Emery’s Villarreal end Arsenal’s EL hopes

Arsenal’s season was left in tatters as Villarreal held on for a 0-0 draw at the Emirates Stadium to secure a 2-1 aggregate victory and a place in the Europa League final against Manchester United.

Following a 2-1 defeat in Spain in the first leg last week, the Gunners were sluggish as they tried to find the goal they so desperately needed, but they did have chances.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s volley struck the outside of the post in the first half and the Gunners skipper’s header hit the inside of the upright and bounced out with 11 minutes remaining.

The hosts, who threw on Gabriel Martinelli, Alexandre Lacazette and Willian in the closing stages, piled forward, but it was not to be their night as Unai Emery got the better of his former side, with Villarreal reaching their first European final, where they will face United in Gdansk on May 26.

Meanwhile, defeat in the tie capped yet another bad night in what has been a difficult campaign for Mikel Arteta and Arsenal. The Gunners now face the prospect of not qualifying for European competition for the first time in 25 years.

How Arsenal’s season was left in tatters…

Villarreal players celebrate their Europa League victory over Arsenal
Villarreal players celebrate their Europa League victory over Arsenal

Arsenal were forced into a late change to their starting line-up as Granit Xhaka pulled up with an injury in the warm-up. Kieran Tierney, making his first appearance since April, came into the side at left-back after returning from injury, and he was made to work straight away after a confident start from Villarreal.

There were nervy moments for the Gunners in the opening 20 minutes and the closest the visitors came was a Dani Parejo free-kick, which flew just over Bernd Leno’s crossbar.

At the other end, Arteta’s men were yet to click into gear, but they almost snatched the lead in the 27th minute. The ball dropped kindly for Aubameyang and his well-struck volley had goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli beat, but the ball clipped the outside of the upright.

Player ratings

Arsenal: Leno (6), Bellerin (4), Holding (6), Mari (7), Tierney (6), Partey (4), Smith Rowe (6), Odegaard (5), Pepe (6), Aubameyang (6), Saka (5).

Subs used: Martinelli (6), Lacazette (n/a), Willian (n/a), Nketiah (n/a).

Villarreal: Rulli (5), Pedraza (7), Pau Torres (8), Raul Albiol (8), Gaspar (7), Parejo (8), Coquelin (8), Trigueros (7), Gerard Moreno (6), Chukwueze (6), Alcacer (6).

Subs used: Bacca (6), Alberto Moreno (n/a), Gomez (n/a).

Man of the match: Francis Coquelin.

Villarreal then had to contend with an injury blow of their own and they were forced into an immediate change when Samuel Chukwueze, who went down with no one around him, was stretchered from the field and replaced by Yeremi Pino.

It was a tight, tense affair at the Emirates Stadium, but Arsenal eventually injected some life into the game as Emile Smith Rowe burst forward before releasing Aubameyang. The striker, in his favoured position over on the left, cut inside before forcing Rulli into action, and the goalkeeper clawed the ball away from goal after spilling the initial strike.

Villareal's Mario Gaspar, left, and Arsenal's Nicolas Pepe challenge for the ball during the Europa League semifinal second leg soccer match between Arsenal and Villarreal at the Emirates stadium in London, England, Thursday, May 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Villarreal’s Mario Gaspar and Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe challenge for the ball

Villarreal would have been happy with their work in the opening 45 minutes, keeping Arsenal relatively quiet, but, after a lacklustre first half, the Gunners came out with much more urgency for the second half.

Nicolas Pepe fired wide of the far post before Smith Rowe’s chipped effort drifted agonisingly wide of the far post after Rulli had made a mess of Hector Bellerin’s cross.

Villarreal were still a threat on the counter attack, and with the game starting to get stretched, Gerard Moreno had a glorious chance to make Arsenal’s task even more difficult, but the Spanish forward could only hit his shot straight at Leno.

Team news

Arsenal made eight changes for the second leg semi-final clash. Manager Mikel Arteta rested a host of first-team regulars for Sunday’s win at Newcastle. Only Hector Bellerin, Martin Odegaard and captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang kept their places.

