Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang played his first minutes since the 1-1 draw with Slavia Prague when he came on against Villarreal last night.

The captain barely had 10 minutes on the pitch, but in that time he had an opportunity to grab what would have been a remarkable equaliser on a difficult night for the Gunners, who went down 2-1 to Unai Emery’s side.

The last few weeks have been a struggle for Aubameyang, who has been suffering the effects of malaria and was briefly hospitalised due to the condition.

With the all-important second leg next week, it’s going to be important to give him some more playing time, but Mikel Arteta played down his chances of starting on Sunday against Newcastle.

“He hasn’t trained much,” said the manager.

“He is still not at the level in his physique that he should be to start. We will see again tomorrow how he is.

“Yesterday he could only play a few minutes but we managed to get him on the pitch, which is great news for us.”

Arteta also has to find the balance between getting the likes of Luiz, Aubameyang and possibly Kieran Tierney back to some kind of match fitness, while not running the risk of further injuries ahead of the second leg.

The players stayed in Spain for some training in Valencia this morning, before their return to England, and preparations for the weekend.

“Let’s see who is available,” said Arteta about who might play on Sunday.

“We had a really demanding game again, the boys have had so many minutes so we will assess them tomorrow in the training session and see how everyone is, and try to get the line-up right.”

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The pl is meaningless at this point. Our entire focus needs to be on getting players fit / ready for the return leg. We have to use pace & attack so we need Auba ready to at least be an impact sub. Cedric needs to be our left back if KT isn’t fit as we’re going to need Xhaka in midfield. I really don’t understand Arteta’s aversion to playing Martinelli either.

Biggles

Yes, the return leg is certainly the most important game of our season – so far, anyway. Sadly, there’s little or no hope of improving our PL position so everything, as you say, has to be focussed on the EL. I’m not sure Auba will be fit enough for a start in the return leg so a subs role – should he be needed, which he may well be – is probably more likely at this stage. At the end of the day though we’re going to have to throw everything at Villarreal to get that vital (first) goal and… Read more »

atom

Yes- the last 2 EL ties Arteta has shot us in the foot & we’ve had to put up great responses to try to escape. I like him as a person but I’ve kind of lost hope that he develops into what we need him to be in any sort of reasonable time frame (we can’t afford another year like this). The PL really should be the measuring stick for a manager as it requires consistency over the course of a season & the truth is we really haven’t been very good this year. 10th place is about right for… Read more »

Futsboller

Well, thankfully Arteta engineered those responses and we came through, playing some scintillating football in the process.

We’ll be much better and much more consistent next season. Everyone will be so happy that we stuck with him.

atom

Welcome back!. You’ve largely taken the view that this year is a total freebie for Arteta as the uptick never really materialized. Out of pure curiosity, how much longer do you think he should be given without having material results to show for it? I.e. is 10th next year ok? etc.

Futsboller

Without European football, the team should be expected to be competing for the top four. If we remain in Europe, somehow, then we should be within the top six. I think MA can manage that with the positive changes I’ve seen this season.

Dave

You’ve largely taken the view that changing the manager repeatedly will lead to us improving our league position! Not sure how or why you’ve come to that conclusion but you have!

atom

My my aren’t we cute. I’ve taken the position that there needed to be material progress shown by Arteta this year regardless of the league position. That really hasn’t materialized – if we were playing exciting attacking football & largely just blooding youth then a poor season of results would be ok. Instead we’ve largely just played our older players this year (Saka & ESR have played but look at most of the rest of our line up) & haven’t achieved any results.

Futsboller

atom, a recent sky sports piece (apr22) on Arteta highlighted his emphasis on youth, and we, on average this season in the PL, have fielded the 5th youngest side after Villa, Fulham, Brighton, and MU, and we’ve given far and away the most minutes to players under-21 (3409; Sheffield are the next closest at 2893, and Sp*rs aren’t even registering more than 100) in the PL. All managers will tell you that you need a balance between innocence and experience in the squad, and MA has achieved that and, I believe, will continue to do so in the years to… Read more »

Atom

Just to clarify. Saka & ESR make up over 3100 of those minutes & dramatically reduce the age of the squad. Martinelli etc have barely played

Futsboller

Yeah, those two are really good!! Martinelli is getting more time recently — started against Fulham. I imagine he’ll start against Newcastle.

