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Post Match Review

We’re on our way to Baku

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24 hours after Arsenal fans had to witness something so grotesque in Amsterdam it doesn’t bare talking about, Unai Emery’s men got their own job done in emphatic fashion with an impressive 4-2 away win over Valencia.

A shaky start:

1-0 down inside the opening 15 minutes courtesy of a Kevin Gameiro tap in after a slick counter-attack from the hosts, one could have been forgiven for thinking this was the beginning of what would have been a spectacular albeit not surprising capitulation from Arsenal. Emery deployed his trademark back three, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Saed Kolasinac operating as wing-back’s either side. Valencia made a point of targeting the young Englishman, every attack they had seemingly come down Arsenal’s right channel.

With the cauldron of noise that is the Mestalla only getting louder after Gameiro’s goal. It seemed like it was bound to be a long night for Petr Cech, who faced the prospect of his last ever match in professional football being a drubbing at the hands of Valencia. Yet out of almost nowhere, Arsenal responded. Cech’s contribution was his long ball that was contested by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, before Alexandre Lacazette rose highest to the second ball, knocking it back into the path of our most lethal marksman this season, who made no mistake. A gorgeous right-footed half volley into the corner of Neto’s net to draw level.

It would be an exaggeration to claim the Mestalla was silenced, but the volume was certainly lowered as Arsenal gave themselves significant breathing room. Minutes later and Arsenal could have muted the entire stadium. Fantastic wide-play from Aubameyang gave his partner in crime the chance to get a goal of his own, but Lacazette struck the outside of the upright with his first-time right-footed effort. The first half fizzled out without much more action as the sides went in level.

Lethal Lacazette:

After the interval, Arsenal looked a lot more comfortable on the ball. The transitions from each phase of the field seemed to be happening frequently and with ease. The deadly duo up top saw much more of the ball in positions where they could actually threaten Valencia’s back line. On the 50th minute, the visitors stuck a dagger through Spanish hearts, Lacazette just about got the ball out of his feet before finishing with aplomb into the bottom corner. Unai Emery’s men were now firmly in the driving seat.

This was a game Arsenal would not have won a few years ago. When the line was lead by the likes of Olivier Giroud or Theo Walcott.

Arsenal are into the Europa League final down to, largely, two players. Two elite strikers who grabbed this game by the scruff of the neck scoring four between them.

Eight minutes later, however, Valencia equalised. With the footballing events that had taken place earlier in the week, they were well within their rights to dream. Gamerio notching his second of the game after Nacho Monreal played the forward onside. All of a sudden there was a glimmer of hope for the hosts and Arsenal needed to ensure they were at their most professional to avoid an Ajax-style capitulation.

Just over ten minutes later, they effectively killed the tie as a contest. Maitland-Niles beat Goncalo Guedes with a lovely bit of improvisation before fizzing a cross across the six-yard box. Our number 14 was the quickest to react and steer home his second, the Gunners third on the night.

All right on the night:

Clearly chasing that magic 30 goal mark, Aubemeyang’s work was not done yet. Playing a neat exchange with Mateo Guendouzi before a sublime Özil-esque dummy to allowed Henrikh Mkhitaryan to slot him through. Arsenal’s star man fired viciously into the roof of the net, sealing a famous European away performance with his first hat-trick for the club. Just a few days after he came in for some stern criticism for scissor kicking a golden chance against Brighton wide, Aubemeyang was in inspired form. He won four aerial duels and had six shots on goal. His treble tonight leaves him on 29 in all competitions, and with the Gabonese striker set to be rested for the trip to Burnley. What better time to hit the 30 goal mark than May 29th, where Unai Emery’s men face Maruzio Sarri’s Chelsea in the Europa League final.

A game set to have about a million different scripts playing simultaneously; Cech’s farewell against his former team, a potential goodbye to Eden Hazard, a trophy in the first season of either manager, there is sure to be drama by the bucket load. However, the Gunners can take confidence from their most lethal away performance in recent memory, courtesy of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang & Alexandre Lacazette.

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