Arsenal v Atletico Madrid: Finish of an period for Gunners
The main focus could be firmly and pretty mounted on outgoing Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, however Atletico Madrid are additionally approaching the top of an period as they head into Thursday’s Europa League semi-final first-leg journey to Emirates Stadium.
The Spanish facet are dealing with a summer season of change, with iconic ahead Fernando Torres positively leaving and the futures of key males, ahead Antoine Griezmann and goalkeeper Jan Oblak, in appreciable doubt.
Moreover, a variety of the gamers who’ve been elementary fixtures in Diego Simeone’s facet for the previous couple of years are approaching the top of their careers, and this Europa League marketing campaign might be the final probability for outdated favourites like skipper Gabi, 34, right-back Juanfran, 33, central defender Diego Godin, 33, and at present injured left-back Filipe Luis, 32, so as to add to their trophy haul.
Atletico’s capability to compete on a good footing with Barcelona and Actual Madrid over the previous couple of years has been admirable, and Simeone’s males are on monitor to carry off metropolis rivals Actual and declare a second-place end in La Liga this season.
However Los Rojiblancos haven’t received any silverware for the reason that Spanish Tremendous Cup in August 2014, and the ultra-competitive Simeone – whose future on the membership at present appears safe regardless of common bouts of hypothesis – is determined for his troops to finish a irritating sequence of near-misses by lifting the Europa League trophy.
So be careful Arsene… Atletico are decided to spoil your leaving social gathering.
The masters of defence
Arsenal’s largest problem can be discovering the again of the online, as a result of Atletico’s problem is based – because it has been all through the Simeone period, which started in 2011 – on an impressive defensive file.
After Sunday’s goalless draw with Real Betis, they’ve now saved a outstanding 11 consecutive clear sheets at dwelling, with Girona ahead Portu the final visiting participant to attain on the gleaming new Estadio Wanda Metropolitano greater than three months in the past.
That sequence consists of victories in earlier Europa League knockout ties in opposition to FC Copenhagen (1-0), Lokomotiv Moscow (3-0) and Sporting Lisbon (2-0).
Nevertheless, Atletico have not been wherever close to as watertight away from dwelling, failing to maintain a clear sheet of their final eight away video games and shedding three of the final 4. However they nonetheless boast the very best defensive file in La Liga with simply 18 objectives conceded in 34 video games.
So it is clear that Arsenal want to ascertain a strong benefit from the primary leg, nevertheless it will not be straightforward for Wenger’s males to seek out their well beyond extremely constant goalkeeper Oblak, who did nothing to ease hypothesis over his future by chatting with the media after Sunday’s draw with Betis and stating he would not know the place he’ll be enjoying subsequent season.
The Slovenia worldwide has been closely linked with a summer season transfer to Paris St-Germain, who’re supposedly not delay by his 100m euros (£87m) buyout clause, with Arsenal and Liverpool additionally reportedly concerned about making Oblak the costliest goalkeeper on the earth.
Atletico midfielder Koke has urged his membership to offer the 25-year-old shot-stopper a “clean cheque” to maintain him, however Oblak’s lack of public dedication to his future has left many followers resigned to the prospect of shedding a participant who been a pillar of energy since signing from Benfica in 2014.
In entrance of Oblak, the again 4 is marshalled by the no-nonsense ‘Row Z’-style defending of the fearless Godin, with rising star Lucas Hernandez – brother of Actual Madrid defender Theo – deputising for (and even perhaps displacing) injured Luis at left-back, whereas dynamic Croatia worldwide Sime Vrsaljko competes with Juanfran for the right-back slot.
So the names could be largely completely different from the well-known Atletico defences of latest years, however because of Simeone’s meticulous drilling they’re nonetheless extremely tough to attain in opposition to. And simply to make issues even tougher, the Argentine boss has mentioned he is contemplating utilizing an additional centre-back and using a five-man defence in opposition to Arsenal on Thursday.
Griezmann’s final shot at glory?
For all of the goalscoring exploits of Antoine Griezmann – undoubtedly Atletico’s largest star – over the previous couple of years, the versatile ahead has one large hole on his CV: he has by no means received a significant trophy.
The 27-year-old Frenchman was a part of Actual Sociedad’s second-tier promotion-winning staff in 2010, and Atletico received the Spanish Tremendous Cup in opposition to Actual Madrid simply after he joined in the summertime of 2014, however defeats within the Champions League remaining and European Championship remaining in 2016 left him ready for extra important silverware.
Now, it seems, Griezmann’s endurance has run out and he is determined to spice up his probabilities of taking titles by becoming a member of Barcelona, who’re very assured of securing his signature by paying his 100m euros (£87m) buyout clause in the summertime – despite the fact that Simeone has claimed he has not given up hope of persuading him to remain.
Griezmann was near becoming a member of Manchester United for the same payment final yr, however he eventually decided to stick with Atletico as an indication of respect after the membership had been prevented from recruiting a substitute by a Fifa switch ban.
Earlier within the season it appeared like he was regretting his choice to remain after making a sluggish begin, however he has regained prime kind for the reason that January arrival of Diego Costa, with the previous Chelsea man’s muscular strategy serving to to create house (and tire out opposition defenders) for Griezmann’s profit.
Nevertheless, that nearly definitely will not be the case on Thursday as a result of Costa is struggling to get better from a hamstring harm suffered within the quarter-final in opposition to Portuguese facet Sporting, though Simeone is assured the highly effective ahead can be again in time for the second leg.
Fond farewell for Torres?
The anticipated absence of Costa makes it extra doubtless that Arsenal followers will see a remaining outing on English soil for ex-Liverpool and Chelsea striker Fernando Torres, who will make an emotional departure from his boyhood club on the finish of the season.
Torres is predicted to maneuver to the USA or China after Simeone opted to not renew his contract, a choice which the 34-year-old was sad with however has reluctantly accepted after receiving lowered enjoying time this season.
Atletico followers maintain an infinite quantity of affection for ‘El Nino’, who first joined the membership on the age of 11 and later turned a vastly well-liked captain earlier than embarking upon his seven-year sojourn in England.
In fact, although, Torres has typically been nicely previous his finest since he returned to Atletico following a short spell with AC Milan in January 2015, and he’s not possible to start out on Thursday.
As an alternative, Griezmann is more likely to be partnered by fellow Frenchman Kevin Gameiro, who has by no means constantly lived as much as expectations since arriving from Sevilla for 32m euros (£27m) in the summertime of 2016 however who is usually a devastating participant on the counter-attack because of his searing tempo.
An alternative choice for the beginning line-up is Angel Correa, a skilful participant and an outdoor candidate for Argentina’s World Cup squad however Atletico followers would love nothing greater than Torres having fun with a final second of glory by coming off the bench to ship his staff on their approach to a European remaining.