Aubameyang Shows His Worth To Send Arsenal to Europa League Final

Online Editorial: Gunners finally triumph in Valencia

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After two painful defeats at the Mestalla Stadium during the peak years of the Wenger era, Arsenal finally achieved a result that meant progression as opposed to elimination against Valencia yesterday. On a balmy Mediterranean evening, an eventful match saw their Spanish opposition breach the Gunners’ defence on two occasions. It would have been enough had they nullified their visitors’ attack. Unfortunately for them, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang had an evening to justify his significant wages, scoring a hat-trick to add to a goal by his strike partner Alexandre Lacazette.

It wasn’t the first time that Unai Emery has brought pain to the club he used to manage at this very stage of the same competition. He was booed by the home fans just before the game began when he appeared on the big screens dotted around the Mestalla. Five years ago in a semi-final second leg at the same stadium, Emery’s Sevilla team were losing 3-2 on aggregate deep into second half injury time. 2-0 up from the first leg, it looked like his former club would progress to the final. Then, up popped Stephane Mbia to head a late consolation goal, one that sent Sevilla through on away goals.

Last night was nowhere near as close. Arsenal’s 4-2 victory meant a 7-3 aggregate win for the Premier League side. Emery picked the strongest team he had available, and barring injuries, it would seem likely that this eleven will be the same one that starts the final in Baku. Mesut Ozil was picked, but his familiarity with the Spanish League meant this wasn’t the same as a wet Wednesday evening up north. Continental referees protect players from getting roughed up more than domestic ones. Nacho Monreal was preferred to Shkodran Mustafi in a five man defence, although the German did get on as a sub to enjoy some playing time on a pitch he was very familiar with. Valencia started with a couple of former Gunners in the shape of Gabriel and Francis Coquelin.

It wasn’t the best of beginnings for Emery’s side, conceding after 11 minutes to lift the home crowd and get them believing. Arsenal were caught on the break with Monreal unable to intercept a ball across the box. Fortunately the visitors responded fairly quickly when a long punt upfield ended up with Aubameyang hitting a first time volley into the net. Phew. It provided a cushion, given Valencia would need to score two more to force extra time. There were opportunities at both ends during the rest of the first half, and moments of sloppiness on both sides. Valencia had more of the play.

1-1 at half-time was respectable enough, and it felt like Arsenal had weathered the storm to an extent by at least not conceding another goal. Things got even better shortly after the re-start when a Valencia mistake allowed their opponents to break and Lacazette to give them a critical second goal. No chance of extra time now, with the Spanish side needing to score four more goals to progress. Even with the defensive lapses we are all too familiar with from the Gunners, it looked a big ask.

Valencia had a go, scrambling an equalizer on the night before the hour. Former Atletico Madrid player Kevin Gameiro scored both of their goals, having started the first leg on the bench. Probably just as well with hindsight. However, Arsenal did a fair job of managing the game from this point on, and a second goal from Aubameyang after good work by Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the right saw streams of the home support head for the exits with over 20 minutes of the match still to play. Emery even felt confident enough to bring on Mustafi for the struggling Kolasinac and shift Monreal over to left wing back.

Aubameyang completed his hat-trick as the 90th minute neared, with a corker of a shot from a tight angle, and that was that. There was a scuffle at full time between Lacazette and Gabriel, which saw both players booked, although such was the degree of the melee involving all substitutes and coaching staff, one feared a red card that might see an Arsenal player suspended for the final.

So it was job done, but the reality is that the quality of Arsenal’s two forwards shone through. It was a competent, if not convincing display defensively. No surprise there. As the travelling fans waited to be released from the stadium, they followed developments at Stamford Bridge, where the game had gone into extra time. Half an hour later, the final visiting fans had been able to exit the Mestalla and local bars were showing the shoot-out after the tie had ended 2-2. As we know, Mauritzio Sarri’s side got through to set up an all-English final in Azerbaijan. An expensive trip and a long depressing journey home for one set of fans.

UEFA, in their wisdom, do not actually have to make a decision on a final venue until the quarter final draw has been made, and can then look logistically at a city that would be most feasible, given the eight potential teams that could reach it. Then you avoid the likes of two English sides meeting in Moscow or two Italian teams facing one another in Manchester. And of course in the Champions League final this season, two sets of English fans will travel to Spain. At least it’s nearer than Moscow or Baku. The allocation is around 6,000 tickets for each of the competing clubs in the Europa final, although I’ve been told that around 27,000 have been sold to locals. You can guess where those tickets are going to end up, assuming of course that more than 6,000 supporters from each side have a grand to shell out on just getting to the host city.

