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Talking Points: Could Xhaka-Mkhitaryan be the solution to Arsenal’s midfield conundrum?

Written by: Neil Talnikar

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An away goal for Valencia means the tie is still in the balance ahead of the second leg next week.

Arsenal received a huge boost in their bid to bring back the Champions League nights at the Emirates as they edged closer to the Europa League final, after a comfortable 3-1 victory against Valencia.

It wasn’t a perfect start to the game for the Gunners as they conceded an away goal in the opening minutes from a towering header by Mouctar Diakhaby. However, in-form striker Alexandre Lacazette scored two quickfire goals to give Arsenal the lead.

By then, the Londoners looked to have established a strong foothold in the game as they dominated for majority of time. A late strike by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang then finished the matters as Arsenal completed a superb comeback victory.

Watch: Arsenal 3-1 Valencia Europa League first leg highlights

Here are the talking points of the clash that took place at the Emirates Stadium:

5. Will the away goal prove decisive in the tie?

Although Diakhaby’s opener was overturned by Arsenal, it remains a vital point in the clash when the two teams meet again in the return leg at the Mestalla Stadium. Valencia had put on a great attacking display however lacked the finishing touch in the final third.

Moreover, the result may have brought to their realisation the Gunners’ defensive frailties, something they will definitely look to take advantage of back home. Blessed with good quality of attackers in Goncalo Guedes, Santi Mina and Kevin Gameiro, Valencia still have a good chance of overturning the result in the return leg next week.



4. Could Xhaka-Mkhitaryan be the solution for Arsenal’s midfield?

Until the time when Henrikh Mkhitaryan was introduced, Arsenal’s midfield looked quite shaky as they struggled to contain Valencia during counter attacking situations. However as the Armenian stepped onto the pitch, he didn’t require much time to settle down in the game and was solid at the centre of the park, putting in a couple of superb long passes.

Granit Xhaka on the other hand had a great game as he helped well in keeping the ball possession. He also got an assist when his superb aerial delivery inside the box was headed in by Lacazette.

Overall, the duo showed signs that they could make a good midfield partnership and Emery can certainly try the combination in future.

3. Bolstering the defence has become the primary task for Emery in the summer

In the 11th minute itself, Arsenal went down with an away goal and surprisingly they had it coming. They were too weak while defending dead ball situations and Valencia quickly took advantage of their woes.


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Moreover, Laurent Koscielny was the only active defender in their three-man defence line while the other two, Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis were certainly not upto the mark.

For the majority of this season, Arsenal have seen a shambolic defensive performance which has cost them some crucial games. A summer reinforcement, thus, becomes a necessity for Emery, while also taking into consideration that they are to play in the Champions League.

2. Did a poor passing display cost Valencia the game?

Starting the game very well, Valencia put on great pressure on Arsenal’s defence early on. However, their lack of quality while making the final pass made their life difficult, especially for the defenders as Arsenal looked deadly on counter attacks.

Overall, the Spanish side could only manage to record a 78% passing accuracy. Had it been better, they could have earned themselves another away goal which would have been a near perfect scenario for them.

1. Has Ozil lost his magical touch?

Playing alongside Xhaka, Mesut Ozil was never much of a threat in the attacking third. It certainly wasn’t the same Ozil that everyone has seen in the last couple of years as although his game was good statistically, there was a lack of creativity factor in him.

While in the midfield, Xhaka and Matteo Guendouzi did all the running while Ozil seemed to be much of a luxurious player. The German can definitely has the character to perform better and could be the key for Arsenal in their bid to qualify for the Champions League.

Published: Fri May 03, 2019 03:38 PM IST

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