There I was, sitting on my computer, all depressed… then BANG… Mikel drops an injury surprise for the ages.
Kieran Tierney > in contention
Auba > in contention
LACA > in contention
What in the damn name of horse placenta wizardry is this?
Now, who knows if any of them start, but someone did send me some information on Kolo that stated he was fit a week after contracting malaria. Auba as a #9? Oof… sexy times at the Hotel Ceramica.
Those three players, regardless of the start, give the Villareal tie a whole new dimension this Thursday.
I caught a bit of all the games at the weekend. It is worth noting that not one club in the semi-finals mustered a win. All played out drossy games. Roma lost to relegation fodder Cagliari. United drew to Leeds United with the title still on. Arsenal lost to Everton. Villareal lost to Barcelona.
I watched some of Unai Emery’s offering at home to Barcelona. It wasn’t great. Clearly, it’s going to be a tougher game than the Slavia Prague one. If we show up like we’ve won, we’ll come away with nothing. That said, we have the quality to win, of that there is no doubt.
Barcelona got in behind them with ease an uncomfortable amount of times in the opening 25 minutes.
Their defence didn’t look particularly organized, they’ve conceded over a goal a game this season, so not really a shock. Villareal’s off the ball work felt very much like it did when Emery was at Arsenal.
The two goals they conceded had a soft, warm, comfort I was familiar with. Goal #1 was a long ball over the top, Griezmann a sublime chip to finish. The second was an Arsenal special, a poor defensive back pass that slipped in Griezmann for #2.
We’ll cause problems with our movement. Ideally, we’ll go there with pace through our #9. I’d certainly weaponise the pace of Gabriel if it’s on offer. His runs and explosive energy could be bothersome. If we have Auba available, we need to surround him with energy and ideas. Nicolas Pepe would be well suited to a team you can get in behind. So would all the younger forward players we have. We need intelligence in there though, ESR, Saka and Odegaard pulling strings and interchanging positions will be a lot for them to handle. We will absolutely create chances.
Arsenal will have to really think about the way they defend. Villareal have ideas from set-pieces, it’s almost classic English football at times. They created 3-4 really good opps and Chukueze really is a live wire, the sort of player that can create something out of nothing. His pace up against Xhaka would be a very big concern for me. Emery, a man who has very little love for Granit, will no doubt be hoping that’s how we line up.
Our approach has to be about goals, no 0-0s or playing for one goal. Take advantage of the away goals, don’t leave with a result that puts us on the back foot. If we score 3, it’s going to be very tough for them to come back into the game. I don’t think that is beyond us.
What is not beyond this Arsenal side is a dull and lifeless performance with an early error.
I really hope the flat performances in the league are because the players are thinking about making a Cup Final. We need to leave everything on the pitch, Arteta needs to have the players fired up, the fans need something to feel good about.
No one wants to spend the next week wondering if a 1-1 draw is enough.
Unai Emery is a beast in this competition. We all watched him out-think Klopp a few years ago. He let Liverpool explode at them for 60 minutes, then turned on the afterburners when they were knackered.
We are not beyond a beating on Thursday night. There’s something extra on this for Unai. He’s a wounded animal, we need to be fucking sharp.
The press conference gave me a bit of heart. Arteta doesn’t look phased. He’s confident, he was using words like ‘excited’ to describe the atmosphere and he seemed very at ease. Not the look of the man we saw before the Chelsea game.
Hopefully, our players are feeling it. The fact that Tierney, Lacazette and Auba are all in contention tells you this: the players are behind the project. Putting your body on the line when you could easily sit the game out is a real boost as far as I’m concerned.
So let’s do it. Let’s get through this week in good spirits and finish the job next Thursday. We need a big effort from minute one to whenever the game finishes out. We are good enough, let’s see that convert on the pitch.
Finally, Daniel Ek spoke to biz news about his desire to buy Arsenal. I’d love to think he had a chance, but the main question he can’t answer is ‘how do you make non-sellers sell’ and there’s not a view on it. Publicly gunning for KSE doesn’t feel like a strategy married to who they are as people. But hey, who knows, I’m not a billionaire, so I’ll leave it ot them.
Not sure ‘thoughtful offer’ is going to move KSE. pic.twitter.com/ughHQX7JN0
— Le Grove (@LeGrove) April 28, 2021
Right, listen to my podcast then get in the comments.