The Super League

Villarreal makes a historic leap towards the final of the Europa League, the first in its history, after dominating a sad Arsenal from the start of the game to finish.

Match and missing penalty

Villarreal seized the game against Arsenal until it was immobilized. So, that time would pass without anything happening to safely cross the threshold that places it among the clubs that have played a tremendous European final. Thus he conjured up the misfortune of the 2006 Champions semi-final, cursed by Riquelme’s missed penalty against Arsenal much more fearsome than this one. If Villarreal was superior in the first leg in 90 vibrant minutes, they prevailed by calculation in 90 minutes of pure administration in the second leg. Manchester United awaits you in Gdansk on May 26 to play the Europa League final. The first final in the history of a club set in a town of 50,000 inhabitants is a blessing for Spanish football. His deed sums up the fascination radiated by teams that break hierarchical barriers due to their merits on the pitch. This is thanks to the open competition model, now threatened by the Super League.

A comeback was needed

Forced to come back from 2-1 in the first leg, Arteta laid out a daring plan based on the choice of players who instinctively seek to advance and keep their backs little. It was conditioned by Ceballos’ sanction and Xhaka’s injury in the warm-up. Against his custom, he placed Thomas Partey as the sole midfielder, escorted him with two men with a vocation as midfielders, Odegaard and Smith-Rowe, and deployed Pepé and Saka the ends to assist Aubameyang. In a way, the approach replicated Emery’s 4-3-3 scheme. When the ball began to roll, the teams were docked like twin modules of a space station. They matched each other and locked in midfield in a succession of short-haul skirmishes, with an advantage for Villarreal. In the tactical battle of coverage, tilting, aids and improvised distribution of markings, pure flyers such as Parejo, Coquelin, and Trigueros were more comfortable than reconverted attackers Odegaard or Smith-Rowe.

Chukwueze had an injury and requested to change and was removed on a stretcher, crying disconsolately. Well covered by Thomas by Moreno, Arsenal was handcuffed by the constant interventions of Parejo. With the help of Trigueros, the midfielder was closing out Odegaard and imposing his rhythm on the fray. The pressure prevailed over the touch. The errors in the deliveries multiplied, not in the positioning. Neither team managed to flow, but this benefited the visitors because it classified them 0-0. When Arsenal advanced, they finished the plays on the outside. Villarreal only hesitated when they hung a centre. The passing game does not seem like Rulli’s strong suit. At the exit of a corner, two rejections and Aubameyang crossed a shot that hit the post.

Party at Villarreal

Aubameyang himself headed to the post, in the second half, the best chance that he had left the English team. Condemned to crisis after joining the 12 clubs that tried unsuccessfully to re-found football by building a system that privileges the richest, Arsenal faded into its mediocrity. Outside the Champions League, Super League and the Europa League, the victim of the bond that Parejo and his teammates threw him on a boring night of football. But Villarreal turned into their biggest party.