After our recent run of three consecutive defeats in the Premier League, our season pretty much hinges on the Europa League, and our Semi Final versus Valencia.
This first leg at The Emirates promises to be a tense affair, and the club is keen to amp up the atmosphere, supplying coloured, bio-degradeable carrier bags for every seat, so when everyone holds them up, a mosaic will be displayed.
Hopefully this will be an inspiring site for Unai Emery’s team, as they will need every ounce of motivation, with confidence at an all-time low.
Defeats to Crystal Palace, Wolves and Leicester, each game conceding three goals, have sunk our men and they are speaking of fighting together in order to keep the season on track, rather than fall off the tracks entirely.
Abject displays filled with sideways passing, a distinct lack of movement and some woeful defending at times conspired to see us fall thrice, but this first leg Vs Valencia is at The Emirates, where our form is not so sketchy.
True, we fell to Crystal Palace at home, but we can normally rely on our performances at The Emirates to be far better than when on our travels.
Well, we better hope that is true, or our opponents could very well put this last chance of silverware out of our grasp before we return to play them at the Mestalla Stadium…
Both Denis Suarez and Aaron Ramsey have both confirmed they have kicked their last ever ball while in Arsenal colours. The Spaniard will return to parent club Barcelona, and Welshman Ramsey will be joining Juventus this summer, and will not be getting the dream farewell his Arsenal career perhaps deserves.
Mesut Ozil missed the defeat to Leicester in the weekend but has returned and should come straight into the side. The same goes for Nacho Monreal, who could form part of a central defensive three.
Player to Watch
The midfielder/attacker was once at Liverpool, but has really come into his own at Valencia. He was there when the club was deeply struggling, and has been instrumental in their recovery. He is their top scorer this season, and will be behind every move that threatens to pierce us. If we intend to stop them scoring an away goal, then we need to snuff this talent out.
How This Could Go
Unai Emery once was Valencia coach and oversaw a very successful period, and will be hoping to start another successful era with Arsenal. He will know how this side operate and no doubt will have shown his players countless videos of how Valencia will set up.
The La Liga side will look to get the all-important away goal, and if they snatch it then the away leg could be even more fraught with peril.
This examination will be an easier task than last season’s opponents Atletico Madrid, but not by much. We will still need to be at our best in order to progress, and any part of our last three games has no room whatsoever if we want to win.
So, how do we manage that?
We keep things tight, but not defensive. We need to boss things, but not constrict ourselves, nor go all-out for attack. A balanced approach, and a sensible one will be the order of the day.
That being said, if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexnadre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil have a good night, we have the potential to put the tie very much in our favour. A quickfire goal or two in the first half will leave Valencia chasing, and a chasing team leaves gaps that we can exploit.
So, do we go for it, knowing our home form is what will most likely see us through if we do manage to make it? Or do we keep a lid on it and try to recreate the professional display we managed in Napoli?
Unai Emery, it’s over to you.
Predicted Team – Cech, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac, Torreira, Xhaka, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 To The Arsenal