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Arsenal announce squad for Villarreal ahead of Europa League clash with a huge boost

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Arteta knows that Thursday’s Europa League semi-final second leg against Villarreal is Arsenal’s most important game of the season so far.

Victory over Unai Emery’s side in north London would almost certainly set up an all-English final with Manchester United, giving the Gunners a chance to secure direct qualification for next season’s Champions League and winning a European trophy in the process.

The first leg didn’t go to plan for Arsenal as the La Liga side dominated early on and took the lead within five minutes. Raul Albiol put the Spaniards 2-0 up before half-time to send a firm message that this was never going to be an easy ride.

Fortunately for Arsenal, Bukayo Saka won a second half penalty which was put away by Nicolas Pepe, to give Arteta’s men a genuine hope of sealing their place in the Gdansk final later this month.

The strongest possible line-up will be fielded for the visit of Emery’s side to Emirates Stadium, but which players are all but guaranteed their place in the starting XI?

Bernd Leno

Despite reports linking the German shot stopper with a move away from the club this summer, Leno has been the undisputed no.1 for a couple of seasons now.

The 29-year-old has made several high-profile errors throughout the campaign, with Mat Ryan starting in the 2-0 win over Newcastle at the weekend.

However, for Arsenal’s biggest game of the season it would be a massive shock to see anyone except Leno between the sticks on Thursday.

Thomas Partey

The Ghanaian midfielder has struggled with injuries in his first season at Arsenal, but has still shown glimpses of the glittering qualities he was renowned for in Spain.

Arteta’s midfield options are further limited with Dani Ceballos suspended for the second leg, so it will come as no surprise to see Partey start alongside Granit Xhaka in midfield against Villarreal.

Kieran Tierney

After returning from injury it remains touch and go whether we’ll see Tierney start in the semi-final.

However, it’s expected that the Scot will manage to train ahead of the game which will at least put him in contention for the game.

Arsenal are crying out for Tierney’s return after being forced to move Xhaka from his natural central midfield position.

 

Granit Xhaka

The Switzerland international is Arteta’s most trusted player, featuring in a multitude of positions and playing almost every game this season.

“It’s a joy to work with him because if you ask him to play as a centre forward, his first reaction is ‘Yeah, yeah, I can do it and I will do my best’,” said Arsenal boss.

He is probably due a rest soon but there’s no doubt that he’ll be involved from the start against Villarreal, although it remains to be seen whether he starts at left-back or in central midfield.

 

Bukayo Saka

Saka is Arsenal’s starboy.

Goals, assists and a constant supply of energy, the England international offers more to the team in an attacking sense than almost every other player.

He is desperate to win the Europa League too, as he mentioned ahead of the first league in Spain.

“It would mean everything, to me, to the fans, to our club and of course it would mean a return back to the Champions League next season.

“It’s every kid’s dream to play in the Champions League & play in the biggest matches of your career.”

 

Nicolas Pepe

Pepe has been this season’s star of the Europa League.

The Ivorian winger has ten goals in the competition this season, is the second highest top goalscorer and only Europa League player to reach double figures for combined goals and assists.

Those are reason enough for him to be one of the first names on the team sheet on Thursday.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

The Arsenal captain has recovered from malaria and returned to goalscoring action in the win over Newcastle.

Despite his critics, Aubameyang has scored 10 goals in 13 games that he’s started in since Christmas and always provides a threat upfront.

With Alexandre Lacazette on the sidelines with a hamstring and doubtful for the game, Aubameyang is almost certainly going to start this one.

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📺 Miquel Azeez is Simply Outstanding, Watch As He Nutmegs 3 Defenders To Score A Goal

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Miquel Azeez Has Been Outstanding For Arsenal Un23 side this season, he continues his great run of form yesterday as score a man of the match goal to hand Arsenal Un23 side a victory in the final game of the season.

📺 Watch The Great Goal…

https://twitter.com/ArsenalAcademy/status/1392523112919486473?s=19

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Arsenal to agree deal with Italian head-coach

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Maurizio Sarri could reportedly be in line for a surprise return to Premier League with either Arsenal or Tottenham.

 

The Italian tactician has been out of work since being given the boot by the Serie A giants Juventus last August – in spite of guiding the Old Lady to their 36th Scudetto.

