side through to meet Marseille on May 16.
Instead, Wenger will wave goodbye at the end of his 22-year reign at Huddersfield as the Gunners travel to the John Smith’s Stadium on the final day of the Premier League campaign.
On the eve of the second leg, a game which showed Arsenal’s deficiencies both in attack and at the back, Wenger said winning the Europa League or not would have a big influence on the club – even when he has departed.
But Costa, so often a thorn in the side of Arsenal during his time at Chelsea, tucked away a chance on the stroke of half-time to seal a 1-0 win and safe passage to the final.
Wenger was asked about his own future plans following the defeat but said he could not think about anything past the pain of dropping out of the competition.
“I have to recover first from a huge disappointment tonight,” he said.
“I am very, very sad to leave the club with that exit. I will take some time to recover from that and after I will see what I do with myself in the future.
“For the club it allows some time to think about what to do for next season and there are some good ingredients in our team and they will bounce back, these players have quality and with the right additions in the summer they will compete next year.”
Arsenal will end the season with no silverware and look like finishing sixth in the Premier League – the worst placing of Wenger’s reign.
The Frenchman offered a vehement defence of Mesut Ozil after former Arsenal defender Martin Keown lambasted the German’s performance while working for BT Sport.
“It seems as though he picks and chooses his games. He was on the edge of things today. I bet he doesn’t play again this season. He will have some emotional breakdown and won’t be able to play
at the weekend.
“I don’t know how many illnesses he has had this season but the fella is not kidding me. That is not a proper performance. He isn’t giving everything and there is a lot more under the bonnet.
“He wasn’t fit to wear the shirt for me tonight and I have seen this a lot this season and it needs to be said.”
On a bad night for Arsenal, Wenger also confirmed captain Laurent Koscielny suffered what appears to be a serious Achilles injury which forced him off with just 12 minutes played.
Costa was quick to stop the game having been closest to Koscielny when he went down, with the former Chelsea striker then hitting his fourth goal in seven games against the Gunners.
“Costa came here in order to be important and decisive,” said Simeone.
“We needed an angry striker up front and a team needs that, we work with intensity and we live off the mistake we can force our rivals to make.
“He came to play alongside the other strikers we have and he is very important for us. We want people who know we are very demanding and that we are always going to be pounding on them.”