Europa League Preview: Can Emery Lead Calmer, Chameleon Arsenal To Victory

Two and a half weeks have passed since a 3 – 1 win at Turf Moor signalled the end of the Premier League season. Two and a half farcical weeks, it must be said. Airport capacity, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the disgraceful lack of accessibility for disabled supporters, not forgetting returned tickets from both finalists and sponsors alike; UEFA, scripted by Brian Rix.

There is no surprise that the organisers and host city sought to make light of these issues. Amy Lawrence arrived in the stadium to find the Iron Curtain creaking in the wind. Nothing will be allowed to interfere with the success of the Europa League final:

Six thousand missing fans? A minor inconvenience when you can order a recording of a cast of angels from Amazon.

I, however, will not knock Azerbaijan football. Without it, Bobby Moore wouldn’t have hoisted the Jules Rimet trophy high into the north London sky in 1966. Russian linesman? Azerbaijan’s top referee at the time.

Fifty-three years on, Baku hosts the 39th game. The time for talking is over and Arsenal face Chelsea with a Champions League place at stake. For us, that is. Chelsea took full advantage of our slack-jawed form during the run-in and finished third. We languished in fifth.

The win at Turf Moor doesn’t resolve our travel sickness. In Europe, however, the further from home we ventured, the better our performances. Can we produce another great away day? One more for the road?

We shouldn’t underestimate the capabilities of Unai Emery’s Arsenal. It’s exasperating but winning in Naples and Valencia, two stadia where better Arsenal sides capitulated? Credit where credit is due to the players and dozen subs at Unai Emery’s disposal. Judging by UEFA’s organisational skills so far, most of the subs will be sitting on upturned buckets.

Let’s Compete AND Win Titles

A big performance is needed tonight, one with “big passion” to use Emery’s favourite phrase. Speaking in El Mundo earlier this week, Emery said he “did not promise titles, I promised to compete” when he was interviewed for the Arsenal job. Arsène, he ventured, “little by little…lost the competitive gene”. Tonight is a chance to rediscover that.

It’s a final we must win for the club as a whole. Wenger’s departure, Gazidis scuttling off with his tail between his legs, followed by Mislintat and a host of players whose contracts expire this summer; things will never be the same again.

Collecting silverware in the first season of Emery’s reign is a bonus. Accompanying that with a top four finish would have been better but that didn’t happen. We’re opening the stage door and looking to sneak into the Champions League door while no-one is looking. And we have the personnel to do that.

The comprehensive victory over Chelsea at the Emirates points the way, the received wisdom goes. However, I don’t expect us to play as if this were a home match; we are far more effective on the counter-attack.

Yet, there were elements of that match worth repeating. The diamond midfield, for example, underpinned the victory by closing down their opponents; ruthlessly. Torreira, Guendouzi and Xhaka must do the same to Kante and Jorginho. No matter the noises about the former’s absence, I expect him to start. Finals have a habit of making players fitter than they are, in both their own and the coach’s eyes.

Crunch Time

We have the firepower to win but the slack-jawed defending to lose it. We’re very slack-jawed. Monreal’s experience will, I think, see him in the XI ahead of Kolasinac. However, the Bosnian started that match back in January and arguably, we’ve seen the worst of him in a back five. Bulldozing your way to the touchline is fine but get some delivery after that.

Emery doesn’t want to give away any clues about his Arsenal:

It depends. I want us to be a chameleon team, able to play in possession, in static attack against close opponents, or to counterattack. For the first, Ozil suits very well, he has the virtue of discovering spaces. For the second, Aubameyang. To the extent that we are able to combine it, we will grow.

Emery On His Arsenal

Noticeably, this is all about attack, not the defence. Has he given up on them until reinforcements arrive this summer or are we in a phase of winning high-scoring games? Sadly, the chameleons we have at the moment are the defenders. One minute they are professional footballers, the next they camouflage themselves as clowns working with Charlie Cairoli.

The key is not to panic, which is a big ask on an occasion when nerves will be frayed to begin with. But as the matches grew in importance in this competition, we rose to the task and then some. Tonight is the culmination of those efforts.

Expecting a win is too much; believing we can and will isn’t. I believe we can and will win if everyone plays to the best of their ability. Chelsea aren’t Manchester City but you’d struggle to believe that with the media coverage.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

The Final Throw of the Dice

And the anticipation. No matter what you think of the Europa League, it’s a European final and for a club of our size, our European record is abysmal. Let’s win tonight and use it as a stepping stone to greater things.