Bernd Leno returned in goal with Rob Holding and Pablo Mari recalled at the heart of defence, while Thomas Partey, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Nicolas Pepe – who scored the away goal in the first leg – all came into the side.

The Gunners were also forced into a late change to the starting XI as Granit Xhaka picked up a knock in the warm-up. Kieran Tierney came into the side at left-back.

Villarreal made two changes from last week’s first leg. Former Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin came into the XI along with Mario Gaspar. Etienne Capoue was suspended while Juan Foyth remained sidelined after picking up an injury last Thursday.

Arteta looked to his bench for inspiration, bringing on Martinelli, and the hosts began to build some pressure again as Rob Holding headed agonisingly wide after meeting Pepe’s cross.

There was more frustration moments later as Aubameyang rose highest to meet Bellerin’s cross but his header hit the inside of the post and bounced out.

It proved to be his final contribution as fit-again Lacazette replaced the Arsenal captain, while Willian came on for Tierney as the Gunners searched for the goal they needed, but Villarreal defended resolutely as they held on for a famous victory.

Arteta: We are devastated

Arsenal v Villarreal - UEFA Europa League - Semi Final - Second Leg - Emirates Stadium
Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gestures during the UEFA Europa League Semi Final at the Emirates Stadium, London. Picture date: Thursday May 6, 2021.
Arsenal’s Europa League hopes were ended by Villarreal

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta speaking to BT Sport:

“We are devastated. Really disappointed. We have to congratulate Villarreal. We tried everything until the last minute. I think we deserved to win the game but the details define these ties.

“We had three big chances, they didn’t have anything but they are through. So many things happened to us, and so many players were just trying to compete not at their best.”

On why Arsenal lost, he added: “It’s various things. The way we started in Villarreal wasn’t good enough. We didn’t arrive here in the best moment with everyone in their best condition. For 90 per cent of them it was their first semi-final and we have to learn.”

“The only way [to qualify for Europe] is through the Premier League so we know what we have ahead of us. Today is a big disappointment because we tried everything.”

When is the Europa League final?

The final will take place in Gdansk, Poland on Wednesday May 26 with the game kicking off at 8pm, UK time.

The Gdansk Arena was originally intended to host the 2020 showdown but the coronavirus outbreak caused the closing rounds of the 2019/20 competition to be staged in Germany.

The Polish authorities have confirmed that up to 9,500 spectators – 25 per cent of the stadium capacity – will be permitted.

VAR will continue to be used in the final, while five substitutions are allowed, with a sixth permitted for each side if the game goes to extra-time.

Man of the match – Francis Coquelin

Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, left, and Villareal's Francis Coquelin challenge for the ball during the Europa League semifinal second leg soccer match between Arsenal and Villarreal at the Emirates stadium in London, England, Thursday, May 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Villarreal’s Francis Coquelin challenge for the ball

If it was not a hard enough night already for Arsenal fans with the Gunners crashing out of Europe at the hands of their former manager Unai Emery, it was another former Gunner, who bossed the game from central midfield.

Coquelin was superb for the Spanish side, shielding his defence excellently, putting out plenty of fires and covering so much of the ground he knows so well.

Opta stats – Emery’s love affair with the Europa League continues

  • Villarreal have reached the final of a major European competition for the very first time, having been eliminated from each of their previous four semi-finals – UEFA Cup/Europa League in 2003-04, 2010-11, 2015-16 and UEFA Champions League 2005-06.
  • Having progressed from each of their first six semi-finals in major European competition, Arsenal have been eliminated from three of their four appearances at this stage in Europe since (2008-09 UEFA Champions League, 2017-18 and 2020-21 UEFA Europa League).
  • Since the competition’s rebranding in 2009-10, Unai Emery has reached the final of the UEFA Europa League on more occasions than any other manager (5 – 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16, 2018-19 & 2020-21) – indeed, the Spaniard has won the competition on three of the previous four occasions he has reached the final.
  • Villarreal remain unbeaten in 14 games in European competition (W12 D2), last suffering defeat in April 2019 (0-2 v Valencia in the UEFA Europa League quarter-final 2nd leg).
  • Arsenal have failed to score in 10 home matches within a single season in all competitions for the first time in the club’s history. The Gunners have failed to win in three consecutive home matches in Europe (D2 L1) for the first time since September 2003 (a run of six).

