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.”

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myrtle

We have final third players who can decide games Mikel, as long as you play them.
I’m looking at you Pepe, Martinelli and Saka. That is who I want to see tomorrow.

A P

We have players in the first turd who can decide games too, like Leno and his howler.

goonshow

Buy some bricks… mix some mortar… build a bridge…

AND GET OVER IT, ffs!

A P

You are a flag bearer for mediocrity. Are you one of those dumb farks who wish us to lose every game after ESL?

PB70

Yeah, flag bearer of success is some douche who holds on to Leno’s mistake.

Your endless bitching about every fucking thing is going to get AFC back on top!

A P

That are many things I haven’t bitched about, including you dumb fuck.

Johnny 4 Hats

As much as I love the dice roll of a starting XI like that, I think for a game of this magnitude I’d like to see Laca and / or Auba if they are fit. I know they are not exactly firing on all cylinders but remember what they did to Valencia a few seasons back.

If I were Emery, I would be quietly quite happy seeing Martinelli and Pepe start.

myrtle

I agree, but if Auba and Laca are not fit.. that front 3 would be my choice.
They are the most decisive.

magirlyeyes

I don’t think Emery is going to underestimate Pepe or Martinelli. He knows very well how dangerous they can be. Pepe finished top scorer in France when he was at PSG and Martinelli got 10 goals as an 18 year old in his first season here. I respect them.

CanadaGooner

Pls allow this me to make a correction. Pepe played for Lille not PSG. He finished second top scorer behind Mbappe. But our point is well taken.

yura910721

Sounds like he meant when Emery was at PSG.

Martin

You forget that Pepe has performed very well in the Europa League this season.

Johnny 4 Hats

It might also be worth remembering that Emery knows Pepe’s flaws and could easily nullify him. I mean after all, he totally nullified him when he was at Arsenal.

IamaGoober

Nothing quite like the manager needlessly over emphasizing the quality of the opposition before a big game. In no way could that ever be completely counterproductive… Its a huge flaw of Arteta’s for me. nobody really seems to talk about it. I remember he wrote this piece in the match day programme about the attacking qualities that Burnley possessed when we played them at home this year, and lost 1 nil to an Aubameyang own goal. Could you imagine the black lash Emery would’ve got if he were saying this sort of stuff in the pre-match presser as consistently as… Read more »

Lego Stare

Is it not understood by everybody that these quotes are from questions the manager is asked in the press conferences? It’s not like he just called into a radio station and offered this up. These guys are all pros and nobody just comes out and trashed other teams. See Guardiola, Pep as exhibit A.

IamaGoober

Be polite and offer the same guff as other top managers do.. but to go into the granularity of his answers is fairly ridiculous considering he’s the manager of supposedly a top club.

Give it the whole ‘yeah, they’re great, but…..’

No need to go into waxing lyrical about their goal threat and ability to change games.

Like fucking hell, its Villarreal being managed by the guy you’re supposed to be better than..

Someone should probably tell him that

A Different George

It’s true. If you listen to Guardiola before a match, he is always impressed at the extraordinary football ability of the Palace midfield. He doesn’t know if his side can cope with that. What’s he supposed to say: “well, I can use De Bruyne, Foden, Gundogan, Bruno Silva,or Mahrez–any one of them will cut through that lot like butter.”

mc1892

I wonder whether it partly comes from his Pep tutelage too. He always does exactly the same- except when it comes from him, his team are almost always enormous favourites. Whereas in our case I’d go as far as to say there are about 2 teams in the league right now that I’d be confident of beating, so it comes across as defeatist.

Okester

Two teams?! Who are they then? I can’t think of any. Maybe Sheffield, but even they closed the gap on us this week by 3 points…

Okester

I remember Emery would do the same. No doubt he’s giving interviews in the spanish press bigging up our team.

Thierry Bergkamp (non negotiable)

Stopping them is important but what’s more important tomorrow is that we score. A rare clean sheet is vital for the 2nd leg, but being Arsenal, will probably end up needing a late goal to not get eliminated on away goals

Agreed. Let’s bang some away goals. 3 at least.

Billy bob

I’m currently not feeling confident about this game, we are so wildly inconsistent it is scary!! I feel like everyone can beat arsenal and arsenal can beat most teams – its weird being an arsenal fan at present lol don’t know if you are coming or going 😂

Martin

Except our form in the Europa League is generally excellent

Gunner08

They have good players so do we. This game is gonna come down to who cares more

SB Still

That and which of the teams turn I mean which of the 2 Arsenal teams turn-up, the one that beat Leicester & Tottenham or the one that lost to…well Leicester & Tottenham all in the league this season.