El Mintero

With the clearing of the dead wood and the necessary size of transition at squad level, then yeah, this was always a mulligan year for Arteta. I’ve always said judge him after 3 or 4 transfer windows. Next season top 6 would be mandatory. The season after that, top 4. If anyone thinks we should be winning the PL in 2 years you are sadly deluded given we have the Stan and Josh show to bring us back to mediocrity every year…you want real change get rid of those fkrs first.

DPK

Response, not responses. He still has to do the 2nd one next week.

IamaGoober

Scintillating football? Are you being facetious? Our xG in the first half was 0.14. Rob Holding accumalated more non-penalty box xG than any other Arsenal player on the night with 0.15. That’s our centre back being our most dangerous player. We literally had no goal threat whatsoever. The whole thing was a fucking disaster. If Emery knocks us out next week, Arteta has to be moved on. The logic behind his decision to play that truly baffling formation was so ridiculous its hard to put it into writing. You might be able to get away with tactically fluid ideas at… Read more »

Futsboller

I was referring to our “response” against SlaviaP: we put the game to bed before halftime, and managed it perfectly. If we can get a healthy Tierney, Auba/Laca back in the lineup next week, I think we’ll see a similar response. Yesterday Arteta tried a setup (in the absence of a healthy bona-fide striker) that was intended to capitalize on a very mobile front four, but they weren’t mobile and we conceded their first shot. I didn’t find the formation or its intended outcomes difficult to understand at all, especially in the absence of a fit Auba or Caca, particularly… Read more »

DPK

I know you love him mate but ‘he got it wrong but I still believe in him’ is a far more reasonable response than falling over yourself trying to justify every decision he makes. There was no logic in that line up. It was a stupid selection & he is a very lucky man that Villarreal didn’t kill us off.

Futsboller

The only difference between yesterday’s lineup and the one that thrashed SP was the inclusion of Odegaard and the absence of Lacazette through injury; it’s also the same lineup that we played against Everton, in which Nketiah didn’t really impress up front. Considering injuries, the defensive solidity of this lineup in previous iterations, and this being a difficult away-leg, I see the logic in the set up and the gameplan. I don’t think the intent was wrong or unjustifiable; the execution was, however, inexcusable. I try to find ways to support the Arsenal manager until I can’t any longer –… Read more »

DPK

There’s a massive difference between supporting the manager & what you are doing. (imho)
I support Arteta & still hope he succeeds. I won’t look for ways to justify every decision though, or look for ways to criticise every decision he makes either. That’s one way the divisions near the end of Arsene’s reign got much worse – people parking themselves at either extreme.

I’m in a WhatsApp group with more than 25 Gooners. That line up when announced was probably the closest we have ever come to total agreement, that’s how bad the selection was ! 😀

Futsboller

I’m well aware of my minority status and my optimism over Arsenal under Arteta. I wasn’t thrilled by the lineup or setup yesterday, but I understood the intent and continue to see the rationale behind it (as evidenced in player 10 of those 11 players against SP and Everton) despite the losing result. Not sure why that admission means I’m not supporting the manager and instead doing something massively different …?

DPK

My point is that you (certainly from what I can see) see the rationale in EVERY decision he makes…..but because you really want to, not because there actually is something there to see. That’s not supporting, that’s blind, unquestioning faith which imo is unhelpful & divisive…..

Timorous Me

Arteta’s gotten a lot wrong this year, but he’s also shown a willingness to adapt, sometimes because of circumstances–some of which have made his job really difficult. Also, I think that since Boxing Day when he fully realized what he had in ESR, and then we brought in Odegaard, he has played a consistently attacking formation and we’ve seen a consistently higher xG, even though the results have still been sporadic. And Arteta himself has shown anger and frustration with the team when they aren’t attacking and are too defensive and stagnant. That’s a big development, in my opinion. This… Read more »

DPK

I’m not sure what exactly it is in my post you’re responding too? I’ve been talking specifically about last night which he got horribly, horribly wrong.