What’s next?

Wednesday 12th May 7:30pm

Kick off 8:15pm

Sky Sports Main Event HD
Sky Sports Main Event HD

Arsenal face West Brom in the Premier League on Sunday; kick-off 7pm. They then face Champions League finalists Chelsea on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 8.15pm. Villarreal are also back in league action on the same day, hosting Celta Vigo; kick-off 5.30pm.

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Penultimate PL KOs confirmed; Man Utd vs Liv May 13

The dates for the penultimate round of 2020/21 Premier League games have been confirmed, plus the rearranged match between Manchester United and Liverpool, which will be live on Sky Sports on Thursday, May 13.

The postponement of United vs Liverpool on Sunday has forced a reconfiguring of the fixtures scheduled for week beginning Monday, May 10 and means United will play three games in five days.

United – who are away to Aston Villa on Sunday, May 9 at 2.05pm – will now play Leicester on Tuesday, May 11 at 6pm (previously Wednesday, May, 12), and Liverpool on Thursday, May 13 at 8.15pm, with both games at Old Trafford.

Man Utd’s new fixture list

Roma vs Man Utd – Europa League – Thu, May 6, 8pm
Aston Villa vs Man Utd – Premier League – Sun, May 9, 2.05pm
Man Utd vs Leicester – Premier League – Tue, May 11, 6pm
Man Utd vs Liverpool – Premier League – Thu, May 13, 8.15pm
Man Utd vs Fulham – Premier League – Tue, May 18, 6pm
Wolves vs Man Utd – Premier League – Sun, May 23, 4pm
Europa League final (should they qualify) – Wed, May 26, 8pm

To accommodate that rescheduling, Southampton vs Crystal Palace remains on Tuesday, May 11 but will kick-off at 8.15pm, Aston Villa vs Everton remains on Thursday May 13, but will now kick-off at 6pm, and Manchester United vs Fulham is moved to Tuesday, May 18 at 6pm (previously Wednesday May 19, 7.45pm) – with all three games live on Sky Sports.

The Premier League season will conclude on Sunday May 23, with the games to be shown live on Sky Sports to be confirmed in due course.

Gameweek 37 – confirmed dates and kick-off times

Tue May 18: Southampton vs Leeds – Kick-Off 6pm – live on Sky Sports

Tue May 18: Man Utd vs Fulham – Kick-Off 6pm – live on Sky Sports

Tue May 18: Brighton vs Man City – Kick-Off 7pm

Tue May 18: Chelsea vs Leicester – Kick-Off 8.15pm – live on Sky Sports

Wed May 19: Everton vs Wolves – Kick-Off 6pm – live on Sky Sports

Wed May 19: Newcastle vs Sheff Utd – Kick-Off 6pm – live on Sky Sports

Wed May 19: Tottenham vs Aston Villa – Kick-Off 6pm – live on Sky Sports

Wed May 19: Crystal Palace vs Arsenal – Kick-Off 7pm

Wed May 19: Burnley vs Liverpool – Kick-Off 8.15pm – live on Sky Sports

Wed May 19: West Brom vs West Ham – Kick-Off 8.15pm – live on Sky Sports

Arsenal fixtures | Aston Villa fixtures | Brighton fixtures | Burnley fixtures | Chelsea fixtures | Crystal Palace fixtures | Everton fixtures | Fulham fixtures | Leeds fixtures | Leicester fixtures | Liverpool fixtures | Man City fixtures | Man Utd fixtures | Newcastle fixtures | Sheff Utd fixtures | Southampton fixtures | Tottenham fixtures | West Brom fixtures | West Ham fixtures | Wolves fixtures

