Only UEFA could wreck the joy of reaching a cup final. Even by their standards, the choice of Baku as the host city for the Europa League final is a clusterf*ck; 6,000 tickets for each club out of a 68,000 capacity stadium is unacceptable even when mid-ranking teams are the finalists but when two of the best-supported clubs in the competition fight their way through? Madness
Avoidable madness as well. According to The Times, the limits were imposed because Baku airport can only handle 15,000 passengers per day. How did the city get picked with those ridiculously low limits? Calls for transparency are likely to go unheeded but the rationale for this lunacy must be made public when the other competing cities were Istanbul and Seville. Not that the ticket allocations would improve…
There’s a submarine hire company in Scotland dusting off their forty-one-year-old prized asset ready to help solve the problems with flights.
Some will argue that Henrikh Mkhitaryan is karma, revenge for Serge Aurier’s visa application being declined by the Home Office on the basis that he was a crim. I’m not sure if he’s still a crim because I cannot be arsed to look it up.
UEFA cannot insist on the Azerbijan government issuing Mkhitaryan with a visa – and there is going to be probably be some horsetrading somewhere along the line – but a very real threat to remove the final and give it to Wembley would surely solve the issue?
As for last night, where to begin? It was a good attacking performance overall, helped by the quick response to Valencia’s early goal. Unsurprisingly, it came from a counter-attack. Our vulnerability is like an American Express card: we never leave home without it.
Nor should we forget to pack Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s toothbrushes. Ever.
Heads You Win
The Frenchman was pivotal, proving the recent vote to name him Player of the Season wasn’t rigged nor the sentiment misplaced. He was a thorn in Valencia’s side all evening from the moment he won a ridiculous header to create the half-chance for Auba’s opener.
At this point, a hat-tip to the Arsenal social media team…
Aubameyang’s finish was superb; a half-chance on the edge of the box, slammed into the neto (chortle). To everyone’s relief, it shut the BT commentary teams squawking up for a while.
The ghosts of Peter Jones and Bryon Butler spin in their graves these days. These were men who thought nothing of sitting on the top deck of a double-decker bus in Eastern Europe before the Iron Curtain rusted and got on with the job. Savage and Darke reminded me of Les Dawson and Roy Barraclough as Cissy and Ada.
I digress. The equaliser relieved the hosts of some of their enthusiasm for the task of retrieving the deficit. To be fair to the defence, we dealt with the questions posed relatively comfortably.
And then scored a second, richly deserved by Lacazette. A nice shuffle in the box to give himself space and a strong finish into the bottom corner of the Neto (Now that’s enough of that. It wasn’t funny first time around – Ed).
Back came Valencia, Gameiro’s second which was bafflingly simple to score as the defence tried to prove they used Right Guard by raising their arms everywhere. They didn’t follow the striker into the net nor did Maitland-Niles keep up with the offside trap.
He made amends ten minutes later when he surged toward the byline to deliver the perfect cross. Auba timed his run perfectly to slide in the third.
I’ll See Your “On A Hat-Trick” and Raise You…
While Darke and Savage growled and grunted about Gameiro being “on a hat-trick”, Aubameyang quietly went about scoring his with a powerful finish into the Neto – you’ll be relieved the goalscoring finished at that point so the crap jokes can stop.
If only we could find partnerships around the rest of the team to match that of the strikers; talk of a title challenge wouldn’t be so fanciful. However, there’s a lot of money involved before we can even begin to think about such things. And let’s face it, Enos would rather that went to the bottom line.
There were quite a few positives, however, from last night for us to build on. That we didn’t crumble when Valencia opened the scoring with the early goal before responding displayed more character than the performances against Wolves, Leicester and Palace combined. It’s not proof we’re improving in that sense, just that there is something there to tap into.
With a few stronger characters in the dressing room, who knows?
Those thoughts are for the summer. Unai Emery praised the team for the wins in Napoli and Valencia in his post-match press conference. We need one more big game from the team when they face Chelsea.