Negatives and positives, the club’s dreadful away record and Wenger’s thoughts.
Arsenal had grabbed hold of the long straw in London before Atletico’s Griezmann snatched it right out of their hands with ten minutes left on the clock. The Gunners were left with the short straw in a performance only held back by an absolute calamity of a goal conceded, but the signs were promising. It’s now time for Arsenal to go to Madrid and nab the long straw back.
However, the home/away statistic isn’t on their side.
Arsenal’s awful away record and Atletico’s awesome home record
The Gunners have lost their last six Premier League away games. Their last away win was against Crystal Palace on 28th December.
There is a psychological problem there and an obstacle Arsenal have to overcome when playing in Madrid, where Atletico haven’t lost since 17th January against Sevilla in the Spanish cup, haven’t lost a single game in the league and they haven’t conceded at the Wanda Metropolitano in their last 11 games.
Hopefully the occasion is significant enough to subdue the mental issues the Arsenal players seem to develop away from the Emirates.
Scoring as well as not conceding, or scoring two or more against a team like Atletico, with the ongoing defensive issues in the club, is the mountain Arsenal have to conquer in Madrid.
But there are positives.
Keywords for an English night in Spain
Although Arsenal won’t have the luxury of playing against ten men for the majority of the game again, there are reasons to feel optimistic ahead of the second leg.
Wenger got the tactics right
Even before Atletico had a man sent off after ten minutes in London, Arsenal had two big scoring chances after starting the game with stunning desire. The same mentality and tactic will be essential in Madrid, who, predictably, will sit deep and rely on counter-attacks.
Be more efficient
Arsenal could have been 4-0 up after the first 20 minutes in London. The Gunners had 24 attempts at goal to Atletico’s six. A sad combination of poor finishing, being unlucky and shooting against one of the best goalkeepers around, Oblak, was the reason for such a underwhelming result. Lacazette’s goal was placed in the very corner of the goal after all…
Keep the momentum gained in London
Arsenal played some great football last Thursday, albeit against ten men. But if they aim to continue that play and remember how well they did and draw confidence from that, the momentum hopefully joins the flight over to Madrid.
Exploit Atletico’s right-back problem
Vrsaljko replaced an injured Juanfran in the first leg. The Croatian will serve his suspension after his red card at the Emirates, and the Spaniard is reported still unavailable through injury. Who Atletico might play at right-back I don’t know, but it’s reasonable to think he will be played out of position or lacking top talent and experience. Leaning on Atletico’s right side like Bayern Munich did so well against Real Madrid’s temporary right-back, but really a winger, Lucas on Tuesday is a great opportunity for Arsenal.
It’s still just a one-goal game. It’s important to not become over-zealous and leave too much room for the Atletico forwards. Finding the right balance between how many players join the attack at all times is crucial.
When to get desperate
If Arsenal fail to be in a leading position into the second half they have to know when to make defensive sacrifices and take risks. Not too late, not too early. If the Gunners are still one goal away from advancement, maybe around the 70th minute is ideal, leaving 20 minutes of hardcore attacking.
Wenger on the importance of the game
The boss has recently told The Guardian:
“We know exactly what we need to do and that is an advantage… “We need to score and to have a clear approach in our heads. The only thing we don’t know is will Atletico do the same or have a more cautious approach and try to catch us on the break? Atletico’s history (of clean sheets) has to stop somewhere. We created chances in the first leg and we have to recreate those situations.”
The outcome of this competition might have an effect on who sits in Wenger’s chair next season. Will Arsenal be in the Europa League or in the Champions League? How desirable is the club to the likes of Jardim, Allegri and Enrique with no Champions League football next year?
Qualifying for the final and winning the Europa League, giving Wenger his first European trophy and Arsenal its first since the European Cup Winners Cup in 1994, is the final chapter Wenger’s thick red book deserves.
Wenger added, “I want to finish this love story well.”