’til Tomorrow.

96 thoughts on “Europa League Preview: Can Emery Lead Calmer, Chameleon Arsenal To Victory

  1. Curious but how much would this win affect our transfer budget for this window?

    In any case looking forward to this. COYG!

  2. A Cup Final used to be just about winning a trophy on a massive occasion.

    Now it’s linked to transfer budgets & revenue streams – how times have changed !

    As for the game , we’ll need to (somehow) stop Hazard & at the other end try to get our strikers one on one with their centre backs as often as possible. A decent ref & a bit of luck would be nice too 😉

  3. Morning All
    Truth be told my nerves are at me. Chavs and Spuds win, and my football world collapses.

    I wonder if they will bus people in to get the stadium looking like a final, who knows? I can’t help thinking with all thats surrounding the match, how EUFA will spin it to look like a success.
    Can’t wait for the match, and hoping Pea and Laca can make up for any deficiencies at the back.

  4. Hi all

    Been a long time since I commented – but excited and nervous as a kitten about tonight.

    Been looking at the KPMG report on “Enterprise Value” of the top 32 clubs in Europe – which involves stadium usage and squad value as well as sporting, social media and financial performance into it’s ranking. Boring but just the sort of thing a rank capitalist owner ought to pay attention to.

    We have dropped from 6th to 8th with a year-on-year contraction (one of only 4 clubs in this top 32) of 4 – being overtaken by L’pool and Chels!

    The big factor is our squad value is down to 12th, about £200m – £300m behind the average of the top 8. Just shows the recruitment failures of the last few years and the size of the task needed to recover…

    Which brings us back to the balance of issues surrounding tonight’s game – as well outlined in your excellent post YW.

    Will forget all this later though and cheer on the gunners without restraint.

  5. Great 🤬 although at odds with UEFAs own website.

    “The winners of the Frankfurt/Chelsea tie were the nominal home team as a result of a draw made for administrative purposes back in March. Both finalists may wear their first-choice colours and if there is a clash then the club designated as the away team (i.e. Arsenal) must don an alternative kit.”

    If we’re wearing the away kit, Arsenal chose to do so.

    Just to improve the mood further, tonight’s referee was the one in charge of last year’s 1-0 defeat to Atletico and the first 5-1 defeat to Bayern, in 2015.

  6. Anticipation, excitement and a top post!

    I’m ready. I know most shrug off the Europa Final, but this, for our club at this moment in time could be quite a stepping stone. I have laughed at this notion that Chelsea are some superior side and Hazard is going to run rampant…..last I checked, Chelsea are Hazard or bust.

    Midfield diamond, I would have some of that with a back 4. Sorry Cech, no room for you or sentiment in my XI and Torriera starts on the left side of the diamond to cover for the bombing Sead.

    Leno
    Maitland-Niles——Sokaritis—-Kos—-Sead
    ————-Xhaka——–
    Guendouzi———Torriera
    ————Ozil
    Aubameyang——–Lacazette

  7. I really am looking for Ozil, Aubameyang and Lacazette to have a special special night against this Chelsea back 4 and midfield with a barely barely even fit Kantr possibly playing.

  8. I’d pretty much agree with C

    Although I’d put Torreira on the base of the diamond and tell him to stick to Hazard like glue and fuck him up at every and any opportunity

  9. This is the first European final in my 12 years of following Arsenal…. Looking forward to a committed performance that will be worth remembering for the rest of my life!!!

  10. Damon – totally agree. It’s not totally this simple but it feels like shutting down Hazard means shutting down Chelsea. At least you dont want to let him boss the game. Rough him up a bit and force somebody else from Chelski to step up.

    Play up you Reds indeed. Play the f**k up for one crap match in a place nobody wants to go without one of our most talented (talented, not best or efficient) players (politics). Mhiki is not a superstar but he has the skill and technical capability to make something happen. We still have the squad to get her done lets go!

  11. YW – Thanks for cheering me up with the news on the referee. I have some (SOME, not 100%) confidence that Kos wont completely botch a clearance and gift a 1v1 breakaway to their best offensive player. To counter balance the shit ref I will be ditching work, buying some nice fresh beer from the brewery down the street, enjoying some of nature’s finest herbs, and generally bringing good vibes to the arsenal universe.

    Lets Go Gooners!

