This is it. Making a Europa League final has been in the back of our minds ever since Unai Emery set pen to paper and became the manager of Villarreal. This is what he was brought in to do. He’s already the only manager in Villarreal history to beat Arsenal in a match, but now he needs a draw or better to ensure he goes to a remarkable fifth Europa League final and first for our club.
This won’t be easy. Dani Ceballos was far and away the worst performer for Arsenal last Thursday and he won’t play in this match at all. Because of their tremendous historic wealth, though, Arsenal have plenty of other options. Over the weekend they beat Newcastle 2-0 with goals from Aubameyang and Elneny, while resting the vast majority of the players who faced us. They will come out full of energy looking to get the goal they need early.
We rested our share of men as well, though we had to bring some of them on to squeak out a much needed result. We will probably have to trust Coquelin to fill in for Capoue and while some have voiced confidence in Francis this week the idea makes me very nervous. I don’t mind him in sort of a box to box/ball winning hybrid role but when he’s been asked to stay at home and play defense this year there have been some really bad moments. We’ll also be without Juan Foyth, who has provided such a wonderful support for Chukwueze in the latter’s recent great run of form.
Were it left up to me, our right flank would be Mario and Gerard, with Paco as the CF. (I know you’re gonna hit me with Bacca comments but frankly Bacca won’t be able to run 90 minutes anyway so you might as well bring him on as a sub.) I would also throw Pino out there on the left side of a 433 and let a player Arsenal probably doesn’t have a ton of tape on cause some havoc.
Screw predictions. I can’t do that this week. Here’s the deal. Any draw, we advance. Lose 1-0? We’re screwed. Lose 2-1? Extra time. Lose by one goal and score two goals or more of our own? We advance. Lose by more than one goal, we’re screwed. That’s it. That’s the deal. Fairly simple as far as European ties go.