Still, the main thing is that Arsenal made it through. I am confident most Gooners would have preferred to be facing Frankfurt, but in recent seasons, they have played some good matches against Chelsea. This season, they were unfortunate to lose at the Bridge and played well in defeating them 2-0 at the Emirates. So there is cause for optimism, but defensively, they will have to be more on point than they were in the semi-final. Unless of course their forward line are able to bail them out one more time.

Food for thought. Petr Cech will play the final match of his career against the club where he made his reputation and won everything there is to win. Hopeless as he is at penalties, he managed to psyche out his former colleagues in the 2017 Community Shield. Another Arsenal European final decided by spot kicks? They are due to win one of those…


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  1. markymark

    May 12, 2019, 11:33 #113823

    Hi John / Don You’re not wrong. I would add actual supporters are zero on the list of concerns. EUFA is trying to do a FIFA with a mission of spreading football to all nations as part of its football family . All very high minded which of course covers massive Graft and Corruption. Azerbaijan is an Oil rich state used to paying large sums to gain acceptance amongst its more sophisticated western states ( see property ownership in London , Paris , New York ) plus any backhander going. Corruption is one thing, it’s the stink of hypocrisy from characters like Platini and the present mob hat annoys me.

  2. John F

    May 12, 2019, 08:19 #113822

    I really do think UEFA ha not even given supporters a second thought.You can imagine the thought process that went on two years ago when they chose the venue.It would of been "where is an unusual place for us to visit,can we get accommodation for ourselves and wouldn't it be good to promote football in a different country".They would have booked all the best flights and hotels two years ago.

  3. Don Howe

    May 12, 2019, 06:39 #113821

    Ridiculous as it is that Baku is in Europe (it isn’t) for footballing purposes, the essential evil here is exactly what you have just said, flights, tickets and hotel rooms. What our teams SHOULD do is to book Wembley and Cardiff for the same day, 1st June, at 3pm and 5pm. We would split the tickets ie none for UEFA at all. Make the tv rights available to UEFA’s tv partners and tell them to sue for any damage they may have suffered. Result - a great day out for us and Chelsea in Cardiff, and a passable night out at the new Neasden toilet for scousers v spuds. This would require some guts from our clubs, but at some stage the fans and clubs have to throw an elbow. These people are literally taking the Michael and we are not far away from playing in Singapore at 3am.

  4. Don Howe

    May 12, 2019, 06:36 #113820

    Ridiculous as it is that Baku is in Europe (it isn’t) for footballing purposes, the essential evil here is exactly what you have just said, flights, tickets and hotel rooms. What our teams SHOULD do is to book Wembley and Cardiff for the same day, 1st June, at 3pm and 5pm. We would split the tickets ie none for UEFA at all. Make the tv rights available to UEFA’s tv partners and tell them to sue for any damage they may have suffered. Result - a great day out for us and Chelsea in Cardiff, and a passable night out at the new Neasden toilet for scousers v spuds. This would require some guts from our clubs, but at some stage the fans and clubs have to throw an elbow. These people are literally taking the Michael and we are not far away from playing in Singapore at 3am.

  5. John F

    May 11, 2019, 15:01 #113819

    I see UEFA are up to there usual incompetence in issuing an allocation of only 6000 tickets each claiming the limited amount is due to the limited capacity at the airport which would make it hard for them to cope with any more numbers.The question were brown envelopes involved in the decision to pick a far away venue with such poor transport links.To make matters worse a lot of the hotel rooms have been booked up by UEFA and their guests.If you fancy a 24hr trip you can go through Arsenal at for nearly a grand.The peoples game has taken over by parasites who have no interest in the average fan.

  6. Exiled in Pt

    May 10, 2019, 20:38 #113818

    Brady, Wright, DB and Rocky, if he had not suffered the injuries in 90-91, I don't think he would of ever been sold. He had everything and you will not see a better goal than his chip against Man Ure after beating off Webb, Robson, Ince and chipping Schmeichel... Pure class

  7. David1

    May 10, 2019, 18:57 #113817

    Spuds winning the CL? Could be the wake up call the club needs. Don't see it happening -Liverpool too strong.

  8. markymark

    May 10, 2019, 18:31 #113816

    Don Howe - completely agree , we need to concentrate on ourselves. A cup win could be a major lift and despite my reservations can only be viewed as real success. What did our fathers and grandfathers do when Spurs won the double? Did they weep? Let’s look at what we can achieve . We certainly can’t influence Spurs so it’s wasted energy. I had this sudden transformation after watching UTD win the treble despite Bayern missing a hatful of chances. Sometimes it just happens

  9. Don Howe

    May 10, 2019, 16:25 #113815

    I don't care what Spurs do or don't do. You don't win the Champions League by accident and they whacked Man City to get there. Are we doing that? No, and we need to aspire to it. Liverpool are the best team in the League and I hope they win. My favourite Arsenal player is I.E Wright. Dennis Bergkamp is his favourite player and he's no bad judge, but watch Wrighty's 186 goals on youtube. If Dennis was playing, the other side could (as in might) be in trouble. If Wright played then they were in trouble. David Rocastle ALWAYS beat the full back btw.

