Arsenal got back to winning ways with a convincing win over Valencia in their Europa League semifinal first leg as Lacazette stars with a brace.
Arsenal’s season was in doubt before the game in the aftermath of three consecutive league losses which put their top four ambitions in jeopardy. Unai Emery’s side quashed all doubts about their credentials in the Europa League with a convincing 3-1 win over Valencia at the Emirates in their semifinal first leg, with Lacazette and Aubameyang among the scorers.
The game did not begin the way Arsenal would have wanted, as Valencia took control of early proceedings and were rewarded for their efforts under 10 minutes. Mouctar Diakhaby got at the end of a set piece routine and scored the opener to put Valencia in front as Arsenal were exposed yet again. There was a familiar feeling at the Emirates that the outcome of the game would be adverse, but the Gunners turned it around.
Alexandre Lacazette got on the act with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the Frenchman scored the equaliser. Some minutes later Lacazette gave Arsenal the lead by scoring his second with a header as the Gunners took the lead going into half-time. Since then, the home side took control of the game and did not let Valencia have too many chances on their front.
In between the second goal and the third one, scored by Aubameyang in second-half stoppage time, Arsenal missed many good chances with the Gabon striker and Lacazette at the forefront. But Aubameyang calmed the nerves by scoring a brilliant goal right at the death, giving Arsenal a deserved 3-1 lead heading into the second leg at the Mestalla.
Here’s how Arsenal’s players rated during their convincing 3-1 win over Valencia.
Petr Cech – 7
Excellent command over his area and made some crucial interventions. One moment where he saved a goal-bound shot with his legs when the scoreline was 2-1 was his significant contribution and will prove critical in the second leg. Looks far from done as he nears retirement.
Shkodran Mustafi – 7
Led Arsenal players in interceptions and clearances as the German made amends for his recent bad performances. It was a good outing for Mustafi given he was facing his former side for the first time since moving to North London.
Sokratis – 5
Not at his best but not the worst performance either. Got himself into some rash challenges and was lucky to not get booked. Sokratis was poor for the Valencia goal, and his recent dip in performances was visible in this encounter.
Laurent Koscielny – 8
If Arsenal played well defensively its all down to the brilliance of Laurent Koscielny. The captain gave it all in an all-around display and carried on for as much he could considering he was uncomfortable right from the first half. Arsenal will be hoping he is fit for the remaining encounters especially the second leg.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles – 6
There was this time when Arsenal were struggling early on, and so was Maitland-Niles. The wing back was finding it difficult to play his game and was lax in defending. His struggles were amplified with the headed back pass for Cech which almost resulted in another Valencia goal. From that moment he improved drastically to play his game and keep the threat of Jose Gaya at bay.
Sead Kolasinac – 6.5
Of late Kolasinac’s game has drastically deteriorated and against Valencia, he showed much improvement. His presence in the final third is massive considering the kind of positions he gets himself into, although his delivery fails him for most parts. Against Valencia, it was the same story as his finalsballs were all in vain, except the one for the third goal. Got an assist to his name, but otherwise decent overall.
Matteo Guendouzi – 6
Not a bad outing for Guendouzi despite being subbed off early in the second half. There were few problems with his game as he drifts out of position which leaves his teammates exposed a bit, but his passing and play on the ball was tidy. Replaced by Torreira.
Granit Xhaka – 6
When he struggles to get a grip on the midfield, Arsenal are always in real danger. It was a similar story in the first 20 minutes when Xhaka was unable to exert any control in the area, gave the ball straight to Valencia players three times. Its after this period that he significantly improved and created two great chances one of which Lacazette scored.
Mesut Ozil – 7
Pretty tidy game for Ozil, although its almost imperative that he gets criticised for not contributing with goals and assists. In our opinion, Arsenal’s lack of attacking strength in the last few games were attributed to no link between attack and strikers, and Ozil provided just that against Valencia. Substituted and replaced by Mkhitaryan in the second half.
Alexandre Lacazette – 9
Lacazette was in his stride, working hard all throughout the game and brought life to this Arsenal team after a dull 20 minutes early on. Scored two goals and could have scored more had he been clinical with the chances offered. Brilliant performance from the Frenchman.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 8
Like Lacazette, he worked his sock off and provided many moments. Had he been more clinical could have scored more and early in the game. Scored the vital third goal for his team to increase the aggregate score and that too from a very tight angle.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan – 6
Replaced Ozil on the pitch and contributed to the attack. Was involved in the build-up to the third goal but on an overall note, it was a decent outing for the Armenian.
Lucas Torreira – 6
Was sent to help Arsenal gain control over midfield and did as asked.
Nacho Monreal – 6
Good 10 minutes or so for Monreal after missing the last game through injury. Replaced Koscielny and did a decent job in protecting Arsenal’s lead.