  12. thrillbo,

    Yup. I say get about him because I think he downs tools if it doesn’t go his way from the off. Half hour of being run ragged and kicked a bit, I reckon Torreira can have him in his pocket all game

    As you say, it’s not quite as simple as just shut down Hazard, but its a bloody big chunk of it, imo

  13. Damon,

    I was thinking something similiar about Torriera too.

    Matches like this is when I wish Bellerin was fit because then I would put Torriera and Maitland-Niles in midfield along with either Xhaka or Guendouzi.

  14. Perhaps it maybe wiser to play Cech. Remember the last European final we played with a German in goal… anyone!?

  15. Damon,

    I think if we can get 2 of our front 3 on it, we will score goals.

    Question for you and Yogi if he is lurking: If Ozil has one of thise matches like he did in the FA Cup semi-Finals and Finals, or like he has shown against Chelsea and helps leads us to the Europa League crown, will the narrative change for you or will it always be he should always be doing this?

  16. Sorry C the narrative won’t change as far as Ozil is concerned. Let’s see if he can finally impose himself in a big game!?

  17. C,

    Yeah mate, it’ll stay the same I’m afraid. there’s too much evidence now to suggest otherwise. Fabulous baller, truly one of the best. But he’s not a winner. And I want winners, not pretty players

  18. Damon,

    Just wondering, though it is worth noting all our silverware has come since his arrival and he has played a part and at times a rather large part in it. Just wondered people’s thoughts.

  19. C

    A lot has changed for ozil since we last won a trophy. Most notably he is 2 years older chronologically but his ability to influence on the pitch appears to have aged far more then 2 years in that time.

  20. Ozil has won us some silverware but it’s 2nd tier silverware right? We are paying top tier $$ for a great talent but not a truly elite player. That has been our thing. We need to find players to get us over the hump, challenging for the league and champions league again. Hate to say it but even SPUDS won some big european ties this year. The kind of ties which have seen us crumble and concede 5.

  21. Cech
    Sokaritis—Kos—NAcho
    Maitland-NIles—Torreira—–Xhaka—-Sead
    Ozil—–Lacazette—-Aubameyang

  22. There is the trouble with VAR right there. Same idiots making the decisioon. Another layer of incompetence.

  23. Emerson left a bit on Lacazette with that challenge. They came close a couple of times! COYG

  24. We looked to be playing defensively with focus on stopping Jorginho(Ozil literally marked him everywhere he went) and their midfielders.

    If we can be a bit more attacking with Xhaka and Torriera forming that base, Chelsea can be had with simple balls to Ozil or Lacazette dropping then they play it outwide….just need the final ball from our WB’s to be a bit better and/or quicker.

  25. As a contest it’s nicely poised for drama now. We need cool nerves, plenty aggression and smart subs from Unai.

  26. Even Stevens in my opinion. Could go either way. All we need to do is prove how much more we want this. Credit to Chelsea. Their minds are on the beach but they are still going through the motions

  27. Might be time for a back 4 with Iwobi coming to the left flank and either Sead or Nacho going off. Ozil is finding space centrally to carry the ball on the counter but Sead is so deep he can’t get into the space down that flank

  28. Maitland-Niles with a POOR decision and loses ball and we get punished on the quick counter.

    WTF IS NACHO DOING, he switches off and lets Pedro just stroll into the box

  29. Guendouzi and Iwobi both coming on!

    Fucking Maitland-Niles with a STUPID CHALLENGE. Last 2 goals have come from Maitland-Niles mistakes, harsh but true

  30. To be honest – I think they can all go. Awful.
    Maybe except Iwobi
    Tbh don’t know what the manager is thinking’

  31. Well, we are exposed for what we are.

    A not very good side with a few good players.

    I can’t say that I am surprised, disappointed, yes.

    A goal for Iwobe? About bloody time. It won’t change anything.

    Ozil? Is he playing? Defence. Do we have one. Ideas? Not a clue. Manager? Well he has presided over the mother of an end of season collapse . Should he stay?

    It goes without saying that I am disillusioned with modern football overall and with Arsenal in particular, it just means less now.

    Frankly, Scarlet, I just don’t give a damn.

  32. Again, FUCKING SHIT DEFENDING!!!! I mean we have 3 defendera back and nobody tracks Hazard after he releases the ball.

  33. Ok – enough – the players aren’t good enough. The manager isn’t either. Selection poor – but wtf else could be done ? Ozil more than nicking a living.
    Club should compensate the travelling fans.
    50p says the spuds won on sat.

