Alexandre Lacazette's 2 Goals Lead Arsenal to Win vs. Valencia in Europa League

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2019

Arsenal's Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (2nd L) celebrates with teammates after scoring their third goal during the UEFA Europa League semi final, first leg, football match between Arsenal and Valencia at the Emirates Stadium in London on May 2, 2019. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)        (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Arsenal gained a vital advantage in the semi-final of the UEFA Europa League after a 3-1 first-leg victory over Valencia on Thursday.

Valencia took a shock lead as Mouctar Diakhaby headed the opener after only 11 minutes, and the Arsenal defence was floundering from the first exchanges.

However, the Gunners went on the front foot, and two goals in seven minutes from Alexandre Lacazette gave Unai Emery's team the lead before half-time.

The Spaniards continued to cause the home side issues in the second half, but it was left to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to volley home in the final minute to complete victory.


Arsenal's Defence Will Cost Them The Trophy

Unai Emery has a problem in his squad and progress will not happen until he solves his defensive conundrum.

Valencia are a side who possess little threat, scoring only 40 La Liga goals this term, but they overran the Gunners' back line in the opening stages.

Laurent Koscielny remains the team's best defender but his supporting cast produces more comedy than quality.

The selection of Petr Cech is also questionable, and a lack of communication was present as the visitors claimed the opener.

Arsenal's German defender Shkodran Mustafi (L) vies with Valencia's Portuguese midfielder Goncalo Guedes (R) during the UEFA Europa League semi final, first leg, football match between Arsenal and Valencia at the Emirates Stadium in London on May 2, 2019.
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos provided no protection as Ezequiel Garay missed a tap in from close range after eight minutes.

Valencia's goal came as Arsenal failed to defend a straightforward header across the six-yard box, allowing Mouctar Diakhaby to nod home as the Gunners stood like statues under the ball.

The hosts struck back through a quick-fire brace from Lacazette before half-time, but it was the Spaniards who came out of the blocks after the restart.

The London Evening Standard's Vaishali Bhardwaj highlighted the Gunners' strengths and weaknesses:

Vaishali Bhardwaj @VaiBhardwaj

Arsenal's defence continues to let them down but, at least tonight, their attack appears on point. Lacazette, in particular, has been clinical to score the goals that has turned the game around. But you feel #AFC will need more because of how dangerous Valencia look on the break.

Koscielny stood firm but appeared to be struggling with a knock, and Valencia turned the screw as Ainsley Maitland-Niles appeared uncomfortable on the ball when in a defensive position.

Arsenal's best form of defence is attack, and Matteo Guendouzi entered the battle to add more verve.

The nerves were apparent from the muted atmosphere generated by the north London crowd. Emery was animated as he screamed at his players from the technical area.

Lacazette could have scored his hat-trick after the hour mark, but the France international held his head in his hands as he spurned his opportunity.

The away team almost scored a second as Kevin Gameiro beat Koscielny for pace after 72 minutes, but failed to find a finish to slot the ball past Cech.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 02: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal in action with Jose Luis Gaya of Valencia CF during the UEFA Europa League Semi Final First Leg match between Arsenal and Valencia at Emirates Stadium on May 2, 2019 in London, England. (Photo
Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Aubameyang's late goal made the scoreline more conclusive than it could have been, and Valencia will be frustrated to have conceded a third after a good performance.

It is no surprise Arsenal have lost 10 Premier League games this season. Emery must revamp the core of his defence and add tactical awareness to his midfield in the summer.

The Gunners still possess a number of excellent attacking players but might fail to win this trophy due to their inadequate options at the back.


What's Next

The second leg of the Europa League semi-final takes place on Thursday, May 9 in Spain. Both teams are set to feature on Sunday, with Arsenal hosting Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League and Valencia travelling to SD Huesca in La Liga.


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