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An Achilles Heel It May Be But Arsenal’s Defence In Europe Will Likely Define This Cup Run

Huge question marks remain about the Arsenal’s resilience in defence, but it must be said that in Europe, bar two poor results, Unai Emery’s side have held up quite well on the road.

The standout performance was, of course, the 1-0 away win against Napoli, but they also secured wins against Qarabag and Sporting Lisbon away from home, as well as a 3-0 victory in Vorskla with a group of youngsters.

Certainly, the 1-0 defeat to BATE Borisov can’t be dismissed, and the 3-1 away loss at Rennes was particularly concerning but if we look at the numbers, conceding just seven in 13 Europa League games is pretty good going.

The Achilles heel that has hampered the club’s domestic form, hasn’t really been there in Europe this campaign, although it has to be said that the standard of opposition has been lower.

With the exception of Napoli, Valencia will surely provide the sternest test yet of this cup run and the Gunners should be prepared for a storm on Thursday.

Los Ches cut down a struggling Huesca side 6-2 on Sunday in what was their biggest win of the season and it appears Marcelino has begun to release the shackles on his team.

Their home record in this competition has also been very good. Winning 2-0 versus Celtic in the last 3-2, a 2-1 win over Krasnodar in the last 16 and a 2-0 victory against Villarreal in the quarters show a side that are difficult to beat on their own patch.

However, in two of those ties they held leads from the first leg, while in the Krasnodar game they played at home first and conceded an away goal. They haven’t faced a deficit from the first leg in this competition so far.

That means they will have to come out with an attacking mindset rather than play with caution; something they are not used to doing and it is something that Arsenal have to exploit.

Considering the Gunners will have Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at their disposal, it seems tailor-made for the London club to pick off their opponents on the counter-attack.

Scoring that crucial away goal could decide the tie. Rather than needing just two goals, Valencia would require four to sew things up within 90 minutes. So, while it’s clear that Arsenal’s defence will come under the cosh, its ability to hold out and the threat on the break will likely define whether they make it to the final.

With Champions League qualification now out of the question, this now becomes the defining match of the season. We shall see whether this Gunners side is up to the challenge.

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