In full: All Premier League fixtures live on Sky Sports

Sky Sports fixtures Premier League

Fri May 7: Leicester vs Newcastle – Kick-Off 8pm

Sat May 8: Sheff Utd vs Crystal Palace – Kick-Off 3pm

Sat May 8: Man City vs Chelsea – Kick-Off 5.30pm

Sat May 8: Liverpool vs Southampton – Kick-off 8.15pm

Sun May 9: Aston Villa vs Man Utd – Kick-off 2.05pm

Sun May 9: West Ham vs Everton – Kick-off 4.30pm

Mon May 10: Fulham vs Burnley – Kick-Off 8pm

Tues Mon 11: Southampton vs Crystal Palace – Kick-Off 8.15pm

Wed May 12: Chelsea vs Arsenal – Kick-Off 8.15pm

Thurs May 13: Aston Villa vs Everton – Kick-Off 6pm

Thurs May 13: Man Utd vs Liverpool – Kick-Off 8.15pm

Fri May 14: Newcastle vs Man City – Kick-off 8pm

Sat May 15: Southampton vs Fulham – Kick-Off 3pm

Sat May 15: Brighton vs West Ham – Kick-Off 8pm

Sun May 16: Crystal Palace vs Aston Villa – Kick-Off 12pm

Sun May 16: Tottenham vs Wolves – Kick-Off 2pm

Sun May 16: West Brom vs Liverpool – Kick-Off 4.30pm

Tue May 18: Southampton vs Leeds – Kick-Off 6pm

Tue May 18: Man Utd vs Fulham – Kick-Off 6pm

Tue May 18: Chelsea vs Leicester – Kick-Off 8.15pm

Wed May 19: Everton vs Wolves – Kick-Off 6pm

Wed May 19: Newcastle vs Sheff Utd – Kick-Off 6pm

Wed May 19: Tottenham vs Aston Villa – Kick-Off 6pm

Wed May 19: Burnley vs Liverpool – Kick-Off 8.15pm

Wed May 19: West Brom vs West Ham – Kick-Off 8.15pm

Free match highlights on Sky Sports Digital

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Auba: I lost 4kg during malaria scare

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has revealed his family were left scared by his weight loss after he contracted malaria while on international duty in March.

The Gabon forward missed four games following the diagnosis after a feeling of lethargy left him questioning the cause.

He returned off the bench in the Europa League semi-final first-leg defeat to Villarreal last week and is in line to start the return game, having scored in Sunday’s Premier League win at Newcastle.

But the 31-year-old has only now revealed how a significant drop in weight and change in mood had him and his close ones worried about his health. Aubameyang played in Arsenal’s 3-0 defeat to Liverpool without knowing he was ill.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Arsenal’s win over Newcastle in the Premier League.

“I was feeling just normal, a bit down – I thought that it was the travel,” he said.

“As you know, going to Gabon is not so close to here. I felt just a bit tired, especially against Liverpool, but I thought it was just because of the travel.

“I was feeling very, very bad. This was the worst moment of being sick in my life, it was really hard.

“I had three days in a row, fever, all day and all night, non-stop. Even the paracetamol and stuff had no effects on this. After that, I spoke to the doctor.

“I said I needed to go to the hospital because I had travelled to Africa so maybe it was something like malaria.

“I stayed in hospital for three days. I was really, really down and I think I lost four kilograms. It was a really bad moment and I think my family was a bit scared to see me like this.

“I had some good treatment, it worked well, the doctors and the hospital. I am lucky I got treatment at the right moment, if you don’t treat it quickly it can lead to big problems”

The Arsenal captain says he is now mentally, and almost physically, ready to make the difference for Arsenal as they look to overturn a 2-1 first-leg defeat to Villarreal on Thursday.

He added: “In my mind, I feel more than 100 per cent but physically maybe I am not. Hopefully my body will respond as well but definitely in my mind I am ready.”

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says he does not want distractions for his side ahead of their Europa League semi-final second leg with Villarreal amid takeover talk.

