With all eyes on them and their soon-to-leave manager Arsene Wenger, Arsenal opened up the doors to the Emirates, welcoming Atletico Madrid for the first leg of the UEFA Europa League semi-final.
Winning Europe’s second biggest club competition to return to the UEFA Champions League next season would undoubtedly be the best possible way to bid farewell to their legendary manager. However, with Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid standing in their way to the final, and an inevitable second leg scheduled to be played at the Wanda Metropolitano, Arsenal needed nothing short of a win last night.
Two yellow cards within the first ten minutes saw the visitors reduced to 10, as Šime Vrsaljko was given his marching orders in the 9th minute. Despite dominating possession of the ball throughout, it took 60 whole minutes before Arsenal took the lead through Alexandre Lacazette.
Unfortunately for the Gunners, though, not only did they fail to pile on the goals but they also gave way and allowed Antoine Griezmann to rescue the Rojiblancos with an all-important away goal in the 81st minute of the game.
As the game ended 1-1 – a result Arsenal fans will not be too pleased with, here is a look at 3 things that went wrong for Arsene Wenger’s men:
Desperately seeking the best possible result, Arsenal came out with their fiery best as they dominated play while also creating a plethora of chances. Disappointingly, their finishing rendered them all futile.
By the end of the 90 minutes, the Gunners had racked up an astonishing total of 28 shots with only a solitary goal to show for it. Atletico Madrid’s goalkeeper Jan Oblak may have put in an excellent performance, making 7 saves altogether, and credit to him for it, but that still doesn’t explain how and why the other 21 shots produced just one goal.
Bound by the inability to play the cup-tied lightning bolt who goes by the name Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Wenger decided to hand Lacazette the opportunity to impress from the striker’s position.
Alas, the Frenchman could only validate his negligence, because as crucial as his opener was, he took a total of 8 shots, of which only 2 were on target – and those numbers simply don’t bode well for someone trying to make their way into a side aspiring to challenge for silverware in a country like England.
Aaron Ramsey too mustered 8 shots, 5 of which were saved, while Granit Xhaka managed 4 attempts. Worryingly for Wenger, the artillery is all there but it’s failing to make a difference.
Not Making numerical advantage count
Seeking whatever sort of positive result, Arsenal were handed the ultimate advantage very early in the game as Atletico Madrid’s right-back, Šime Vrsaljko, was first shown yellow when he brought Jack Wilshere down in the 2nd minute, before subsequently being shown red for catching Alexandre Lacazette in the 10th minute.
Now, to have a side like Atletico reduced to 10 men that early was undeniably a blessing for Arsenal, who seemed to do everything they could barring their success in the final third.
With 76% possession, 28 shots, 762 passes, 11 corners, and a passing accuracy of 89.1%, Arsenal may have outplayed Atletico Madrid (23.9% possession, 6 shots, 245 passes, 0 corners and a passing accuracy of 68.6%) but statistics don’t paint the entire picture.
At the end of the day, the Gunners will rue the fact that they could only muster the one goal while also allowing as many. The second leg of the semi-final is scheduled to be played at the Wanda Metropolitano on the 2nd of May, and the Arsenal faithful will pray for any kind of miracle.
Atletico’s precious away goal.
1-1 isn’t the worst result if you think about it. What it does do, though, is hand Atletico Madrid an immense advantage in the form of the away goal. In a week’s time, at the Wanda Metropolitano, Arsenal will either look for a 1-0 victory to proceed to the finals of the UEFA Europa League or will have to score one more than every goal Atletico manages to net.
The problem with that is Atletico Madrid’s intimidating home form. The men in red and white haven’t lost a single La Liga game at home this season, winning 12 and drawing 5. Further, they have scored 28 goals in these 17 games and have only conceded 4.
To add to that, Diego Simeone’s men haven’t conceded a goal in 11 home games – that’s a jaw-dropping total of approximately 16 and a half hours.
With facts like these facing them, Arsenal will definitely have to play out of their skins and will have to come up with something special to beat Atletico Madrid and progress to the finals of the Europa League.
The away goal rule is bound to come in to play and could cause Arsene Wenger and his side some headaches.