  34. I mean FFS, has Maitland-Niles or Sead hit ONE decent ball from all the space and time they have had 🤔

  35. Should name it: Club of Clowns in Harmony…..

    I think ‘m done supporting this club….I’m now neutral.

  36. I’ve watched a team who really couldn’t be bothered on the pitch tonight. Too many did not turn up. To have your fans go that far and not bother to put in a job for them is an embarrassment. The defence was so tired in the second half, but it’s not surprising given their age. The front line was poor and the supply lines were non existent. Ozil was so poor and clearly doesn’t care. Without a complete change of the defence and midfield we will continue to put in performance s like this. The big disappointment is that the players didn’t put in a shift for their travelling fans.

  37. G4E,

    Yeah, I think that you are right.

    Better things to do. Time gets shorter.

    All the very best, my old friend.

  38. The collapse in the league and a hammering in the european final, both when the chance was presented to achieve something in the season.

    Have we seen enough to say that the current setup will not lead us anywhere? I think so.

    Find a manager with a decent domestic league record for a long term development project.

  39. Why pick Ozil ? He was awful.

    Cech – bless him – ultra pro but not the guy to distribute from the back – which is how we play. Or is it ?

    Out thought and our fought – just not acceptable.

    Xaka. – useless. Kolasinac why?

    Substitutions confusing. No energy.

    CBob – the club over there was in Highbury – utter shower now.

  40. C,

    No

    However I do think UE has right idea to change this team and just hope he has guts to use youth wisely

    AMN is wb cover but has been promising
    DM cover or starter next season

    Leno
    Bell Holding NEW CB NEW LB
    Torr NEW CM Guen
    NEW RW
    Lacaauba

    Oh bollocks to it
    We’re shit

    Transfer speculation ahoy!

  41. In the second half, Sarri hammered us.

    Oezil played from the start: wrong.

    Missed tgd chances and went out relaxed after the break.

    These are all on the manager.

  42. consolsbob:
    G4E,

    Yeah, I think that you are right.

    Better things to do. Time gets shorter.

    All the very best, my old friend.

    Same to you buddy 🙂 Cancelling my TV subscription as we speak… Save my freaking hard earned money.

  43. The
    G4E,

    Seriously, I think that you are correct. It is our money that keeps these parasites in our game and therefore we now contribute to destroying what we love.

    The irony in that!

    Fuck the lot of them. I can no longer pretend to myself that I give a stuff. Three generations of Arsenal support and no one gives a monkey’s.

    It’s gone. Football is gone.

    If we had won, so what? The business would have made a few more million and the fans would have gotten a couple more players. It’s a treadmill. Like those games that kids play on their ipads. There is always another level but there is no love, no actual achievement, no emotion anymore.

    Highbury didn’t die for this. No.

  44. I think we may be confusing lack of motivation with a lack of ability. We talked about this a lot in preseason training and if you look at the roster there is just not anywhere close to enough talent outside of Pea and Lacazette. Other then those 2 there are none of midfielders or defenders who would even be close to playing in the top 11 of the worlds other big teams. We need to completely rebuild the midfield and back 4. Just like a lot of Arsene’s teams they flattered to deceive and had a couple of good runs of form but in the end water seeks its proper level and I think we finished about where we belonged.

  45. Today is disappointing and the fact that we had top 4 in our grasp and then melted down makes it feel even worse. However, finishing in 5th place and the Europa League final and collecting 70 points is probably better then we could have expected

  46. A truly dire & embarrassing second half performance from our ‘team’.

    Defensively we are terrible. No pace, aggression, cohesion or organisation.

    The midfield is pedestrian , toothless & dull.

    We have no width & rely on a couple of gifted strikers who have carried us all season….so when they all struggle we’re bound to see results & performances like tonight.

    Depressing but true.

  47. If there is no ambition from the Owner why there should be ambition from the players or even the Coach?

    They’re all there for a pay check…..Nothing else, including the owner who is happy with 5th, 6th, or even 10th as long as the company is still making money.

    Arsenal is a sell out club since we sold our great players in 2005/2006 and the original shareholders sold it to the highest bidder.

    Do not expect anything better than this in the future, you’ll be greatly disappointed.

    ***
    My advise to the decent players like Laca and Auba….Get out of this loser club, you’re much better than that.

  48. Not surprised. I said at the start of the season fifth or sixth. Too many average player’s who would even struggle to get into squad’s in the top tier of the championship.