‘Arsenal have been good to me, I owe the club and fans’

Contracting malaria was the latest setback in a strange season for Aubameyang, who signed a new three-year contract in September with the target of becoming an Arsenal “legend”.

But he has struggled for form and was given a period of compassionate leave to visit his ill mother, before being dropped for the north London derby win over Tottenham after arriving late.

Aubameyang was an unused substitute during the 2-1 loss to Tottenham
Aubameyang was an unused substitute during the 2-1 loss to Tottenham after being disciplined by Mikel Arteta

He thanked the club for allowing him to be close to his mother during a difficult time and says the importance of family should not be overlooked in a footballer’s performance.

“When I had this issue with my mum the club were really kind to me and they let me go to see her. It was a really nice thing for the club to do. It has been a difficult year for me because I am used to seeing my family often, when playing home they come to the stadium.

“It’s been a bad year, hopefully next year will be different. I am a player that likes this kind of emotion when people are around.

“My mum is feeling so much better now and is doing well. I wish every football player can be close to their family.”

Reflecting on being dropped by Mikel Arteta for arriving late ahead of a north London derby earlier this year, Aubameyang continued: “

“Definitely (I regret it). It was a bad moment. After the game my feeling was that it was best that we won the derby. This is another part of this season but it is gone now. I have to keep looking forward but I regret some things this season.

“I was out for a few weeks and I had time to think about the whole season. Of course I want to give more, I know myself, I am capable of doing it. I have to give something back to the club and the fans. They are waiting for something from me and it is the right moment to show I am capable of doing it.”

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Arsenal vs Villarreal: Crunch time for the Gunners

It’s crunch time for Arsenal as they prepare for their Europa League semi-final second leg against Villarreal as their European hopes for next season hang in the balance.

The Gunners trail 2-1 from the first leg in Spain last week, but Nicolas Pepe’s penalty handed Arsenal an away goal lifeline that seemed almost impossible after an hour.

A gritty determination and resilience sees Thursday’s second leg at The Emirates finely poised, with Arsenal aiming to reach their second Europa League final in three years.

Their last appearance in the 2018/19 final came under Unai Emery – now the manager of Villarreal and with a sensational history in the Europa League.

Securing European football next season via the Premier League is looking like a difficult ask, with a Europa League victory Arsenal’s best chance of a Champions League return for the first time in five years.

But if Arsenal are unable to find a comeback victory against Villarreal at The Emirates, they are poised to miss out on European football for the first time in 25 years.

Arteta: We have to embrace challenge

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says he does not want distractions for his side ahead of their Europa League semi-final second leg with Villarreal amid takeover talk

Arteta says his side must tackle their semi-final second leg head on and emphasised the huge opportunity Arsenal have to win a trophy.

He said: “It’s time to change it [the tie]. We have to embrace the challenge and the opportunity we have ahead. I think it’s the 10th time that the club has been in a European semi-final, so it doesn’t happen very often. We have to take the opportunity tomorrow and earn the right to be in the final.

It’s a reality. It’s not what we want, obviously, but there are a lot of things that have happened in that period, for many reasons. One is because the level is being raised to a level that is unprecedented in this league and we are not the only club that has been out of that. But obviously, we’re not going to accept that situation and we want to change it straight away. This season, we still have the opportunity to do that.

Arteta on Arsenal’s five-year absence from Champions League

“I’m not sure how they’re preparing for the game. I think we spoke about this before the first leg and obviously, we conceded an early goal and that changed the game. Then there was a second one from a set play as well. We then had to play 40 minutes with 10 men and we’ll see what happens. We have an idea of what they might try to do and we know what we want to do in order to get through. Then, of course, there are many games within the game tomorrow.

“We need to play better than we did in Villarreal. We’re going to start with 11 players, something that we didn’t have a chance to do in the last game and then we’ll see what happens. There’ll be many factors that come into it.

