Lacazette – Aubameyang duo secured an impressive 3:1 win over Valencia in the first leg of Europa League semi-finals, which now puts Arsenal in an excellent position to reach the finals of Europa League for the first time in 19 years.
It would be hard to imagine Arsenal having an easy time against Valencia prior to the match start. After 3 consecutive defeats in the Premier League, where Arsenal lost to Crystal Palace (2:3), Wolves (3:1) and Leicester (3:0), it seemed like Arsenal are in for another beating in the semi-finals of Europa League. But what we have seen yesterday, only goes to show a week time can make a huge difference.
After disappointing results in the Premier League, where Arsenal conceded 9 goals in 3 fixtures while scoring only 3, there was little hope they will be able to measure up against Valencia. However, as it seems Arsenal found a solution to their problems. The saying “attack is the best defence” proved to be the winning recipe for them and a completely different approach to those we have seen from them recently. Bear in mind, Arsenal produced only 2 shots on goal against Leicester and Wolves combined. This time out, it was different.
Only seconds into the match, Arsenal found their way to Valencia goal, where they should arguably be awarded a penalty, but they weren’t. No foul no harm, the match continued and soon turned into a great fixture with plenty of chances on both sides. In the end, it was Valencia who managed to use their chances better and scored the opener in the 11th minute from a corner kick. This, looking back at how Arsenal performed in matches prior to the semi-finals raised some concern among the Gunners, who were now chasing a goal deficit at their own stadium. But they wouldn’t have any of it and started pushing for an equalizer with all guns blazing. Valencia had a few great chances to grab the 2nd goal in the minutes to come, but in the end, it was Arsenal who prevailed and equalized in the 18th minute, which raised the roof off the Emirates Stadium. Lacazette was the hero that brought back hope to Arsenal, but he was not done. After a few failed opportunities, Lacazette proved once again he is worth his salary and scored again, which got his team into a lead, only 8 minutes after he equalised the match.
The semi-finals continued in a similar fashion as the first 25 minutes, with both teams playing aggressively, which was a joy to watch. Despite all the attempts from Arsenal and Valencia, we did not see another goal until the added time, when Aubameyang scored an extremely important goal, which put Arsenal 3:1 up. While the goal did not change the course of the match itself, it gave a huge boost to the confidence of Arsenal players prior to their visit to Spain, where they will play the 2nd leg of semi-finals.
All in all, it was a spectacular match and a surprising improvement from the English side, who were expected to struggle, but proved the doubters wrong. After the match Aubameyang stated that it was not easy for his team to find their rhythm:
“We started a bit nervous because we lost the last three games, I think that’s normal. We are human, but after that, we had a good reaction,”
With 2 more Premier League ahead of them and the 2nd leg in Spain, Arsenal could turn this season into a successful one, only if they can continue playing on the level they did on May 2nd. They proved the previous 3 games were just a “bump in the road” and that they are ready to take on any team that comes in their way. Will their great form continue for the upcoming weeks is something we can only guess, however, one thing is for sure; Arsenal proved to the world, they are a force to be reckoned with.