 

Sarri is understood to be eager to get back in the dugout next term, with Italian journalist Carlo Laudisa stating the 62-year-old could very well return to the English top-flight.

 

During an appearance on Radio Punto Nuovo, the Gazzetta dello Sport journalist said: “Sarri could go to England.

 

“The Tottenham solution being the most plausible, but the Arsenal bench could also become free, as [Mikel] Arteta has missed all the Gunners’ season goals.”

 

Carlo’s claim that Maurizio could return to England comes in spite of reports the veteran coach is against the idea of resuming his career abroad.

 

The former Napoli leader is reportedly concerned about upping sticks during the COVID-19 pandemic in case he is unable to return to his homeland.

 

He enjoyed success during his sole campaign in charge of Chelsea, guiding the Blues to UEFA Europa League glory with a 4-1 win over Arsenal in Baku.

 

If Sarri is indeed open to managing the Gunners, he’ll no doubt be keeping tabs on developments at the club over the coming weeks.

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Video Highlights, Full Match Analysis: Chelsea 0 – 1 Arsenal

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Emile Smith Rowe denied Chelsea the chance to cement their top-four status as he took advantage of Jorginho’s howler to give Arsenal a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues would have all but secured their Champions League qualification with a victory which would have taken them 10 points clear of Liverpool, who have four games left to play, but after making seven changes ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final, struggled to create clear-cut chances.

Kai Havertz should have put them ahead 10 minutes in when he intercepted Gabriel’s loose pass for Pablo Mari and raced clean through, but then fired over Bernd Leno’s bar with only his compatriot to beat. Moments later Jorginho’s equally poor back-pass was kept out by Kepa Arrizabalaga at full stretch, but Smith Rowe was on hand to bundle home after being teed up by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Chelsea were dominant for the large majority of the remaining 75 minutes without forcing Leno into any uncomfortable saves until the final minute. They did beat him through Pulisic’s close-range header from a corner, which was swiftly denied by a VAR review, before the German produced a stunning stop to tip Kurt Zouma’s header onto the crossbar, which was then rattled by Olivier Giroud’s shot on the rebound.

Player Ratings

Chelsea: Kepa (6), James (6), Azpilicueta (6), Silva (6), Zouma (6), Chilwell (5), Jorginho (4), Gilmour (5), Pulisic (5), Mount (6), Havertz (5).

Subs: Hudson-Odoi (6), Giroud (6), Ziyech (5).

Arsenal: Leno (7), Gabriel (6), Mari (7), Holding (6), Tierney (7), Partey (6), Elneny (8), Saka (5), Odegaard (6), Smith Rowe (7), Aubameyang (5).

Subs: Bellerin (6), Lacazette (5), Chambers (6).

Man of the match: Mohamed Elneny

What the managers said…

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel told Sky Sports: “We had three days, we are on a good run, we had a good mood. The choices were not so good today from my side for the line-up so that’s on me. We were unlucky, of course. But we did everything today to lose.

“I’m not happy with my line-up. It’s easy to say afterwards. But it was too many changes, I should not have done it like this. It’s something in particular – but I will not tell you!”

 

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta told Sky Sports: “I don’t know how they’re going to try from the outside but from the inside, nothing is broken.

“They’re going to put things on me that I never said, you can see the spirit of the team from the first minute. You can never doubt their efforts and how much they try.”

Match stats

  1. Arsenal completed their first Premier League double over Chelsea since the 2003-04 season, while this was their first league win at Stamford Bridge since October 2011, ending an eight-game winless run there (D2 L6).
  2. Chelsea suffered only their third defeat in 26 matches in all competitions under Thomas Tuchel (W17 D6), with all three defeats coming at Stamford Bridge.
  3. Arsenal have won three consecutive away Premier League matches without conceding for the first time since May 2013 under Arsène Wenger.
  4. Arsenal have had a different player aged younger than 21 score in each of their last three Premier League matches against Chelsea – Gabriel Martinelli in January 2020, Bukayo Saka in December 2020 and Emile Smith Rowe tonight.

What’s next?

Chelsea are off to Wembley in the FA Cup final on Saturday, where they will face Leicester City; Kick-off at 5.15pm.

Arsenal’s penultimate game of the season is also in London, with a trip to Crystal Palace next Wednesday night; Kick-off at 7pm.

📽️ Watch The Video Highlights:

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