Yellow quickly turned to red for Dani Ceballos...
Dani Ceballos was sent off for Arsenal in Spain

“It’s a massive game for everybody but in particular for the club because we are here representing a football club and our fans. What we want to do is to do it in the best way by winning trophies. If we win tomorrow, we will be much closer to getting another trophy. This is the only aim and the purpose of us being here.

“It’s a big moment again. Not for me, but for the club and for everything that has happened in the last two years and the last months. All the instability that we’ve been living with for many different reasons. So I think it will be really important and a big step forward if we are able to be in that final and have the opportunity to win that trophy.”

Can Pepe shine in the Europa League again?

Pepe kept his cool from the penalty spot for Arsenal against Villarreal
Nicolas Pepe kept his cool from the penalty spot for Arsenal against Villarreal

Pepe loves the Europa League. He has flourished in the competition this season, starting in nine of the 13 games and only failing to feature in one match (3-2 win against Benfica). In comparison, he has started in just 13 Premier League games this term.

But more importantly – his European goal involvements have been vital. He scored or assisted in all but one group game (4-1 win against Rapid Vienna), and has found the net in his last three knockout games.

In the quarter-finals against Slavia Prague, he made an instant impact in his 12 minutes off the bench, firing Arsenal ahead in the late 1-1 draw. He went on to score and assist in the second leg, before nabbing a potentially vital away goal in Villarreal last Thursday.


In fact, Pepe has registered 10 goal involvements in the Europa League this season (6 goals, 4 assists) – more than any other player – and only three different Arsenal players have scored more goals in a single season in major European competition than Pepe (Ian Wright – 9 in 1994/95, Thierry Henry – 8 in 1999-2000, 7 in both 2001/02 and 2002/03 and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 8 in 2018/19).

There is another tasty undercurrent to this Villarreal tie too. Emery revealed in May 2020 that he had not wanted to sign Pepe while Arsenal manager, instead preferring Wilfried Zaha.

Nicolas Pepe Unai Emery
Unai Emery signed Nicolas Pepe for Arsenal while he was manager

He told The Guardian: “We signed Pepe. He’s a good player but we didn’t know his character and he needs time, patience. I favoured someone who knew the league and wouldn’t need to adapt.

“Zaha won games on his own: Tottenham, Manchester City, us. Incredible performances. I told them: ‘This is the player I know and want.’ I met Zaha and he wanted to come. The club decided Pepe was one for the future.”

But with his impressive European performances this season, including last week at La Ceramica, Pepe will be hoping to have the last say against his former manager.

Arsenal following similar pattern

Bukayo Saka in action for Arsenal at Villarreal
Arsenal have not had a easy set of results during the Europa League knockout phase

Arsenal haven’t made it easy for themselves in the Europa League knockout stages this season. After winning all of their group games, the Gunners have lost or drawn at least one of their legs since the round of 32.

It bodes well after a first leg defeat in Villarreal. Manu Trigueros and Raul Albiol fired the hosts into a 2-0 lead inside half an hour, before Dani Ceballos was sent off but an improved last 30 minutes from Arsenal saw them hit back.

Pepe scored from the penalty spot – Arsenal had another penalty chalked off by VAR in the first half – before former Tottenham midfielder Etienne Capoue was sent off for Villarreal.

Arsenal results in the 2020/21 Europa League knockout rounds

Match Round Result
Benfica 1-1 Arsenal Last 32 first leg Draw
Arsenal 3-2 Benfica Last 32 second leg Won
Olympiakos 1-3 Arsenal Last 16 first leg Won
Arsenal 0-1 Olympiakos Last 16 second leg Lost
Arsenal 1-1 Slavia Prague Quarter-final first leg Draw
Slavia Prague 0-4 Arsenal Quarter-final second leg Win
Villarreal 2-1 Arsenal Semi-final first leg Lost

Arsenal have also progressed from each of their last two European knockout ties where they lost the first leg – 0-1 against BATE Borisov in February 2019 in the Europa League and 1-3 versus Rennes in March 2019 in the same competition.

However, Arsenal have won only one of their three home knockout games and have failed to win in their last five matches at the Emirates since a 2-1 win against Tottenham in the North London derby.

