After a nervy first 15 minutes, Arsenal ended up coming through their Europa League semi-final second leg comfortably, winning 4-2 in Valencia and 7-3 on aggregate to progress to the final.
The second leg started exactly as Arsenal wouldn’t have wanted it to, with Kevin Gameiro scoring for Valencia within 11 minutes. That left the hosts only needing one goal in the remaining 79 minutes to put themselves in a winning position, given their one away goal at the Emirates Stadium.
Just six minutes later, however, Arsenal had an away goal of their own. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finished expertly after an Alexandre Lacazette flick on, which left Valencia needing two just to level the scores. It only got worse for the home side in the second half, as Lacazette scored Arsenal’s second away goal, effectively killing the tie.
Valencia had to score four in the final 40 minutes, and though they did get one back, Aubameyang capped off the performance with two more goals to send Arsenal through.
Let’s have a look at our individual player ratings for the tie:
Petr Cech 4
There wasn’t much Cech could do about the first goal, but he really flapped at the second, and his distribution was shaky at best all night. The goalkeeper completed 34% of his passes and seemed to invite pressure onto himself and the defence. Questions really have to be asked whether it would be better to start Bernd Leno in the final now.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos 5
Sokratis generally had a solid performance, but he had a part to play in both of the goals Arsenal conceded. He got turned inside out by Guedes in the build-up to the first, and for the second he stopped tracking Gameiro right at the crucial moment.
Nonetheless, for the rest of the game, Sokratis played well. He made more clearances than anyone else, shut down a couple of attacks by ushering the ball to safety and made one crucial block.
Laurent Koscielny 7.5
Unlike Sokratis, Koscielny defended well for both of Valencia’s goals, he just got unlucky. The centre-back tracked Rodrigo properly for the first goal, but unfortunately, the striker’s cross deflected off Koscielny’s leg and straight into Gameiro’s path.
For the second, the Frenchman closed down Rodrigo’s shot perfectly, but somehow the resulting wayward effort just hit Gameiro (again) and went in. Sometimes the rub of the green just doesn’t go your way, and conceding two goals despite Koscielny’s strong performance is evidence of that.
Nacho Monreal 7
Like Sokratis for the second goal, Monreal just switched off for a moment in the build-up to the first and allow Gameiro in behind him to score. The deflected cross certainly played a part though, and after that, the Spaniard was very good. He made five interceptions, three clearances and won the only tackle he attempted.
Monreal was solid in the air and great on the ball, completing a higher percentage of his passes than any Arsenal starter bar Özil, and seeing more of the Gunners’ possession than anyone except Granit Xhaka.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles 6.5
Maitland-Niles’ performance was a tale of two halves. In the first, he got caught out a couple of times to gift Valencia some great chances to get back into the tie. In the second, he improved significantly and had one of the moments of the match with a clever trick and accurate low cross to assist Aubameyang’s second goal.
Lucas Torreira 5
It seemed like Torreira was pushing up a bit much throughout the match, so much so that it may well have been a tactical ploy, but it left plenty of space for Valencia to counter. Nonetheless, it paid off in the build-up to Arsenal’s second goal, as he picked up a loose ball to set up Lacazette.
At the same time, the Uruguayan offered very little in possession for most of the game, hardly even getting on the ball. Guendouzi completed more passes in his 10-minute substitute appearance than Torreira in the previous 80.
Granit Xhaka 7
After his poor performance at the weekend, Xhaka was much better on this occasion. He had the majority of Arsenal’s possession and helped the team create some good chances, but he also made some vital defensive contributions. One negative in his performance was a terrible free-kick attempt from distance.
Sead Kolasinac 7
Kolasinac tracked back to help out at the back a lot better than he has on some other occasions this season. He won all of his attempted tackles and aerial duels, as well as making more interceptions than anyone bar Monreal.
This seemed to come at the expense of his dangerous forward runs, which were much less of a feature than usual. With Lacazette and Aubameyang in the form they were in, that didn’t matter much. Unfortunately, the wing-back ended up going off injured, so let’s hope that’s nothing too serious.
Mesut Özil 7
As he often does, Özil pulled the strings behind the scenes of Arsenal’s attacking play, completing 92% of his passes and creating more chances than anyone else on the team. He did lose too many individual duels, which is probably why he ended up being taken off when the Gunners were defending a lead.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 10
Aubameyang has never had a performance as good as this in an Arsenal shirt. From the first minute until the last he worked tirelessly, whether it was chasing down Valencia counters or pushing the last line of defence.
The striker’s finishes for his first and third goals were about as good as we’ve seen him score. The second came through trademark intelligent movement to get across the defender and poke home. He should’ve had an assist too after beating his man and squaring for Lacazette to hit the post.
This was probably Aubameyang’s most important game in an Arsenal shirt, and he stepped up to the mark in a huge way.
Alexandre Lacazette 9
Similarly, Lacazette also rose to the occasion like never before. He won an aerial duel against the much taller Gabriel to assist Arsenal’s first goal, before scoring a crucial second to kill the tie, just as he did against Napoli. The way he held off the defender for that second was fantastic.
The striker completed more dribbles than anyone else on the team, maintained a pass accuracy of above 80% throughout and, like Aubameyang, tracked back to make a couple of tackles and interceptions. The one thing keeping him from a perfect score was his first-half miss, hitting the post when teed up by his strike partner.
When the worst thing you did in a game was hit the woodwork, you can’t have done too badly.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan 7
Mkhitaryan always looks better when he makes cameo appearances in matches Arsenal are already winning. He loves to carry the ball in counter-attacks, and that’s just what he had the chance to do against Valencia. The wide man ended up assisting Aubameyang’s third goal with a nice through ball.
Shkodran Mustafi 6
Mustafi only came on because Kolasinac was injured, and he really didn’t have too much to do after that. He completed eight of his nine passes, won his only aerial duel and lost his only tackle, as well as making a couple of clearances.
Matteo Guendouzi 7
As with Mkhitaryan, this was a positive cameo from Guendouzi, albeit in ideal circumstances with the game already dead. Coming on for the final 10 minutes, the midfielder passed the ball around expertly and made one good tackle. He was heavily involved in the fourth goal as well.