The usual five talking points ahead of this evening’s game at the Mestalla Stadium
A Two Goal Margin First Leg Is Normally Enough…
Yeah, right. The last two evenings have shown us that even a three goal lead in a tie is no guarantee of progress to a European final. Anyone betting on Barcelona or Ajax would surely have had more luck playing pokies online for real money here. Added to which, Valencia did manage to score an away goal. So Arsenal may be favourites to progress, but this tie is far from dead. The only hope is that Valencia are not on a par with the Gunners. Still, recent domestic form has shown us that lesser teams can beat Unai Emery’s team convincingly. It may well be a nervous evening for Gooners. Anyone out there actually looking forward to the game? Thought not.
The Mestalla Is Not A Happy Hunting Ground For Arsenal
The Gunners played at Valencia’s ground twice under Arsene Wenger, both effectively return legs (although on the second occasion it was actually in the context of a group stage, but the match did decide who went through). Arsenal had better players then, who that were winning titles back home. They lost 1-0 in 2001 and 2-1 in 2003. The crowd could be extremely intimidating. Unai Emery’s side need to focus on silencing them, and give them no reason for excitement, certainly less than a visit to https://www.rivernilecasino.com/ would provide. In other words, a repeat of what they managed in Naples in the previous round would do very nicely.
This is Unai Emery’s competition
It’s strange how, in the midst of a disastrous run of results in the league, Emery’s players have delivered in Europe, with three excellent wins on the trot after the aberration in Rennes (partly explained by the sending off of Sokratis). Who knows why, but after blowing their chances of a top four place by taking one point from the last 12, we can only hope that the form shown against continental opposition continues.
A Crumbling Wreck Of A Stadium
Valencia started building a new stadium – the 'Nou Mestalla' back in 2007. And you thought Tottenham’s new stadium took a long time to construct. They ran out of money halfway through the construction and it remains a shell. The original planned capacity was 80,000 but now plans have changed and it is to be downgraded to 54,000… if it is ever completed. The old Mestalla has had a refit in the dressing room area, but for the fans, I am uncertain anything will have changed for the better. The steep rake of the stands means there are bars to lean on in front of the upper tier seats, but the last two times Arsenal have visited, I vividly recall fearing for worse for wear Gooners trying to negotiate the steep steps in the aisles. It makes for a fantastic view of the pitch, but in the event of an away goal, just try and keep clear of the aisles people. You don’t want to be tumbling down these particular steps.
So Who Is Emery’s Strongest Eleven?
From the fit and available players, we’ll see who the head coach rates most highly, with the exception of goalkeeper where Petr Cech, who will play as it’s a cup game. You’d have to imagine he is going to go for a back five. So presumably AMN, Sokratis, Koscielny and Kolasinac are a shoo-in, with the decision on the third centre back between Mustafi and Monreal. The former is at least more familiar with the venue, although Monreal would have played there enough times as a visiting player. As for holding midfield, Emery invariably picks Xhaka so let’s see who gets the nod between Guendouzi and Torreira, with a slim possibility that all three could start. Up front, will he pick both strikers? With the reality that an away goal could help the side immensely you’d have to say so. And then you have one of Ozil, Mkhitaryan and Iwobi in the mix, should Emery not select all three of his deeper midfielders. On recent form, it’s hard to really favour any of them. In the second leg against Napoli, Emery started the following eleven – Cech – AMN / Sokratis / Koscielny / Monreal / Kolasinac – Torreira / Xhaka – Ramsey – Lacazette / Aubameyang. Take out the injured Ramsey and replace him with Mkhitaryan and that’s my prediction for the eleven this evening. Ozil, Mustafi, Iwobi, Guendouzi, Elneny, Leno and Nketiah on the bench.
Arsenal should have enough to negotiate this match and get a result that will take them to Baku. But should and will are two very different things. They had a shaky opening 15 minutes in the first leg a week ago, but then controlled the game. This evening, they need to stamp their authority from the first minute, try and score a goal in the first half and dissipate any hopes in the opposition players and fans, much as they did against Napoli. This could still be a successful first season for Unai Emery, but his players need to turn up. That isn’t a given. Which Arsenal will we get this evening?
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