The Gunners' shocking exit at the hands of Olympiacos leaves the club in search of a Premier League miracle
Pierre-Emerick stood devastated at full-time.Hector Bellerin headed over to console him, but whatever the Spaniard said clearly wasn’t getting through.Arsenal’s star striker, who has saved his side so many times this season, could only stand and ponder his miss which just seconds earlier had sealed Mikel Arteta’s side shock exit from the Europa League.
As he headed down the tunnel, Arsenal’s best hopes of securing Champions League football again surely went with him.
This was a disastrous night for the Gunners. They were expected to cruise through to the last 16 of the Europa League for a third successive season have started it with a 1-0 lead from the first leg in Athens.
It was Olympiacos and their 5,000 strong travelling support who ended the evening celebrating, however, after a dramatic 120 minutes of football in north London.
The Greek league leaders won 2-1 on the night, with Youssef El-Arabi prodding home with seconds of extra-time remaining to send his side through on away goals.
But it could have all have been so different as, with the Olympiacos fans still celebrating the goal, Aubameyang had a golden chance to save Arsenal once again.
When a loose ball broke for him on the edge of the six-yard box, there seemed only one possible outcome, but somehow he sliced his effort wide and with that, Arsenal’s night was done.
In truth, they got what they deserved. This was undoubtedly their worst performance under Arteta and now they face a real fight to rescue anything from their season.
Unbeaten in 2020, they had been on an upward trajectory under Arteta, but they have come crashing down to earth once again and whether the Spaniard can pick up the pieces remains to be seen.
Arsenal’s head coach made two changes to the side that started against Everton on Sunday, with Alexandre Lacazette and Bukayo Saka coming in for Eddie Nketiah and Sead Kolasinac.
It was arguably Arsenal’s strongest team given current form, but the hosts struggled to find any sort of rhythm during a first half that was littered with mistakes.
Nicolas Pepe was the one bright spot during the opening 20 minutes and Ousseynou Ba was perhaps fortunate to escape with only a yellow card when he brought the winger down on the edge of the box after he had latched onto Lacazette’s through ball.
Arsenal dominated possession for the majority of the first half, but time and time again their attacks broke down due to a poor final ball in and around the penalty area.
Lacazette did have the ball in the net before the break after a slick move involving Granit Xhaka and Saka, but the teenager had strayed offside in the build-up before centring for the France striker.
Aside from one Mady Camara effort which was dragged into the side-netting, Olympiacos had offered little as an attacking threat, but there was still an air of nervousness around the Emirates every time they went forward.
And then, eight minutes after half-time, they got the goal that turned the tie on its head when Cisse headed home unmarked from a corner.
It was awful defending from Arsenal and symbolic of their performance up to the point. They did improve slightly having gone behind, but the improvement was minimal and a better side than Olympiacos would have taken advantage and killed the tie off there and then.
They almost did when Konstantinos Tsimikas let fly from 20 yards having been allowed to run from the halfway line, but Bernd Leno did well to tip the ball over.
Arsenal were still struggling to find any sort of fluency and the one real chance they did create before full-time, Lacazette failed to take advantage when Shkodran Mustafi’s header fell to him at the back post.
The first half of extra-time came and went without incident and the game appeared to be drifting towards penalties, until Aubameyang acrobatically volleyed Arsenal level with seven minutes remaining.
But it wasn’t enough. Leno’s error gifted Olympiacos a corner and when the resulting set-piece was worked into the box, El-Arabi was on hand to break Arsenal hearts.