  10. John F

    May 10, 2019, 15:14 #113814

    My Grandad would be turning in his grave if he could read these comments.Born within the sound of the Bow Bells he couldn't understand London rivalry as in his mind it was London against the rest especially northerners and wanted all London teams to win.I sometimes wish I didn't have that bitterness towards the Spuds but I do so there Grandad.

  11. ArsenalMagna

    May 10, 2019, 15:01 #113813

    Agree with others that the biggest desire has to be Spurs not winning the CL. As much as anything, it would be THE most undeserved win of competition bar Chelsea's anti-football campaign in 2011-12. To be honest, the real final was Barca vs Liverpool as they are the only two really top teams in Europe right now, and even Barca have cracks which Messi and Suarez paper over. Barca destroyed Spurs earlier this season at Wembley (the draw at Camp Nou was only because Barca rested key players);Dortmund are a shadow of the team they were under Klopp; City are overrated, doing well in the EPL because of their squad depth and due to most of the league being poor still (City are generally poor in Europe, which is testament to that argument); Ajax play some great football, but their defence looked so shaky at times and it's difficult to imagine that were Madrid not in crisis with the loss of Ronaldo, they would have failed to sweep Ajax aside. Even with Ronaldo (now getting on of course), Juve don't have enough other players who you would really call 'world class'. So Spurs's run to the final has actually been pretty easy... Up to 2009 or so there seemed to be a lot of top quality players throughout Europe, especially in the early 2000s, but there's since then been much smaller pools of top players, hence the success of Atletico, Dortmund (under Klopp) and even Leicester (!) domestically/in European terms. I might submit an article on this at some point as it doesn't get mentioned enough, and it was a huge reason I gave no weight to those who argued for the paramount importance of spending large sums of money for success.

  12. itsRonagain2

    May 10, 2019, 14:33 #113812

    re the euro finals lets hope the fans on both behave or else UEFA will soon be slapping another 6 year ban on PL clubs. Bad as Heysel was, half of UEFAs motivation in putting a ban on was because english clubs has been dominating Europe for 8-9 yrs by then. That rabble of rogues will be fuming over these finals.

  13. TonyEvans

    May 10, 2019, 14:32 #113811

    Hi again Ron - logic and common sense say Liverpool are far superior to the Spuds - I just wish I could shake off this nagging doubt I have about it! I had a bad feeling the Spuds would get through against Ajax; at 3-0 down though I thought my gut feeling was way out, but once I checked the score again and saw it was 2-2 I just knew what was going to happen. It's bloody annoying as I should be looking forward to the EL final, not worrying about what might happen in a final Arsenal aren't even in! Funny thing gut instincts - not always right but when I was an Arsenal regular I often knew with utter certainty whether we were going to win or lose.

  14. itsRonagain2

    May 10, 2019, 13:36 #113810

    i hear you lads. I just refuse to countenance any notion of the spuds winning the CL. This is a club with a cockeral for an emblem with a miserable 2 titles in its uneventful history and 7- 8 FACs plus a few UEFA Cups. The notion is too mad to contemplate. Footie throws up astonishing things but the spuds with a CL on its website is just not on. Liverpools momentum will roll the spuds over. In truth Ajax should have done.

  15. John F

    May 10, 2019, 13:24 #113809

    Add to that we would also meet them in the super cup final if we both won .

  16. John F

    May 10, 2019, 13:21 #113808

    Perhaps the difference in our league and euro form is due to Dick realising that under this present regime we are never going to compete seriously for the big competition s and we might as well try and win the next step down,as what is the use of finishing top four if Stan doesn't allow investment in the sqaud. We are this leagues Valencia.On the Spud question if the gods of football said one of the other I would go for a Spud loss as I couldn't stand the thought of them having the European cup star added to their shirts and how embarrassing would a parade for the Europa league cup be if they have one for the European cup.I am afraid that the Spuds name is already on that cup .

  17. TonyEvans

    May 10, 2019, 12:34 #113807

    Hi Ron - as you say the Spuds have to lose, never mind what we do. A Spuds CL win would destroy any feelgood factor an Arsenal EL win would bring for me big-time. I hope you're right about Klopp and Liverpool; I can't seem to shake off the horrible feeling that the Spuds name is on the trophy!

