For many his domestic achievements, Wenger will even depart without a European trophy to his name and it remains to be viewed how sitting outside the continent’s premier tournament will affect Arsenal’s quest for a new coach, and players, this summer.
“I’m very sad tonight,” Wenger said. “Unfortunately you have to go during that – the overall game can be quite cruel, sometimes good, but the suffering is very strong tonight.”
More immediately, there is the concerning sight of Laurent Koscielny being carried off on a stretcher in the 12th minute after the defender transpired, with nobody near him, clutching his left Achilles.
“It doesn’t look great, it’s his Achilles,” Wenger said. “You are able to always a cure for a miracle in the scan but if he includes a ruptured Achilles, his chances for the World Cup are non-existent.”
Koscielny’s exit made a difficult task much more burdensome for Arsenal, who were always planning to be against it at the Wanda Metropolitano, where Atletico haven’t lost in the league all season and not conceded an objective since January.
It absolutely was perhaps also telling that Costa’s physicality and Atletico’s defensive rigour ultimately proved decisive, two qualities Wenger’s Arsenal in recent years have so lacked.
“Costa went back here for nights such as this,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “To be important, to lead from the front. This side needs an aggressive striker and that’s precisely what he is.”
Costa was hunting Arsenal’s back four from the outset as he wrestled past Koscielny, knocked over Nacho Monreal before firing wide with only David Ospina to beat.
Koscielny was substituted right after, replaced by Calum Chambers, but Arsenal enjoyed among their utmost spells midway through the half, dominating possession and reducing Atletico to a series of rushed clearances.
– Clinical Costa –
At the trunk, however, they were shaky, as Ospina had balls booted out of his grasp by his teammates on multiple occasion while their passing out of the back was too often careless.
By the end of the half, Atletico had regained the ascendancy and in injury-time, they struck. Granit Xhaka’s weak header put Arsenal on the trunk foot and Antoine Griezmann threaded through to Costa.
He held off Hector Bellerin easily before coolly finishing past Ospina.
Arsenal came again after the interval. Aaron Ramsey bundled his way through but the ball wouldn’t fall for him six yards out while Mesut Ozil flashed too sumptuous deliveries across the facial skin of goal.
Griezmann may have put the tie to bed after Costa had turned Shkodran Mustafi inside out but the defender recovered just in time and energy to block.
A classic Costa performance wouldn’t be complete without a scuffle and he provided it when Mustafi tried too enthusiastically to grab the ball off him for a free-kick.
Both players were booked and when Costa has substituted right after, the striker was presented with a standing ovation.
Arsenal piled forward late on in search of an equaliser but in truth, their night ended without them really creating a clear-cut chance.
When the ultimate whistle blew, Wenger marched lower the tunnel as around him, Atletico’s celebrations began.