Morale is at a low ebb after three consecutive losses in which we shipped in 9 goals scoring only 3. Yet hope is not completely extinguished because our direct competitors in the Premier League are all stuttering too: Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham. So poor have they also been that despite our miserable run, there is still the remote but distinct possibility of our qualifying for the Champions league via the Premiership. But today it is strictly OGAAT (one game at a time). Qualifying through the Europa Cup is fully in our hands, what with the visiting Valencia also stuttering.
Valencia who are 6th on the La Liga table have lost their last two games and like us they are straining to get into their top 4. Worse for them the team’s below them are so close to be threats to even their Europa League qualification. Therefore they are left with no option than to keep fighting on two fronts. It is fighting on two fronts that seems to have taken a heavy toll on us and on these our direct competitors. Who qualifies between us and Valencia is likely to be decided by the team that is able to dig deeper into its reserves of energy.
Marcelino, the Valencia coach, organizes his team in a 4:4:2 formation similar to Diego Simione of Atletico Madrid. Little wonder that Atletico Madrid is one of only two teams that have conceded less goals than Valencia in the La Liga. We must be ready then to face a team that is compact, space conscious and that attacks via counters.
Emery is ever keen to be reactive to teams but injuries have robbed him of much options. It might be best for him to play to the strength of his team. If he does so, with Ozil and Monreal expected back, we are likely to see this starting line up:
Bench: Leno, Mustafi, Elneny, Guendouzi, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, Nketiah.
On the Valencia side our own Francis Coquelin is out suspended, but Gabriel Paulista is expected to start. Emirate would welcome him, would also be praying that his defensive line be bridged time and time again.