With their hopes in the Premier League pretty much shot following a 1-1 draw at home to Brighton, Arsenal’s dream of Champions League football next season now rest on how well they can perform in the Europa League. Fortunately for the club, they managed to dominate the first leg of their semi-final against Valencia. Yet despite the impressive 3-1 win, erratic form has raised the question of whether Emery’s men are truly capable of winning the Europa League.
Performance in the Tournament So Far
Of course, the Gunners have made it this far thanks in large to goals from Aubameyang and Lacazette versus the likes of Napoli and Rennes. Concerns then lie more in the defensive structure of the team, with BBC Sport noting how the club conceded a goal only 11 minutes into their match against Valencia. This left the Gunners having to come from behind to win – a situation that echoes the Rennes and BATE Borisov games where Arsenal went into the second legs at a disadvantage. However, bwin Football Betting News anticipates that although Valencia will certainly be up for the fight, Arsenal’s earlier win should be enough on aggregate to see them through. Despite the good odds though, Arsenal might be in for a scary ride at the Mestalla.
An All-English Affair?
In the other semi, Chelsea managed a 1-1 draw in an away game against Eintracht Frankfurt. Given that Chelsea have yet to suffer a defeat in the Europa League this season and are in possession of a crucial away goal, many anticipate that the final could be an all-English affair. In fact, Football London feels the Blues are favourites to go all the way in the competition ahead of Arsenal. Unless Sarri’s men suffer a shocking upset at the hands of Jovic & co., it could be that the match at the Baku Olympic Stadium will be decided between the two London sides.
One Last Hurdle
Of course, Chelsea getting to the final could be the Gunners toughest hurdle to lift the trophy and qualify for the Champions League season. The two teams share a win each from their last meetings in the Premier League and head-to-head, Sarri’s squad have the edge this season with a four-point lead over Arsenal in the Premier League table. Furthermore, the Blues even have the Europa League’s top scorer in Olivier Giroud at their disposal.
Yet the two clubs also share a number of similarities. The Evening Standard explains how both Unai Emery and Maurizio Sarri, are both new at their respective clubs and are under increasing pressure to come away with silverware. Although a meeting at the Europa League final would only be the 4th time the two teams will have met under their new managers, there is no doubt that both will be going in with something to prove.
Although Arsenal are favoured to squeeze past Valencia and into the finals, a resilient Chelsea side offer a very difficult proposition. Hopeful Gooners are, therefore, advised to approach the final stages of the Europa League with a sense of pragmatism.