    I’m glad really, as there’s no hiding place and Kroenke has got some mathematics to do over the summer. Still think we should go for broke and get NES in and let him build a team and get rid of the dead wood. Emery isn’t suited to the premier League.

  49. In contrast one team had a former Galatico and the other has a player aspiring to be a Galatico. I guess your motivations are different when you’ve been there and done it. However in a purely business performance related review. What KPI’s did they set when they gave Mesut Özil his £350,000 a week contract. “Here you go son, you deserve it because you used to be great”. Shouldn’t it have been, “we [n] amount of goals per season, [n] amount of assists. You get [n] amount if we finish in the top four and you’ve exceeded your goals/assists target. You get [n] amount if we reach a final of [cup] competition and you’ve done [n] amount of assists and [n] amount of goals.” By the way Aaron, we can’t give you a big money contract because we’ve already got on lazy b@stard on £350,000 a week and we can’t afford to have 2. We tried that when we had Özil and Sanchez and look how that ended.

  50. And I’m not just laying the boot into Özil. Collectively as a team and the coaching staff/manager. The executives and the owner, all failed yesterday. But I look at Eden Hazard and then compare him to our big name Charlie and there really is no comparison.

    Xhaka can shut the f’k up. He’s getting paid handsomely for that dross he produced last night the f’king pleb.

    AMN is young, so he f’ked up. But in reality I take my hat off to Chelsea. (Not their fans, they’re still Chav’s). They were better than us, plain and simple. AMN is a central midfielder, playing where the boss tells him to play. He is young and hasn’t mastered the defensive side of his game. He can do with working on his crosses as well. But like I said he is a central midfielder. Not a full back, not a wing back. So please give him a chance. He’s better than Torriera, Guendouzi, Xhaka in my opinion. At least he has potential. I don’t see what any of these do for us. I’m sorry but the midfield is as much to blame as the defence, for this season.

    As for the manager. Give him his second season. I’m not convinced. But come the end of 19/20 season, please be ruthless, dear AFC owner. Sack the b@stard the minute it becomes mathematically impossible to finish in the top four.

    p.s. You totally called it YW with a case of the ex!

  51. As for those Chav’s given it to us on social media. Enjoy it while it last you f’king neanderthals. Lets see what you do next season without Hazard to carry you and a two year transfer ban. I hope you get f’king humiliated in next seasons Champion’s league and Real and Hazard come back to knock you out of the f’king tournament.

  52. ok I’ve calmed down a bit now.

    So to be fair to Özil he was given a job to do on Jorginho. Why you would ask your most creative player to do a man marking job, I just don’t know. Surely it would have been better suited for Xhaka or Torreira to do that job.

    However Willock looked lively when he came on and had 4 shots.

    When Chelsea finished the first half in the ascendancy, it was clear something needed to change and a rocket needed to be fired into the lads. But we came out for the second half casual, relaxed!

    The second half was just like so many other games we have suffered this past season, we capitulated to a team who were set up to thwart our primary assets, Auba and Laca. Sari’s tactics worked perfectly exposing our dodgy defence, lack lustre midfield and Emery’s team selection.

    It was a very difficult watch and the result and our performance will be sickening for all our fans who made the difficult trip to Baku. (The least the club could do is compensate their travel costs).

    Hats off to Chelsea but they are a distinctly average team. That’s how far we have fallen. We can’t even beat this Chelsea team.

    There are massive problems to be tackled at the Club both on and off the field . We are in for Thurs/Sunday football again next season and I can’t say I am looking forward to the new campaign.

    On the plus side, cricket world cup starts today. I’ll be supporting England and the West Indies as both my parents are from the W.I. but I was born in the U.K.

    Also we’ve got Wimbledon to look forward to.

    F’k football (well at least until August).

  53. Thank fuck the season is over. Roll on the cricket! C’mon England! Who are you supporting C?

  54. Jeez, we need some pace in the team.

    There can’t be many sides slower than us overall.

    You can’t play an open , attacking game with a side full of dawdlers.

  55. Everybody should now calm down.
    Last night we lost to a better team, only on the night. End of.
    If, at the beginning of the season most of us were offered 5th place in the EPL and the Europa Final, under new boss Unai Emery, we would ( truthfully) have considered it a reasonable success. And this has been achieved.
    Now we have the Summer Transfer Window, a new season in the EPL AND the Europa League and other minor Cups.
    Let us therefore wait until May 2020 before coming to a conclusion about Unai.
    We may yet be surprised. 😎

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