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Unai Emery returns to the Emirates and it’s a pity that fans won’t be there for his comeback on Thursday night.
The Spaniard takes a 2-1 lead into the second leg which he’ll be pleased about, though Nicolas Pepe’s second half penalty has allowed the Gunners some hope in this game and the tie is very much in the balance as a result.
Consistency has been Arsenal’s Achilles heel this season, and after a run of four wins from five unbeaten matches, they’ve now won just three of their last 10, losing to all of Olympiakos, Everton, Liverpool and Villarreal themselves, and experience could just see the English side drop out of the competition here.
Unai Emery has won 40 of his last 51 Europa League ties and is a four-time finalist of this tournament, winning it on three occasions as he only failed when in charge of Arsenal.
This season alone his side have won 12 of 13 unbeaten games in Europe, including nine on the bounce now and their win over Getafe at the weekend has boosted their chances of qualifying for this competition next season via the domestic route, so confidence should be high in the camp right now.
Both Teams To Score
The Gunners are coming into this off the back of a win themselves, though they’ll be fully aware that the onus is on them in this clash, especially on the defenders who will be required to keep a clean sheet to avoid their side having to score three down the other end in order to qualify without extra-time.
That may be easier said than done for the hosts as they’ve managed to keep just three across their last 20 outings, with all three of those coming away from the Emirates to Sheffield United, Slavia Prague and Newcastle as they’ve conceded in each of their last nine here.
The hosts can’t then rest on their laurels here and we’d expect quite an open encounter, especially if the visitors net early on, leaving both teams to score a strong bet with the amount of attacking talent on display.
Villarreal To Qualify
While we’d expect Arsenal to at least get on the scoresheet due to the balance of the tie at the moment, they’ve struggled in the final third at home lately, scoring just twice across their last five such games, and it’s therefore quite a tall ask to double that tally in just ninety minutes (should Gerard Moreno and co. managed to find the net down the other end), and with Emery’s experience at these stages of the competition compared to Mikel Arteta’s, we’ll back the away team to go through too.