[Image] Tierney & Martinelli start, no Smith Rowe: My Arsenal line-up vs Villarreal

By on May 6, 2021

gabriel martinelli 2019

Arsenal take on Villarreal at the Emirates this evening needing to turn around a 2-1 deficit to reach the final of the Europa League. This is the team I’d like to see Mikel Arteta select for the match…

I watched the Arteta press conference earlier and he revealed plenty of team news ahead of the game. I don’t have time to do a write-up – maybe I should use professional transcription services as that would be a lot quicker than replaying the video constantly for half an hour – but what I can say is we have lots of fitness concerns.

Bernd Leno will return in goal after being rested for the win at Newcastle so Mat Ryan will drop out but Arteta has some huge selection decisions to make in defence.

We looked solid and kept a clean sheet on Sunday [admittedly against a poor Newcastle side]. Arteta is expected to make changes tonight with the likes of Calum Chambers, Rob Holding and Pablo Mari recalled.  However, I’d love to see us stick with Hector Bellerin, Gabriel and David Luiz [if possible].

Luiz limped off with a hamstring issue on Sunday but he appears to have made a miraculous recovery and took part in training yesterday. If he’s fit, then I’d play him and Gabriel with Bellerin ahead of Chambers at right-back.

Kieran Tierney is also back in full training after recovering from a knee injury and I think it’s vital he starts. I fear Arteta won’t risk him but this game is make-or-break for Arsenal’s season. We need Granit Xhaka in midfield with Dani Ceballos suspended so for me it’s simple. We have to risk Tierney at left-back.

Martinelli starts

With Xhaka back in midfield he can partner Thomas Partey again. Our summer signing hasn’t looked as comfortable playing alongside Ceballos so hopefully Partey will be back to top form with Xhaka alongside him again.

Arteta also has some big decisions to make in attack. Bukayo Saka is arguably the only attacker guaranteed to start for Arsenal this evening. Perhaps Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang too as Alexandre Lacazette isn’t 100% fit. However, the No.10 and left wing slots are up for grabs.

Personally, I’d love to see Gabriel Martnielli start. I thought he was excellent against Newcastle and he has a great understanding with Aubameyang. Nicolas Pepe blows hot and cold but you’ll always get 100% effort with Martinelli and he’s a really dangerous player on his day. Pepe can be an impact sub from the bench.

I’d also make a slightly controversial decision to leave Emile Smith Rowe out. I think he’s most effective in the middle rather than out wide but Martin Odegaard just edges him out of my line-up.

This would be my Arsenal line-up:

football formations