As Arsenal prepare to face Villarreal in the Europa League semi-final first leg tomorrow, Mikel Arteta has weighed up the threat of the opposition for the press.
The Gunners face former boss Unai Emery’s side at Estadio de la Ceramica, with La Liga’s third highest scorer, Gerard Moreno, set to lead the line. Only Lionel Messi and Karim Benzema have scored more than him this season, and he will pose a real threat to the defence.
Asked what he’s expecting from Villarreal, Arteta said, “Well, I’d say the main thing is the clarity of idea that they have both with and without the ball, and in transition and set-pieces they have very clear ideas and some great connections between the players.
“They have some fantastic individual players in the final third and they can decide a game at any time.
“They compete throughout the game and they also have an ability to change system using either the same players or different players during a game, and that makes them a very difficult to read.”
The manager was backed up by centre-half Pablo Mari who also highlighted the attacking threat of Moreno and former Barcelona forward Paco Alcacer.
“I think we are up against one of the best strike partnerships in Spain perhaps,” the Spaniard said.
“I think they are both in great form at the moment so it will be tough. Gerard Moreno is doing fantastically, I think he’s the best striker in Spain at the moment.
“Paco is doing great work too. They are different players, they both have their own attributes and we are going to be very alert to their movement and their playing style.
“I am expecting it to be a tough game, I am sure they will do everything they can to score goals so we need to be on guard.”
Arteta earlier teased the possible returns of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, David Luiz, Kieran Tierney and Alexandre Lacazette, but it remains to be seen how many will make the squad.
While acknowledging their importance, the manager insisted he wouldn’t pick players who weren’t fully ready.
“We do need them,” he said, “because we know that we have some players that are in contention and they are the ones who can make the difference in a big tie like this.
“But the word risk, I don’t like to put players on the pitch if they can’t perform and they can’t feel secure that they can perform.
“If it’s a risk or we’re going to take a gamble, then I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”