Arsenal travel to Villarreal in the first leg of the Europa League Semifinal. The balance of the Gunners’ season hinges on advancing to and winning the Final but standing in the club’s way is a familiar face — Unai Emery. The former Arsenal manager has guided his side to 11 wins (and a draw) from 12 matches in the Europa League this season, has won the competition twice, and reached the final when he was in charge in North London. He knows the Europa League.
The Gunners were handed a massive boost this week when all of David Luiz, Kieran Tierney, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Alexandre Lacazette returned to training. All of them are in available for selection today and may even start. It may also be a bit of gamesmanship from the Gunners to throw a wrench into Emery’s preparation. We know from his time at Arsenal that he can over-focus on what the other team is doing to the detriment of his own team’s strengths.
Emery will have almost his full complement of players fit for selection. Only midfielder Vincente Iborra is out.
There are storylines aplenty in today’s match, so I won’t belabor them. We’ve had enough off-field nonsense to fill an entire season’s worth lately, so I’m going to do my best to enjoy Arsenal playing in a super high-stakes match where the result was truly in doubt for the first time since the FA Cup run in the summer. I hope you can do the same.
If you missed today’s Cannon Fodder, we will be running a Live Blog for the match in the thread for the first time today. I hope that the match update posts give commenters reference points and improves the thread overall.
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