02 May Atletico Madrid v Arsenal talking points
Arsenal travel to Spain on Thursday looking to seal a place in the Europa League final by beating Atletico Madrid.
The Gunners missed a big chance to head to the Wanda Metropolitano with a lead after being held by their visitors – who played with 10 men for 80 minutes of the 1-1 draw.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at the main talking points of what could be Arsene Wenger’s last European game in charge of Arsenal.
Au revior, Arsene?
Wenger announced last month that he will step down as manager at the end of the season following more than 21 years at the helm. If his side fail to progress to the final in Lyon, this will be his European farewell. The Europa League has become pivotal to the 68-year-old this season and now offers him the chance to not only depart with silverware but also with his replacement taking over a side back in
the Champions League from next season.
Remarkably, Arsenal have only won seven away games all season across all competitions. Even worse, Wenger’s side have yet to take a Premier League point on the road in 2018. Their Europa League record stands up a little stronger, and an impressive 2-0 win at AC Milan earlier in the competition will give them hope of springing a surprise in the Spanish capital…
No place like home for Atletico
…But that task will be made all the more difficult given a somewhat formidable home record for Diego Simeone’s team. The LaLiga outfit played their first game in their new home on September 16 and only Chelsea, Sevilla and Barcelona have departed with victories. Arsenal need at least one goal to progress and even that could prove a challenge as Atletico are on an 11-game run of clean sheets at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Counting the Costa
Simeone warned Arsenal ahead of last week’s first leg at the Emirates Stadium that Diego Costa had travelled with the squad and was ready to “intimidate” the hosts. Costa scored three times in six appearances against the Gunners while a Chelsea player and also had a knack of winding up Arsenal’s defence. The Spain international was an unused substitute in north London but played an hour in Sunday’s LaLiga win at Alaves and could prove the difference on Thursday.
Taking the Mkhi
Arsenal were hamstrung last week by a lack of creativity as they looked to breakdown a resolute Atleti side defending with a man down. The Premier League side will no doubt be boosted, therefore, by the timely return to fitness of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who missed the first leg with a knee injury. The Armenia international scored in his comeback at former club Manchester United on Sunday and, having found the back of the net for the Red Devils in last season’s final, Mkhitaryan seems to love the Europa League.