That Was an Amazing Comeback, but it Makes You Wonder…

For some reason I failed to rant like crazy following the capitulation at Brighton and thankfully, I’m happy I didn’t because it would probably had been a venomous affair, but with Arsenal frustrating me and other supporters out there, we turned into neutrals to watch the semifinal match between Liverpool and Barcelona. It was certainly an insurmountable task coming back from three goals down, and the fact that they were without Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino made things more difficult.

I’m certainly not going to give the commentary about the game here but after 90 minutes, they achieved the impossible, winning with four unreplied goals, which made me think – would my beloved Arsenal win Barcelona after conceding three goals away?

Sometimes, you gotta tell yourself the truth – Arsenal has devolved to a Europa League outfit at best. I remember when we were so spoiled into believing that finishing in the top four was our birthright but in the past two seasons, things have gotten really bad to the stage where it looked like Thanos snapped his fingers and our top four ambitions faded into space. It’s not like we are asking for too much as fans – just play well enough, as it should give you that edge when playing against perceived weaker opposition. But with Arsenal, it’s the opposite – if we are not wasting chances, we are gifting the opposition the ball to hurt us, or conceding needless penalties or just playing so badly.

Even with the likes of lethal forwards like Alex Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in our ranks, the Gunners continue to struggle to kill off games, or convert clear cut chances. I don’t wanna talk about what’s going on that the back – yes, Brend Leno has been an inspiration since he took over from Petr Cech but he has had his shaky moments which can only help him to improve in the future, but when you have a certain Skhodran Mustafi making calamitous errors with such consistency at the back, it makes you wonder whether Unai Emery doesn’t see these things as well.

I remember when Jurgen Klopp went to the final last season and his goalie from former club, Mainz, had such a shocker, allowing Real Madrid to waltz into their three Champions League in a row, he wasted no time in signing Alisson Becker from Roma, and he, alongside the imperial Virgil van Dijk of course, have contributed massively to Liverpool’s defense. Meanwhile, we continue to struggle with whoever Emery decides to field in his back line. Imagine a player as important as Laurent Koscielny watching as Kasper Schmeichel lofts a punted effort from his box straight to Jamie Vardy, or Stephan Lichtsteiner heading the ball to Jurgen Locadia when a throw in would have been a better option.

The season is over but the Europa League still offers a silver lining ending so we can only wait and hope that the lads don’t mess things up at Mestalla tomorrow.

Sayonara

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Lacazette on Fire as Arsenal Ease Past Valencia

Image result for lacazette goal valencia

In cup competitions like these, domestic league form is thrown out the window and what matters is the performance for 90 minutes on a cold European night. Following the capitulations in the Premier League in recent weeks, Arsenal’s Champions League hopes are on a thin thread following four defeats in their last five League games but with a good aggregate result against Valencia, Unai Emery’s men would be on their way to Baku, Azeibaijan, without Henrikh Mkhitaryan of course, to play the winner between Eintrancht Frankfurt and fellow Premier League rivals, Chelsea.

As expected, Emery went with a strong lineup in what we should consider his favored formation, 3-4-1-2, but it was the visiting side that began brightly with Rodrigo squaring the ball into the Arsenal danger area and it was lofted to Row Z by Ezequiel Garay from just six yards out. The writing was on the wall for the Gunners to step up their game but the fan’s despair turned into anguish when Diakhaby rose ahead of three players, yes, three players to head Rodrigo’s flick home. This wasn’t the best way to start the game but it was just 11 minutes and there was a whole lot of football to be played.

The Gunners found their equalizer when Arsenal’s fantastic attacking duo connected yet again. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang dragged the goalie and defender along before dropping the ball on a platter for his partner, Alexandre Lacazette. The Frenchman guided the ball to an unguarded net and levelled the contest. Lacazette doubled his money when he reacted first to a Granit Xhaka dinked effort to head the ball on the ground. As you’d expect, the bounce confused the goalie and he managed to make a save, but Goal Line Technology came to Arsenal’s rescue and they were ahead. Lacazette actually had two more chances to put the game beyond doubt and I was shocked to see him miss both – the first was a totally missed header from six yards following some good work from Aubameyang and the second was a horrible double miss with just the goalie to beat.