  18. itsRonagain2

    May 10, 2019, 12:14 #113806

    Hi Tony i think only the spuds losing is good enough whatever we do. If we both win they ll simply say the CL is far better. Defeat is the only ever acceptable outcome in any game the spuds play for me. Im not too concerned though. I think they've had their final and Klopp merits a win in a big final. The time is now.

  19. TonyEvans

    May 10, 2019, 12:10 #113805

    Two all English finals, one for the Spuds and one for us - it got me thinking as to how I want them to pan out. Top of the pile (obviously) is us winning and the Spuds losing but after that i wasn't so sure - both winning, or both losing? It's a difficult one but the awful thought of the Spuds winning the CL is pushing me to the latter.

  20. itsRonagain2

    May 10, 2019, 11:36 #113804

    1971 - agree totally regarding DB10. Head and shoulders above any other player we ve had in the PL era in my view. Wrighty is dead on!

  21. 1971 Gooner

    May 10, 2019, 10:32 #113803

    They're not quite Bergkamp and Henry, but Auba and Laca can be an extremely effective partnership which should only get better with time, and perhaps better players than we currently have feeding them chances. Speaking of Bergkamp, it's the great man's 50th birthday today. You can argue until the cows come home who was the best ever Arsenal player, but Dennis is my favourite bar none. I'm with Wrighty who said he is the greatest signing Arsenal have made, or will ever make. Happy birthday Dennis!

  22. Don Howe

    May 10, 2019, 09:51 #113802

    Our European performances have been out of all proportion to our general league form, especially of late. I have no idea why that is but thank goodness anyway. Stunning top drawer goals, scored with most of the defence surrounding the scorers. Maitland Niles excellent. I didn't see enough of the game to comment on Ozil. I don't think it much matters. He can doubtless bestir himself for a European Final. We absolutely need to win the final for any number of reasons, money, morale, self belief, confidence in the manager, getting rid of the wenger pussy image. I could go on. Teeth marks on the loo seat come the final but you have to be there to win, and well done to everyone for making it. Hopefully the start of better things to come.

  23. itsRonagain2

    May 10, 2019, 09:40 #113801

    Great show by the boys. i find Keown nauseating but hes right where he says keeping the front 2 is the clubs main imperative and build from there. ( it was excellent i thought when John Hartson told him to shut up and stop interrupting him as he was speaking!). We could beat Chelsea but i have them as slight faves to beat us due to our defensive capabilities or lack of them.

  24. ArsenalMagna

    May 10, 2019, 09:23 #113800

    Amazing performances from Lacazette and Aubameyang. Both their goals and overall contribution to our play were sublime. I hope we don't play Ozil in the final as he was a liability last night - especially in his refusal to track back. It left Torreira and Xhaka unable to help the full backs. It's really no coincidence that most of our best players are big buys who weren't 'Wengerised'. On another note, I was so annoyed at that Frankfurt player who thought it would be a good idea to hit it straight at the keeper for his penalty, but hey, we can still beat Chelsea and it will be even more prestigious an achievement to win it over them. That May/June week is going to be hard-hitting whichever way you look at it. I was thinking: if Spurs lose then it's actually more hilarious for us to see them get so far and fail; if we win the EL and they lose the CL final, it will be among the best weeks we have as Arsenal fans. On the other hand, if they win it and we lose that will be the worst week we could have as Arsenal fans. Hard to know how I'd feel about the other permutations, but I'm sure it would be immense whichever way!!!

  25. GoonerRon

    May 10, 2019, 08:35 #113799

    Thank God this midweek has ended on a high note. A high calibre display overall. Make no mistake, drawing Napoli and Valencia and winning all four matches really is quite special and should give us confidence to go at Chelsea. Aubameyang seems to have found another 5% of urgency in the last few weeks - that little extra ‘something’ makes him an even more effective weapon. And Laca is just a fabulous number 9, still massively underrated if you ask me.

  26. peter wain

    May 10, 2019, 07:38 #113798

    well that's certainly a relief. I thought we would lose but the performance especially of the front two was impressive and we deserved this victory. Now to buy at least one decent quick centre half and get in a full back coach to coach positional play.

  27. markymark

    May 10, 2019, 07:35 #113797

    Well done to anyone who was really positive about our chances in this match . I must admit I wasn’t . I reckon best away performance since the heady days of Fulham away. Obviously a side that is so defensively fragile can never win a title in its present form, but the forward line could. So that’s a challenge for Unai to get the defense coached to a higher level. Chelsea won’t want to roll over but I’m hoping their flight out to a meaningless match in the States then a long trip to Baku already knowing they are Champions league might just blunt them. Very important win for Unai he really needed this. Then again so did all of us.