Despite an awful run of form in the Premier League, Arsenal will look to continue their impressive run in the UEFA Europa League when they host Valencia in the first leg of the semi-final tonight.
The Gunners are coming on the back of three consecutive defeats in the league. But, they have done quite well in Europe and will hope to continue their momentum by securing a positive result against the Spanish giants.
With the team failing to gel as a unit in recent months, let us take a look at 3 players who will have to play a crucial role if the Gunners are to carry an advantage into the second leg.
With Unai Emery likely to revert to a three at the back formation, Ainsley Maitland-Niles could play a key role in the right wing-back position.
The 21-year-old is normally an attack-minded fullback who loves to get forward at every opportunity.
But, his attacking tendencies could be restricted by Valencia’s star winger Goncalo Guedes. In fact, the Portuguese international has netted three goals in the Europa League this campaign.
It will, thus, be imperative for Maitland-Niles to prevent Guedes from making any inroads from the far side as Arsenal look to avoid conceding any away goals in this contest.
The Arsenal defence has looked extremely susceptible, of late, conceding as many as nine goals in their last three matches. And following disappointing defeats at the hands of Leicester City and Wolves, the onus will be on Sokratis to provide the defensive solidity at the back and restrict Valencia from scoring an away goal.
The Greek international, despite a rusty campaign, has been by far the best defender for Arsenal so far. His physical prowess coupled with his unrivalled commitment will be important in dealing with the likes of Rodrigo Moreno and Santi Mina.
However, Sokratis will hope for better defensive support from his teammates in Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal this time around.
Dealing with Valencia’s midfield supremo Dani Parejo will certainly be a challenge for the Arsenal midfielders this season. The 30-year-old has been highly influential for Los Ches not only with his overall ball distribution but also in terms of attacking productivity, having been involved in 16 goals in all competition this season.
And that’s where Lucas Torreira could come into the fray. The Uruguayan international will be tasked with the responsibility of restricting Parejo from getting time and space on the ball in midfield. His dynamic nature will also benefit Arsenal in their pressing, thus making him one of the most important players for Gunners heading into this fixture.