Football can be cruel in situations like this when you don’t take your chances and Kevin Gameiro almost punished the Gunners when he was clean through on goal, but Petr Cech did very well to make a good block. The Gunners ended the game on a high when Sead Kolasinac made one of his marauding runs on the left flank and swung a cross that was sidefooted home by Aubameyang, to give the Gunners some cushion ahead of the crucial second leg at Mestalla.

It’s evident that this 3-4-1-2 formation is Emery’s best, as it clearly brings out the best in Lacazette and Aubameyang, and it should give the manager a good platform for next season to work with. This formation has seen us win some big games this season and it can only work when we have our best players available for selection.

All focus will go to Brighton this weekend, before the business of finishing the contest against Valencia next week Thursday.

Sayonara.

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Valencia Preview and Thoughts on Arsenal’s Top Four Ambitions

Image result for ramsey injury

It’s been like a ghost town here and like Arsenal, blogging consistency has become a problem for me. I really thought it was a North London thing, as those cocking cockerels bottled it in their new stadium against Ajax, but it seems like the shortcomings of the team affects some fans in more ways than one.

Enough about their squabbles, and let’s focus on why we are here – Europa League semis with the only hope of silverware just three games away, if you catch my drift. We were at this same stage in Arsene Wenger’s final season but Atletico Madrid and their annoyingly amazing goalie, Jan Oblak, ensured that we crashed at this hurdle. It was really painful bearing in mind that we didn’t lose in both legs, but that Antoine Griezmann away goal, no thanks to Laurent Koscielny of course, proved to be the nail in our final coffin. We are here again with a seasoned Europa League specialist, Unai Emery, that famously won this competition three times in a row with Sevilla, but if recent form is anything to come by, I wouldn’t raise my hopes so much.

I vividly remember watching us run Manchester United over the park at our own backyard and I thought that we had enough in the tank to secure a top four finish, and even though I was scared about our wretched away form, I still harbored some hope that we could pick up the points required to bring us closer to Champions League football. My dreams don’t look like coming through unless some monumental cock up happens with our west London neighbors, Chelsea. It’s also disheartening to know that the Europa League also offers them a chance at UCL football, just like us, so it’s clearly down to who wants it most.

It hasn’t really boded well for English teams in the Champions League semis with both Tottenham and Liverpool disgraced in their games against Ajax and the mighty Messilona. Arsenal host Valencia tonight with a chance to put themselves in a strong position for the second leg in Mestalla next week.

To team selection, I would expect Petr Cech to play ahead of Bernd Leno, as he’s the usual Europa League goalie, and with Emery getting some success with his 3-4-1-2 setup, I would be surprised to see his best three center backs, Skhodran Mustafi Laurent Koscielny, Skhodran Mustafi Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Skhodran Mustafi Nacho Monreal as the starting back three, flanked by Sead Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles. There will certainly be no Aaron Ramsey for the rest of the season, and he went to Instagram to issue an emotional goodwill message to the fans. Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka will play behind Mesut Ozil, who will provide the ammunition for the deadly striking duo, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Valencia will certainly be no pushovers, but like Arsenal, they are not in good form with back to back losses in La Liga against Atletico Madrid and SD Eibar, dropping to sixth place on the Liga Santander. The Eibar game was quite interesting, as the twelfth placed side ran the show in Mestalla, having more attempted shots and shots on target in the game, earning themselves a good 1-0 win. The Gunners will still need to be careful about the threat Rodrigo and the experienced journeyman, Kevin Gameiro, could pose.

Here’s to a good game of football and more consistency from me (I hope).

Sayonara

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