Arsenal are in Spain getting ready to face Villarreal in the Estadio de la Cerámica stadium. No doubt the press will be licking their lips as Mikel Arteta goes head to head with the man he replaced, Unai Emery. I think much of Emery’s problems in England related to his struggles with the English language. Now of course he’s back in his home country and by all accounts, his team are playing well. Not that long ago, Villarreal were sitting 2nd in La Liga. Now though they’re down to 7th. The best they can realistically finish is probably 5th.
Like Arsenal, winning this competition would be massive. Unai Emery has several Europa Cups in his pocket but they were a few years ago now. For Mikel Arteta, this is his second attempt at taking Arsenal into a Europa final.
Arsenal and Villarreal last met in 2006 for a Champions League semifinal which over the two legs, Arsenal came out on top but that means nothing today. Mikel Arteta and his players are going into this game in poor form but I do think we’ve played a little better away from home than at The Emirates, certainly in this competition. Not only has our form been off, our injury situation hasn’t helped matters in recent weeks. However:
They are all in contention. All of them. Including Aubameyang, Laca and Kieran. They are all in contention for the game. Yes [it is good news].
If Tierney isn’t quite ready and Mikel Arteta has said he won’t risk anyone, I think Cedric will come back in for this one at left back because Samuel Chukwueze would have a field day against Granit Xhaka. Having Lacazette back will make a difference. Surround him with energy and movement and he seems to be at his best. Aubameyang is the conundrum as no team would want to be without a fully fit and performing Aubameyang but this season, he’s looked neither.
I think we are up against one of the best strike partnerships in Spain perhaps. I think they are both in great form at the moment so it will be tough. – Pablo Mari.
Mari is referring to Gerard Moreno and Paco Alcacer but there’s also Samuel Chukwueze to be aware of. Of course it’ll be tough game, this is the semifinal of the Europa Cup so no team left it the competition will be easy.
Barcelona cut Villarreal open with ease at the weekend which to be fair, one would expect but Emery’s defence got caught out by a route one ball through to Griezmann. Barca’s second came as a result of some awful defending. Arsenal need to put their defence under pressure because they’ll cockup. Get at them, behind them and bring a couple of crucial away goals back to The Emirates.
For all the good players Villarreal have, we have our own. Newly crowned young player of the year Bukayo Saka, one of the runners up in Emile Smith Rowe, Thomas Partey, Martin Odegaard, Kieran Tierney, Rob Holding, Pablo Mari, Pepe…. but please, no Willian, not tonight, not when he neither attack’s or defends with any real purpose. Trouble is, he’s experienced and he’s helped Chelsea win in Europe before so you could kind of understand why Mikel Arteta might opt for him.
I think we’re likely to see a similar team to the one which did so well in Prague.
If Tierney is fully fit, he’ll be straight in at left back which I guess would mean Xhaka returning to midfield with Ceballos dropping to the bench. If Lacazette isn’t quite ready to return, Mikel Arteta has Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah and Flo Balogun waiting in the wings. The good thing about Europa is having five substitutes available so if something is not working or someone is not working hard enough for the team, change it.
Come on Arsenal, get to work!
See you in the comments.