Arsenal face Villarreal in the return leg of the Europa League semi-final on Thursday night and this is a case of progression or breakthrough for the season of the Gunners.
Mikel Arteta is under increasing pressure given the club’s disappointing position in the league, but this competition gives him the opportunity to save the campaign. If the North Londoners have to continue until the end, they will qualify for the Champions League next season.
It really is a “victory or failure” when it comes to the Europa League for Arsenal and Arteta. After losing the first game 2-1, they have a lot of work to do in the rematch at Emirates Stadium. Goals from Manu Trigeros and Raul Albiol saw Unai Emery’s team climb 2-0 in half an hour, but a penalty from the second half by Nicolas Pepe gave the gunners a lifeline.
Here is the lineup that Arteta should choose to enter this defining season.
Bernd Leno (GK) – Arsenal number one had rested over the weekend. Mattie Ryan came in and kept a clean slate in Newcastle, but after keeping the Gunners in the tie when he denied Villarreal a third in the second half with a fine save, Leno must return.
Hector Belerin (RB) – The Spaniard divides his opinion among Arsenal fans and fought to start late, but he was good in St. James’s Park and remains a better option for right back than Calum Chambers.
Rob Holding (CB) – David Louise would probably have started on Thursday if he had gone through the game over the weekend. However, the Brazilian was forced with a muscle injury and so Holding’s place is safe.
Pablo Marie (CB) – Together with Holding, the Spaniard did not cover himself with glory during the first match, but he and the Englishman have a much better understanding than with Gabriel.
Cedric Soares (LB) – In recent weeks, Granit Xhaka has been charged to fill in the left, but the experiment does not work. Cedric is a full-back defender, and although he will play on the wrong side, he will face Samuel Chuquuese, a left-footed player who will naturally enter anyway.
Granite Xhaka (CM) – There is no doubt that he misses Arsenal in the midfield when he is located elsewhere. Danny Chebalos’ suspension must force Arteta to return him to his natural position.
Thomas Parthey (CM) – The Ghanaian has much more freedom when he partners with Xhaka. This means that he can play the role of box to box that he prefers, and so we see something closer to the best than Partheus.
Emil Smith Rowe (AM) – The 20-year-old thrives in position number ten and with Martin Odegaard, who does not seem so sharp in recent games, the product of Arsenal Academy should begin.
Nicolas Pepe (RW) – His form has improved significantly in recent months and he has proven to be a more powerful goal threat than Bucayo Saka, who is failing in form.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ST) – The mascot of Arsenal returned to the starting eleven at the weekend and scored the second in the team. As Alexander Lacazette is unlikely to be available, Mikel Arteta will rely on his captain to produce the goods.
Gabriel Martinelli (LW) – Every time he is elected, he performs – it’s that simple. He sets the tone for the press and deserves to start on Thursday night.