Biggles

It’s the “Jekyll” or the “Hyde” option with us. Hyde certainly does a lot more leaping about but, hopefully, we’ll get Jekyll.

Jack

If Villareal were in the Premier League they’d be the equivalent of Crystal Palace. No excuses we should beat them tomorrow.

Man Manny

You don’t watch La Liga then.

Billy bob

More likely Westham or Everton and look how we did against them!!!

Biggles

Hopefully we will, but we couldn’t beat Crystal Palace at The Emirates in January and we’ve yet to play them away.

Jeremy DG

I just can’t seem to muster any enthusiasm for this because I just can’t see past the whole Emery putting a turd icing on our season fatalistic thing, the players letting everyone down again and the press/fans gloating about how we deserve to be knocked out. I really, really hope I’m wrong and get all of the egg on face.

Biggles

Let’s hope that they don’t decide anything against us. We also clearly can’t afford any of the silly errors that have marked several games this season. Everything (so far) depends upon these two semi-final games so let’s not be at home to Mr Cockup.

Twatsloch

It’s s reunion with Coquelin tonight as well.

C.B.

You have a reunion with Coque tonight? Very sexy!

Francis is playing tomorrow night against us….

Twatsloch

I’ve kept saying it’s tonight all week which just goes to show how impatient I am for this reunion to happen.

Batesy

That team news is surely to try and stop Emery doing his number 1 game plan and setting up a team to stop the opposition. I assume the plan is, Emery wont be able to if he does not know who will be playing or what our formation will be. But not sure he is fooling anybody as unless Arteta takes a massive risk we will be same as last week although I would play Cedric as they do have a decent winger.

Giuseppe Hovno

Emery’s number 1 game plan will be to set up to stop the Arsenal doing their game plan. Which means our best bet is for the Arsenal game plan to be a double bluff: we set up to purposefully allow Emery to stop our game plan, but secretly that was actually our game plan all along, so by stopping us doing what they thought was our game plan, they’ve actually helped us complete our game plan perfectly. Check mate. We win the most important match of all: game plan v game plan.

Paul

What did I just read???

And I read it till the end 🤣🤣🤣

yura910721

I knew, you knew, he knew all along, all along, all along XD

Johno

The real question is… will we see the squirrel make an appearance again?

Disarmed Gunner

In other news: Water is wet

TexasRed

Not when it’s frozen.

Public Elneny

Two cagey managers far more preoccupied with what the opposition’s players can do to then, rather than what weaknesses in the opposition’s backline they can exploit

7 goal thriller incoming!

We don’t win this if we go down the patient, game-management route – we’re hopeless at it. Need to take them on and beat them on the front foot

sAMa

Arteta is already give excuses to lose tomorrow.

Nostalgic Gooner

“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.” Perhaps Emery isn’t so bad after all.

RistoJ

Knowing Unai’s, we won’t see the spaces in front of our strikers, like we did vs Slavia. It will be unwatchable chess game….

Vonnie

We have five subs for this game so Auba and Laca can play a part, we’re dangerous too.

Ozzie

This just sounds such an Emery team:

“ability to change system using either the same players or different players during a game, and that makes them a very difficult to read.”

Marco

Exactly. This was Emery’s downfall at Arsenal.A big mish mash of tactics which consisted on what the opponent was doing rather than having some sort of game plan which you could tweak here and there as the game progressed.Having Watched Villarreal twice in the last week they have a lively front 3 who have good movement and link up very well.What I observed regarding their defense is they play a very high line and they were getting caught with the long ball down the sides similar to what we did to Chelsea in the cup final last season.We have the… Read more »

santori

Arteta is perplexing. Whatever he does on the day, DON”T play Xhaka at Lback. You can get away with it once maybe twice (and Granit did a great job considering unfamiliarity) but sooner or later they will find out he lacks pace… …predictably we would get punished. Villareal’s right sided attacker Chukwueze is super fast. Gerard Morena is VERY sharp in front of goal. Its a hardworking team Emery has fashioned on poorer more frugal assets. Hopefully Tierney is fully fit otherwise I would frankly prefer some speed to cover with at very least Cedric and Gabriel to cover. High… Read more »

santori

Lacazette hopefully is good to go.

Saka and ESR essential.

Temptation to play Xhaka and Partey for safety although Ceballos has looked sharp going forward and this is away where we have incentive to knock in away goals.

We need to be super sharp up top as well not profligate.

ashish mann

No matter the result it’s gonna be a good ebaaneegng.