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Finished in the Champions League

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Villarreal have bowed out of the Champions League on something less than a graceful note, falling 3-0 to Arsenal at the Emirates. While the three-goal differential is a bit deceiving, we were well beaten in the match.

We can look at things a couple of different ways. The first way, which is not the view I take, is that we played very poorly, and deserved to be knocked out. I believe we did play poorly, but at times we were brilliant. The first two goals were well taken by Arsenal, and standing alone were enough to see them through. At the same time, we were not embarrassed on the pitch. We deserved to lose, but I do not think we lost very much respect in the result to anyone who watched the match.

The second way to look at it is that we really got a bit done over on the penalty call, which put us out of the match. As I saw, as you saw, as the entire bar full of Arse fans with me saw (yes, I was the only supporter in yellow), the tackle was perfect and beautiful and a work of art by Godin. He clearly got the ball, and not only that, won what should have been a goal kick, only to be called for the penalty, which put the match away. I really cannot blame Eguren for blowing up at the referee (and, from the looks of it, threatening him and the five generations coming after him), who played, in my view, an admirable match for the minutes he was on the pitch. His first yellow was cheap and played up, and he had every right to be livid with the penalty call. Although it would have been nice to have kept him on the pitch, the match was over as soon as that call was made (despite Lopez's general excellence against penalties).

The third way to look at it is that this loss was a blessing in disguise. Villarreal have gone through a tremendous wave of injuries (and we might have to add Capdevila to that list after the blow he appeared to take in the 90th). We are exhausted, and we are falling out of the Champions League spots because of it. We are not focused on La Liga, and our goal scoring is suffering. Perhaps, with only one competition and eight weeks to focus on, we might just be able to rebound into the Champions League spots for next year. If nothing else, the players should have a bit of a grudge to get rid of after this match.

So, am I disappointed? Yes. But, I think I will take the third approach. Villarreal need to establish themselves as regulars at the Champions level, and having one-off seasons every couple of years, missing qualification, is not the way to do that. Am I ready to move on? Not quite. Ask again tomorrow.