After Arsenal’s recent draw against Brighton, which ended any realistic hope of champions league qualification place, there was a shot of the Arsenal bench and the disconsolate faces of Lacazette and Aubameyang.
To all intents and purposes, it appeared that they had lost a final or that they’d been heavily thrashed by the opposition. They hadn’t but their faces said it all.
The fans have spoken recently about a lack of passion and pride within the squad, yet you could see in that isolated shot that both took the result badly and it was an image that suggested someone might suffer at some point.
All the doom and gloom over the Emirates over the last three or four weeks suddenly disappeared as Arsenal throttled Valencia in their own back yard.
There was pessimism, mainly because of Arsenal’s string of recent shoddy performances, especially away from home but even when Valencia took the lead, the fans seemed unusually calm.
Cech didn’t even know the French striker was there because he applied the burners late, arriving head, shoulders and hips before Monreal.
6 minutes later a long upfield ball from Cech, met the head of Lacazette who found his strike partner, Aubameyang took a touch and then blistered the ball into the net at the first time of asking. It was a stunning strike and you could feel the air seeping out of the Valencia tyre briefly.
The strike force have been Arsenal’s only saving grace this season and it pulled them out of a difficult position at exactly the right time.
From that moment, Arsenal seemed to find a rhythm that suited them. Lacazette could have added another but he swept the ball onto the post with a snatch attempt at goal.
The danger was still present but the gunners had a cushion just in case the defence collectively decided to switch off for a Marx brothers moment.
Valencia countered but Parejo’s free-kick was off target and Arsenal fans shared a heavy sigh of relief. It continued to be an intriguing contest, with both sides invested in attack but Valencia needed it more.
The second half and Lacazette joined his partner on the score sheet after 59 minutes. Aubameyang raced off down the right as if his pants were on fire. Torreira spotted Lacazette and before you knew it the Frenchman applied a powerful low shot into the Netto.
Okay, it’s the same joke as the first leg but I thought it was worth another outing.
Lacazette had quite a bit to do because he was almost smothered by white shirts but he shielded, turned and off went the ball into the goal, pretty much as usual.
8 minutes later and Gameiro breezed past Kolasinac and Monreal to meet another Rodrigo offering.
It was an ugly goal that followed the striker and clipped his leg, heel and shoulder, baffling Cech in the process and pulling Valencia level, in a game that always had the promise of more goals but who would seize their chance ?
— Spiritman ♫ (@SpiritmanProd_) May 11, 2019
Aubameyang of course. No mask this time after he was almost castrated for his goal celebration earlier this season as the black panther but he met the perfect cross from Maitland-Niles who mugged the left back with some fancy footwork on 69 minutes.
What were we all worried about, everything was looking peachy for a change. None of this dramatic comeback stuff, more of a polite thrashing on the cards, in which Aubameyang applied the finishing touches to his evenings work in the 88th minute.
The Gabonese hit man engaged in the equivalent of football ping pong with Guendouzi, he then stepped over the ball and sprinted off, Mkhitaryan fed it through and it was dispatched like an assassins bullet and with about as much compassion.
— Mirror Football (@MirrorFootball) May 12, 2019
Emery has not lost a knockout tie in the Europa League since 2012. That’s 19 consecutive wins, which is quite remarkable and that’s a figure that sits nicely with his three consecutive trophy wins.
Arsenal now face Chelsea at the Olympic stadium in Baku on May 29th, in another all English affair.
It’s quite amazing that the premiership has hogged the limelight this year in the European competitions but it will help to make the division highly attractive for fickle agents and players with itchy feet.
As for tonight, it was another Lacazette and Aubameyang masterclass of how to attack and finish.
Next season they need more creativity on the flanks and through the middle to help the pair increase their goal haul, with Emery recognising the need to build his team around them