Arsenal matched Benfica for the 2nd leg in a very important tie in Greece, Athens.
With European football hard to come by in the league, the Europa seems the best route.
Based off the 1st leg, you would really expect Arsenal to go through as even though they were poor, they still easily could’ve won comfortably.
Benfica were very underwhelming and didn’t seem a goal threat – bar the unfortunate penalty.
A very important game where I think Arsenal will be too strong and will come out with a 2-0 win.
I expect Aubameyang to be an important player after he cost us the game last week, as you expect clutch players to come through.
Due to the bizarre away goal rule, Arsenal must ensure they play for a convincing win, as any draw above 1-1 would mean Benfica went through.
They can’t accept anything less than advancing to the RO16, especially after last year’s disappointment.
Smith Rowe, Saka & Ødegaard start together again, as Arsenal look to create efficiently vs a deeper block.
It’s a similar look for Benfica, but Rafa starts along with Seferovic, with Nunez dropping to the bench.
The Portuguese outfit created very few chances last time out and I wouldn’t expect much difference this time.
After the 1-1 outcome first game however and the incompetence of Arsenal, it’s all to play for.
Arsenal started the game on the front foot, with high press and stealing the ball on a few occasions.
There was no chance yet as, end product was off par. Nothing to show for the early dominance.
Benfica seemed more of an attacking threat on the counter, getting in behind on the channels a few times but nothing to show for their efforts so far.
20 minutes in, Saka plays it in behind to Aubameyang, who lifts the ball over the keeper. A lovely finish and a superb pass!
More like it from Arsenal’s key Talisman who is just onside.
Benfica continued to look suspect, as Aubameyang nearly punished them for a miscued pass.
I was really impressed of the tenacity of particularly Smith Rowe, as he pressed the ball after misplaced passes.
Saka just before the break managed to break in between the lines following a Ceballos pass, but he appeared to be offside.
He wasn’t to know that however, as another good chance goes by.
An utterly stupid foul given away from Ceballos before the break was capitalised by Goncalves, who curled the free kick home brilliantly.
So unbelievably frustrating, to allow them back into the game and give the Portuguese side hope.
Benfica haven’t looked like scoring at all so far, so trust Arsenal to provide them with a great shooting opportunity.
5 minutes after the break, Aubameyang had the ball played in from Ødegaard and chipped it over the keeper.
A lovely finish but was deemed just offside – even though it seemed by a hair length.
Positive stuff but very frustrating.
The equaliser meant Benfica went back to their old ways, of sitting deep and compact – absorbing pressure and trying to attack on the counter.
Pizzi made way for tricky winger Everton, who nearly joined Arsenal last summer. Brazilian Gabriel came on for Taarabt.
A poorly delivered set piece from Ødegaard left Arsenal exposed.
A long kick from the keeper went to Ceballos under pressure, who played a suicidal back pass for Rafa to run pass a half-hearted Leno then into an empty net, good composure.
Willian & Partey came on for Ceballos & Smith Rowe.
A few minutes later, a powerful effort from Tierney found the corner, game on where the perspective should be so different.
Taking off Bellerin for Lacazette lost control of the game, as Benfica passed the ball around with somewhat ease.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, things started to look bleak for the gunners – who quite simply can’t afford to go out.
86 minutes on the clock, Saka cuts in and puts a truly scintillating ball across for Aubameyang who can’t miss.
A major relief for the gunners who haven’t looked like scoring in these last 10 or so minutes.
Defensive acquisitions were made to see out the job, with Elneny & Chambers coming on.
Despite being offside, a heart in mouth moment for Arsenal fans as Benfica hit the post in the stoppage time.
The whistle was blown; and Arsenal progressed.
Man of the Match:
There are no contenders here, as it’s one man and one man only, Bukayo Saka.
The teenage superstar just hits new extremes like you wouldn’t believe.
Another 2 assists to his impressive tally. 2 chances only, efficiency at its finest.
Even on the defensive side, he completed all aerial duels, made 2 tackles, and had a 92% pass accuracy (via @Squawka).
After being the most overplayed outfield player in the side, you’d think his performance may be affected. Seemingly not.
One of the best talents around who we are truly lucky to have.
Aubameyang played a very important role, getting in behind on a few occasions – scoring a great goal and being in the right place at the right time.
Hopefully he can gain some consistency.
I was very impressed with Willian as well when he came on, as he changed the game in Arsenal’s favour.
A man with an obscene lack of rhythm and confidence can hopefully improve consistently.
Leno – 6
Bellerin – 6
Gabriel – 6.5
Luiz – 6
Tierney – 7
Xhaka – 7
Ceballos – 3
Smith Rowe – 6
Ødegaard – 5
Saka – 9 (MOTM)
Aubameyang – 8
Chambers, Elneny, Lacazette – N/A
Willian – 7
What next for Arsenal?
Arsenal go to the King Power to face a highflying Leicester.
This will be a very tough test, where I think Arsenal will give a good account of themselves.
You can find the game on BT Sports on Sunday, 12am.
Score prediction –
Leicester 1-1 Arsenal.
Feel free to provide your verdict on anything I’ve said, and I appreciate the continued support. thanks for reading!
featured image credit sky sports