Timorous Me

You were talking about seeing rationale in every decision, so I tried to pull it back to some broader points I’ve been thinking about. That said, I know at this point we wish Gabi had played up front, but he has barely any experience in that role, and putting him in requires not playing someone else. Does that end up being Pepe? Probably. Do we want that? No… My point is simply that it’s really easy to get on Arteta for getting it wrong (which he did), but it also feels necessary to acknowledge that these injury/illness problems are making… Read more »

Stanisashitcunt

We had Martinelli and Nketiah on the bench? Surely playing either one of them, if not the former. Was a far more sound strategy than opting to play nobody? Let’s not forget, we struggle to score when we’re playing Aubameyang and Lacazette. To completely negate that role in the side was just a catastrophic oversight. That’s before we get into the awful decision to play Xhaka at left back that hasn’t worked for a few weeks now. Just because managerial ideas seem like there’s been a lot of thought behind, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re good ones? The right decisions… Read more »

SarcasmB0t

The “response” against Slavia Prague was what was always going to happen given the massive gulf in quality between us. The only thing we needed to do was play to win. It’s far more damning that he somehow managed to lose the first game by playing teacher’s pet Willian for 70 minutes and refusing to put attacking players on until the last 15 minutes. We could easily have battered them in the first leg, instead we put up a lazy, disinterested, and tactically inept performance which meant that the team needed rescuing. If you repeatedly get lost in the woods… Read more »

Martin R

How is a 4-0 victory away from home being shot in the foot?

DPK

Silly comment mate. You’re deliberately misrepresenting what atom said.

Atom

Did you watch the first leg mate? We had to win 4-0 bc we chose not to play a pacey attacking line up against a squad missing their entire back 4 & keeper.

Filsuf

Because Martinelli has poor link up play

Mpls

This is sadly a fact, but one that you would think we could work around. He showed the way he IS effective in this match, by winning headers, and shielding the defender off the ball and dishing it off. Striker play, the way we haven’t had since Giroud. Sure, Giroud had that oh-so-silky touch on the ball so that he was actually quite good at linking play, but Martinelli has something he never had – fairly decent speed and quickness and the ability to take a defender on. It seems pretty obvious to me if we learned how to play… Read more »

Qwaliteee

Mate, this season is meaningless – period. Even if we win this tin pot and qualify for the ECL, it will only paper over cracks the size of the Grand Canyon – to use an American metaphor…..

Biggles

Understandable given his recent illness. Hopefully he can regain full fitness soon.

Eddy F

Completely rotate for the PL, and drop Ceballos for the rest of the season.

vs Newcastle:
Ryan
Bellerin Luiz Gabriel Cedric
Elneny Xhaka
Nelson Odegaard Pepe
Martinelli

vs Villareal:
Leno
Chambers Holding Gabriel Cedric
Partey Xhaka
Saka Odegaard ESR
Auba

Biggles

It’s funny (if that’s the right word) how Ceballos has gone from hero to zero within the space of this season. I agree that he has, but looking back Mr C was at the top of the shopping list for quite a while. I doubt he’s on the list at all now, so it just goes to show.

karl

Holding and Gabriel don’t operate well as a pair really. Also Pepe is best on the left if Mikel insists on leaving Martinelli out.

Joy

So you’d leave Pepe,one of our in- form players and arguably our best player throughout the EL, out of the second leg. Is that you Mikel?

Fred Merz

Pepe has been in his best form since joining the club. I felt like he was our sharpest player in attack, was constantly looking to make things happen, and even did a good job tracking back. No idea why he would be dropped for the return leg.

Nainsley Aitland Miles

I’d like to see Luiz start against Villareal for his range of passing as we’ll be on the front foot from kick-off – but he’ll need to play some part of the Newcastle game to shake off the rust.

Dave

Would love to see Bellerin back in vs Villareal. Chambers has been hit and miss to say the least.

Jack

Chambers has the unique skill of constantly looking he might topple over at any minute when he has the ball

Lego Stare

I’d give Cedric a go on the right. They rarely looked to attack that side and Cedric is the best going forward for my money.

Riku

No Pepe v villeriall , crazy talk .He has 6 goal in Europe. European football and refs suits him more than pl

allezkev

If the rest of the EPL fixtures are meaningless then surely they’re the type of games to use Ceballos in. I’d like to see Azeez get a couple of run outs with maybe Balogun starting a game or two.

