Arsenal’s journey in the Europa League continues when they take on Villarreal in the first leg of the semifinal. What kind of team can we expect from Mikel Arteta?
The North Londoners are not in the best of from going into this game which will exert more pressure on the players. There will be added drama to this tie given that the Spanish side are managed by former Gunners boss Unai Emery.
A lot of decisions will have to be made regarding the starting eleven. There are a few players who are back in contention so it will be interesting to see what line-up Arteta goes with. Putting in a good performance in the fist leg will go a long way in making the second leg much more comfortable.
Bernd Leno made a costly error last week but will start in goal once again as the London side line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. There isn’t going to be much tweaking done with the defence though both David Luiz and Kieran Tierney are in contention for the game. Hector Bellerin will start as the right back with Granit Xhaka on the left. Rob Holding or Luiz will be given the job of partnering Gabriel in central defence.
The central midfield partnership will remain the same from the Everton game. Thomas Partey and Dani Ceballos will have the important task of helping the visitors set the tempo. Partey will have to be a bit more defensive to prevent the Villarreal midfielders from finding passing lanes, while Ceballos will have to be more proactive in attack with his passing and movement.
As for the three playing ahead of them, it will be Emile Smith-Rowe in a central role. On the wings, it will be the duo of Nicolas Pepe and Bukayo Saka. The number of chances that the Gunners can create will depend a lot on what these three are able to do. If anyone from the trio can click, it puts the Emirates side in a strong position.
Arsenal have been boosted by the news that both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are in contention for the game, but it will be highly risky to rush them back into the side. That would result in a start for Gabriel Martinelli. Given the talent available, the North Londoners should be able to gain an advantage over the tie.
Arsenal Predicted Line-up Against Villarreal (4-2-3-1):
Bernd Leno, Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Gabriel, Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey, Dani Ceballos, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe, Nicolas Pepe, Gabriel Martinelli
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