If this week has taught us anything, it’s that football is unpredictable.
So there we all were, expecting a nerve wracking 90 minutes. Watching as we attempted to stave off unwanted advances from Valencia to pick off our precious two-goal advantage.
It was expected that we were going to have some squirmy moments, where the home team pile forward and go for broke.
Instead, what we had was the return of the Arsenal goal machine. The timely reminder that we have two genuine, bona-fide world-class strikers that give us a chance in any fixture.
Unai Emery never needed reminding, hence both strikers being named in the lineup. Our eleven was a confident mix, and yet the game started exactly how we feared it would before kickoff.
Valencia’s French striker Kevin Gameiro gave the La Liga side the perfect platform for a comeback, as he ended a rapid counter attack to slide in at the far post.
It was what we had feared, and Valencia were primely placed to launch the comeback.
What we got though, was an Arsenal away performance that we have rarely seen in the last two years.
A hat-trick from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and another goal from Alexandre Lacazette saw us ruin Valencia’s plans, and although they scored again, we had enough away goals banked that the home team would have had to score many more in order to peg us back.
What did we learn from this game?
Attack is the best form of defence
The away goal is what we craved. With our away form being far from convincing, we knew that we would concede. That would mean that the only way to get over the line was the crucial away goal. Instead of one, we got four, and the home team were visibly sapped when we hit the net. Aubameyang and Lacazette were giving Valencia nightmares, and they couldn’t cope. Instead of sitting back and attempting to preserve our lead, we went for it – and it paid dividends.
Form is temporary, class is permanent
With Aubameyang and Lacazette in your side, you always have a shout. Both players oozed class in this game, and it was their skills that tipped the scales in our favour. Auba’s first especially, was where Valencia saw all their hard work undone, thanks to a moment of brilliance. Laca’s flick-on reached Auba, who had split the central defence with his run and his finish outside the box flashed into the bottom corner. Varied finishes followed, all with the same result. The strikers made the difference.
Emery got it right
The Spaniard has taken some flak recently, and rightly so. We can heap blame on the players, but they’re not solely responsible. Emery made some calls that were questionable, and we have suffered recently, so he should shoulder some of it. Just like this time, he deserves some credit. He has not only managed to overcome our away shakes to see off both Napoli and Valencia, he decided that Auba and Laca needed to start this game to get an away goal, instead of sitting back. We now have an Europa League final to look forward to, and it’s partly down to Unai in his first season.
We can end the season well
The last month has been grim. We have forgotten exactly what our strongest eleven is capable of, and they showed it in spades in this game. We were resolute at times, our midfield were game for a battle – and our attack went for it both barrels. It made the difference between nearly and actually reaching the final. Now we have the chance to end our season with success. Instead of a sub-par Premier League – or at least on par with expectations – we could be lifting a trophy, and not just any trophy. One that is bigger than any we’ve won in Europe so far. Fingers crossed.
Our next game will be our final Premier League match of the season, against Burnley. We will then contest the Europa League final against Chelsea.