The first leg of Arsenal’s Europa league semi final against Valencia is crucial from every perspective imaginable.
Arsenal have shipped in 9 goals in their three consecutive defeats in the previous games and worse still, their performances have been unimaginative and flat.
Hardly a shot at goal, devoid of any passion, the Gunners are in danger of letting Champions League football slip through their fingers.
This Europa League contest has them paired with a Valencia side that is based on defence. Although, they are sixth in La Liga, they have conceded the third-fewest goals which will give them confidence against a goal shy Arsenal.
The Gunners are also struggling to rotate and maintain shape with a thin squad which has been depleted by injuries to Bellerin, Holding, Welbeck, Ramsey and Monreal.
Koscielny also looks less than impressive at the moment and either seems reluctant or incapable of running. Yet, Arsenal will need his experience to block the inevitable onslaught that may come their way.
Arsenal have lost three in a row in the Premier League, can turn their form around against Valencia tonight in the Europa League? @kdkilbane77 previews the semi-final first leg for us here ???? #ARSVAL pic.twitter.com/mrisILZmMp
— BoyleSports (@BoyleSports) May 2, 2019
How Emery gets the same group of players to respond is a mystery and fans are already bracing themselves for more of the same. If Arsenal are to stand a chance against Valencia, they need to win, keep a clean sheet and shut the opposition down in their own backyard.
However, for a side that has let in 49 goals, only a misguided or drunk optimist would give them a chance on their current form.
Denis Cheryshev, Gonçalo Guedes, Daniel Parejo and Rodrigo Moreno all pose a threat if selected. They will apply pressure from the flanks or through the middle and are not adverse to taking shots from distance.
In their last six matches, Valencia have lost their last two but have won the previous four, scoring 12 and conceding 7.
For Arsenal to win this, they will need to seize control of the midfield and perform solidly at the back, something that is rare these days.
I don’t see both strikers being played up front and prefer the ambition of Lacazette up top but, who is going to provide the chances for him ?
Aubameyang can create from out wide but, the service has been poor from the flanks.
Kolasinac has lost his edge, Monreal has lost his legs and Iwobi is lacking in confidence since being constantly battered by the fans.
Sokratis, Koscielny and Monreal as a back three might give Arsenal a more attacking shape but, Emery may be conscious of the physical limitations of the Frenchman and the Spaniard, preferring a flat four.
Who is there to pull the strings ?
It’s a game that would have been perfect for the injured Aaron Ramsey but, he will never pull on an Arsenal shirt again after a hamstring problem ended his final season at the Emirates.
That leaves Arsenal short in the engine room with just Mkhitaryan and Ozil to create the openings but they have been far and few of late.
Unless, Emery decides in a more experimental lineup which includes Osei-Tutu at right back and Joe Willock in the middle but, that would be a high risk strategy for a semi final.
For some reason, I’m expecting a surprise, not out of desperation but, to inject some desire into a jaded looking team.
Let’s hope we get a good performance from the Gunners against Valencia
Predicted Side Against Valencia :-
Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac;
Torreira, Xhaka, Ozil;
Predicted Score For The Arsenal Vs Valencia Game:
Arsenal 1-0 win against Valencia.