Arsenal is very much back to a familiar situation. They must defeat Villarreal by a wide margin at Emirate Stadium to qualify for the Europa final. The first leg had ended in a 2 – 1 victory for the home team. All Villarreal needs to do in Emirate is try and register an away goal and Arsenal might just be out of the Europa Cup.
As a Gunner, this is where I’m somehow afraid because if you go by the performance of the two teams on Thursday night, there is no guarantee that Arsenal has a reserve in her arsenal to advance to the final. For well over 70 minutes of the match, the Arsenal players were on the back foot. The Villarreal players outpaced and outran the Gunners. The game was just like a rehearsal of what they have been practicing all year round. The second goal really looked like an exhibition.
The Arsenal team as a whole did not play well, I can’t call it a complex, Arsenal has nothing to be afraid of playing Villarreal, maybe, it was just a bad day for the boys. Is either the Villarreal players appeared good because Arsenal didn’t come to the party or they are just good, only the second leg will tell. But going by what I saw in that game, Villarreal has some forwards that can cause Arsenal a whole lot of pain. Arsenal must be careful of Samuel Chukwueze, the Nigerian boy. He likes to run with the ball and takes on defenders, the Arsenal coach should do well to study and analyze the Villarreal players individually and collectively and know those he must mark out.
There are certain traits about Villarreal that make them a team that is good enough to play in the final of the Europa cup:
- The players play as a team, they are quick off the mark and didn’t allow Arsenal space.
- They tackled when it was absolutely necessary to do so.
- They also play with high intensity.
Having said all this, I think they will have themselves to blame if Arsenal knocks them out in the second leg in London. When Arsenal was one man down I had expected Villarreal to go for the kill, but they allowed Arsenal a lifeline by conceding a goal. They may forever rue that away goal Arsenal scored in El Madrigal Stadium.
There is still all to fight for by the two teams in the second leg, and it’s gonna be explosive.
Though Arsenal wasn’t playing well and there were just a lot of odds against them, how they remained calm and manage to get that one away goal, even when 2 goals down and one man down speaks volumes about their resilience.
Now, they have a lifeline, their destiny is very much in their hands. If they will stand up like men and fight in the second round is left to them, though I’ve my fears for Arsenal playing at the Emirate Stadium.
They’ve been very poor at the Emirate Stadium this year and I don’t know whether this will be different. I don’t know how physically fit Tierney has become recently and whether he will be involved in the return leg. I can’t blame the coach, I’m quite aware he was missing some first-choice players, but he must realize that nowadays successful teams play much faster and quicker.
I believe that Martin Odegard is doing extra touch in the midfield and therefore slowing down attacks. Ceballos was also very guilty of waywardness and I don’t really know whether he was doing what the coach asked him to do.
For Arsenal to win and win well and qualify for the final, they must invoke the spirit of Arsenal 2004 invincible and be very proud of the shirt they are putting on and fight for every ball from start to finish. An early goal will help Arsenal cause, but if they are scored first, they must not lose their beliefs and fight to come back.
Arteta needs players that play a more direct football, who can run at the defense. I believe that putting Gabriel Martinelli on the bench in the first leg actually counted against the Arsenal team. Has the coach thought of playing Gabriel in the left full-back if Tierney is not available on Thursday to free up Xhanka for the midfield role?
Villarreal is not totally new to Gunners, on Arsenal’s march towards the final of the UEFA Champions League in 2006, Arsenal defeated the Yellow Marines 1 – 0 aggregate, the present crops of Gunners must not break tradition.
To win, we must attack relentlessly from the start for 90 minutes while keeping an eye on Villarreal sleeky attackers.
It isn’t an impossible situation, it could be salvaged. Villarreal is beatable and Arsenal must do it in 90 minutes in the Emirate Stadium.
I’m looking forward to the Arsenal victory on Thursday. Hope it doesn’t all end in tears.
Thanks for your time, have a great day, and stay safe.