By Rob Kelly
Our hopes of securing a top-seven finish in the Premier League are over after we were beaten on a night to forget at Villa Park.
Mikel Arteta had spoken of having no room for error if we were to secure Europa League next season football through our league position, but we came away empty handed from this game after a sluggish display,
Coming so soon after what had been a physically and mentally exhausting Emirates FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City, some fatigue was to be expected as the game got off to a low-key start.
Mikel Arteta has instilled a combative, aggressive edge to his side since his arrival back in December but there was little of it on show in the first half here.
We dominated possession but could not work any openings of note, and with 25 minutes on the clock we were made to pay when Trezeguet met a corner at the far post and smashed in the opener for the home side.
We struggled to mount much of a response before the interval, but Arteta sent on Granit Xhaka for the start of the second half as we sought to add more control and composure.
Bukayo Saka soon flashed a half chance over the bar, before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw a shot blocked from close range as we stepped things up.
But it was the hosts who had biggest opportunity to add to the scoreline when Jack Grealish released Keinan Davis in the area, but he rolled his shot wide of the far post.
Moments later, Eddie Nketiah met Nicolas Pepe’s corner and glanced a header on to the post and back into the arms of Pepe Reina.
John McGinn then stung the hands of Emi Martinez as the game opened up in the closing stages, but there was no way through and we were left empty-handed on a frustrating night in the Midlands.
HOW IT HAPPENED
WHAT IT MEANS
The Premier League season reaches a conclusion many had not thought possible this Sunday when we welcome Watford to Emirates Stadium. After that, we have the Heads Up FA Cup final to look forward to on August 1, when we cross London to face Chelsea at Wembley Stadium.
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