Arsenal’s initial showing at the start of this first leg encounter in the Europa league against Valencia, led many to think that they could be in for another long and painful evening.
Arsenal have a habit of throwing fuel on a fire whilst still in the same room and early on they seemed to abandon any semblance of a game plan to allow Valencia the chance to take control.
The London club was slow out of the traps, it may have been nerves or a lack of confidence after three resounding defeats that shipped 9 goals but the unrest was clear from the first sound of the refs whistle.
I expected surprises in the line up as Emery sought to stop the rot but he went back to an established formula, even if it included Captain Chaos, the unco ordinated, unreliable German, Shkodran Mustafi.
Worse still ‘Elniny’ was on the bench in case Arsenal needed a degree mediocrity during the match. The squad man who seems to feature in sides regardless of quality or merit took his seat and awaited his opportunity to make the fans uncomfortable.
This tie should already be over and Arsenal could have won by a more impressive margin with Lacazette squandering a couple of chances and Aubameyang hoofing a sitter into the evening sky.
For all their frailties in defence, Arsenal are still a threat in attack with lady luck and Petr Cech conspiring to keep Valencia at bay and set up an intriguing second leg in Spain.
Valencia had chances and Arsenal were happy to allow them, with their defensive switch set at ponderous, the gunners had all the problems we expected.
It was all hands to the pump but a corner, helped on by Rodrigo, left Mustafi, Xhaka and Lacazette stranded as Diakhaby rose above all three to give Valencia the lead after 11 minutes.
That lead was nearly extended when Parejo and Guedes both went close but somehow Arsenal were still in touch. The writing appeared to be on the wall but Lacazette had other ideas.
He was focused, energetic and forceful, if anyone was going to score, Lacazette was the first name to come to mind. The reply came with a classic Arsenal move from its two strikers.
Lacazette passed a forward ball to Aubameyang, who pushed on but instead of cutting inside and having a shot, the Gabonese hitman squared the ball for his French partner to thump past Neto.
All square after 18 minutes and there was a growing feeling that Arsenal could capitalise again.
Neto is a goalkeeper by the way, not a Spanish discount supermarket chain but the keeper would be undercut twice more by the pair.
The second came after 25 minutes from a Xhaka cross, which met the head of Lacazette and somehow managed to end up in the back of the Netto. Come on you expected that !
The third was a scorching effort from Aubameyang, who met a Kolasinac cross at the far post from an almost impossible angle, to increase the advantage.
That goal may be the most important but those missed may be even more so, with Arsenal’s appalling away form.
The job was done at the Emirates and although it wasn’t vintage Arsenal and there were lapses at the back, they managed to see off a useful team that had already drawn against Barcelona, beaten Manchester United and will feature in the Copa del Rey final.
This tie is far from over and Arsenal will need to strike early to put this game beyond doubt.
On a negative note, Koscielny looks completely finished and if Holding were available, he wouldn’t even be considered for duty and most likely will not be available later on for the clash against Brighton.
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