Billy bob

What a mess this team is in, Arteta team selections really don’t help, but hey we are still in the tie!!! Who knows!!!

Man Manny

I remember Drogba contracting malaria back in the day. It took him weeks to get back to his best.
I wish Auba speedy recovery.

Timorous Me

I was watching Auba just kind of lingering about as the team was getting ready to emerge for the second half yesterday and I thought that he looked really tired still–you could just see it in his face. In a day of disappointments and letdowns, that was yet another one, because in that moment I realized him having an impact as a sub was probably really unlikely.

goonshow

What’s the bet’s he STILL doesn’t give Balogun any game time?
Or Martinelli…

Nainsley Aitland Miles

Martinelli should start against Newcastle but I doubt we’ll see Balogun what with Aubameyang and Lacazette coming back.

Adnan

He is so stubborn. its not a good sign. keeps persisting with same ideas when they have not worked throughout the season. or perhaps he thinks what we propose isn’t the solution. I honestly don’t get why the fuck would you not give these guys a chance to prove themselves. They are players who wouldn’t shy away from a big stage. They have the hunger and desire to make things happen which you Mikel keep complaining was missing in the final third after losing games. If you don’t pick players who offer that, how do you fix your problems.

Qwaliteee

When he comes back to making the starting XI the poor bugger will probably still be played out of position.

NB I use the word ‘poor’ as a figure of speech, before everyone starts reminding me of his salary details…..

David C

Play Ceballos and a bunch of backups on Sunday. Game against Newcastle means nothing. Don’t risk Tierney and Laca. At most, give them a little cameo at the end for a bit of tune up.

El Mintero

We have back ups?

SarcasmB0t

Yes, they’re the guys who were locked-on starters until after December.

Crewiscool

It is clear that Arteta doesn’t rate Nketiah so let’s see Balogun in the PL till the end of the season.

I don’t know why others aren’t losing it over the kid. When I have seen him play, he brings a completeness that no other strike at our club has. His hold up has been great. He can turn and dribble and can shoot as well. And this is right now. He deserves a run out.

Santori

Could have put him on way earlier. Fullbacks Bellerin and Cedric should have been played to counter pace. 50-50 on Gabriel over Mari for extra cover on our left bc of Chukuweze but he is slightly more rash than Mari. But Xhaka should have been in midfield. Partey was culpable for BOTH goals slow to cover. Ceballos as I have mentioned consistently needs to be played higher up where he is less liability more destructive to other side. Odegaard did not do much and was just returning in not ideal. A double forward mid of Ceballos and ESR would have… Read more »

El Mintero

I don’t think Emery gave a masterclass in anything other than letting a shite Arsenal lineup back into a match they should have easily won!

Riku

Partey can play at 8 or 10 and xhaka 6

Cicero

He hasn’t been at a decent level all season.

Qwaliteee

He’s not had the service from a decent number 10. Yes, we have been blessed with the emergence of ESR and Odegaard but injuries and a manager who doesn’t know his tactical arse from his elbow have all helped to hinder the situation.

He needs to be played as a lone central striker up front – no questions asked – with a decent number 10 regularly playing balls into the channels.

It’s not rocket science when you consider how regularly he was putting the ball in the net with Mesut Ozil behind him.

Bryan

But u have a matinelli who is fit n can cause problem for defenders .compare auba chance vs villareal n matinelli chance vs everton .even with the tight space he still manage to hit target against everton.i dont get the reason for this stubborn attitude.if we fail in europa i see no reason u wont be categorize as worse than emery .only except i dont like the fact emery is too cautious .

Riku

Rest saka, ESR, xhaka , Partey , pepe

MojoWillneny

This Summer, Arsenal Must Sell the “Not Good Enough-Nine”:

Xhaka, Lacazette, Bellerin, Holding, Guendouzi, Torreira, AMN, Nketiah, Nelson.

At the end of the day we should average around 12-13 million each for that group. That would give us around 110 million from player sales and if our questionable owners can provide another 40 million, we’d have roughly a 150 million budget for this summer’s window.

Not enough to rebuild this squad, but it’s promising…