“There have been many factors,” Arteta said when asked about defensives issues at home. “Errors has been one of the main ones. We have conceded some set-pieces as well and with other teams not creating much, they have managed to score a goal.”

Will Arteta play a striker?

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta (left) consoles captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta came under scrutiny for a lack of a starting striker in the first leg

One criticism Arteta faced in the first leg was starting the game without a recognised striker. Emile Smith Rowe started through the middle, supported by Pepe, Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka in attack.

After the game, Arteta explained that it was a decision he made for the game, but after conceding inside four minutes, his plan was changed.

When asked about last week’s dissection of his tactics, Arteta said: “Criticism is part of the job and normally comes when you lose. We all know that.”

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Arsenal’s win over Newcastle in the Premier League

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang returned to the bench for the trip to Villarreal after recovering from malaria, making a late substitute appearance, and started against Newcastle on Saturday.

He scored one and assisted another during the 2-0 Premier League win and could be in line to feature on Thursday, with Arteta saying: “This game always gives you another opportunity. If you are there, then you are ready for the taking. He can turn things around really quickly so hopefully we can see that tomorrow.”

Aubameyang also spoke to the media ahead of the second leg, and said: “I think I was really motivated in these types of games because a few times I have received some criticism of not being involved in big games, so I wanted to show people that it’s not true.

Aubameyang is a killer. He was, he is and he will always be. He has been through a process of being
out of the team because of the illness he has had but he is back. He is there to work, to defend the team and give everything for the team, hoping he can perform at the top level and if that happens he is going to be very difficult to stop. We expect to find the best Aubameyang possible, the same with Granit Xhaka, I think he is a great person, a really great footballer. He was the top scorer in the Premier League when I was there, he is really
good physically and is a killer, like I said.

Unai Emery on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

“This is why I am really excited to play this game tomorrow because it is a big game and it’s a big moment for all of us. Hopefully we deliver again.

“For sure it will be one of [the biggest games of my Arsenal career]. Definitely this season is the most important game and we know that we have to win this game.

“It is a big opportunity to go through for us to get to the final, we play at home and this is maybe the biggest of my Arsenal career.”

Another option for Arteta could be the return of Alexandre Lacazette, who has overcome a hamstring issue and may also be involved.

Team news

David Luiz was injured again after starting against Newcaslte at the weekend

Both sides will be without suspended players Ceballos and Capoue after their respective red cards in the first leg.

Kieran Tierney could make his return from a knee injury for his first Arsenal appearance since April.

David Luiz made his first start since March against Newcastle, but early in the second half, picked up another injury that saw him replaced by Calum Chambers. However, Arteta did not provide an additional update on his fitness, and Arsenal will continue to assess the defender ahead of Thursday’s game.

How to follow

Follow live text commentary of Arsenal vs Villarreal via our dedicated live blog across Sky Sports’ digital platforms.

Opta stats

  • Villarreal have progressed from 15 of their 16 two-legged ties in major European competition when winning the first leg – the only exception was in the 2015-16 UEFA Europa League semi-final, when they went out to Liverpool despite winning the first leg.
  • Arsenal are without a win in their last two home games in European competition (D1 L1), after winning 11 out of 13 before that, with the Gunners hoping to avoid going three on home soil without victory in Europe for the first time since September 2003 (6 games).
  • Villarreal are unbeaten in 13 games in European competition (W12 D1), winning each of their last nine and last suffering defeat in April 2019 (0-2 v Valencia in the UEFA Europa League quarter-final 2nd leg).
  • Arsenal have lost just one of their 11 knockout clashes with Spanish opponents on home soil (W7 D3), with that sole defeat coming in February 2016 against Barcelona in the Champions League Last 16 (0-2).
  • Villarreal’s Gerard Moreno has either scored or assisted in each of his seven starts in the UEFA Europa League this season (6 goals, 3 assists), with only one player providing goal involvements in more consecutive starts in a single season in the competition since 2009-10 (Willian – 9 with Chelsea in 18-19).

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