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All Arsenal’s possible Europa opponents assessed – Who do you want us to draw?

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The draw for the last 8 of the Europa League is this evening. Here’s a glance at who we could be facing next and our chances assessed….

Chelsea
A win each against each other in the League. It could come down to where both are in the Prem come next round. The further away from 4th, the more important this tie becomes. If one/or both are in top 4 by time of Finals, the pressure is off.

Napoli – Unlike last year when Sarri sacrificed this competition to try and win Serie A, the Italians are giving this tournament a real try. We would have to dramatically improve our away form to beat them over two legs.

Valencia – 7th in La Liga having been better in second half of season. More well organised and hard to break down rather than having any flair to fear.

Benfica – Involved in a fascinating title race in Portugal, so a team not used to losing often. They don’t travel well though, losing in the last round at Dinamo Zagreb, meaning we be favourites over two legs.

Slavia Prague – The last time we played, we beat them 7-0 at home before drawing 0-0 away in the only time they featured in the Champions League group stage. They are one round away from matching their best ever achievement in Europe, the semi-final of the UEFA cup in the early nineties. They have the benefit of no expectation, nothing to lose and everything to gain. Them at the Emirates for the first leg would be the kindest draw.

Villarreal– Being in the last 8 of the Europa League contradicts domestic form where they are 17th. While being in a relegation fight means it’s unlikely they will continue Spain’s dominance of this competition, they are treating it as the escape they need from La Liga, and the one opportunity to rescue their season from being a nightmare.

Frankfurt – Once a power house in Germany, have slowly rebuilt themselves over the years, winning their domestic cup for the first time in 3 decades. They beat Bayern Munich in that final and won at Inter, so are getting used to high stakes. They would be dangerous to play in terms of the pressure would be off them but we would be favourites.

Who would you like us to draw?

Dan Smith

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Arsenal's soft underbelly remains under Unai Emery on the road

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Arsenal’s soft underbelly remains under Unai Emery on the road… they have claimed an incredible 22 points less away than at Emirates and have conceded one more than Cardiff!

  • Arsenal’s ‘soft underbelly’ that was there under Arsene Wenger still remains
  • Unai Emery can’t lay claim to improvement when his side still struggle away
  • The Premier League table on away results alone has them down in ninth position 
  • The 31 goals they have conceded from 17 games is one more than Cardiff

We are, it seems, constantly wrestling with the notion of Unai Emery’s Arsenal being better than the one he inherited from Arsene Wenger.

You only have to look at their away performances to reach the conclusion that very little has changed.

The ‘soft underbelly’ we called it in Wenger’s day, a vulnerability when the going got tough. And so it remains the case under Emery.

Arsenal's dreadful away form could see them miss out on Champions League football yet again

Arsenal’s dreadful away form could see them miss out on Champions League football yet again

Unai Emery's side fell to another defeat away from home on Wednesday, losing 3-1 to Wolves

Unai Emery's side fell to another defeat away from home on Wednesday, losing 3-1 to Wolves

Unai Emery’s side fell to another defeat away from home on Wednesday, losing 3-1 to Wolves

If Arsenal’s greatest Premier League side won the moniker ‘The Invincibles’, how about ‘The Invisibles’ for the current vintage when they leave the comfort of North London?

They were a shambles during Wednesday night’s 3-1 defeat at Wolves, conceding three times in 17 minutes before half-time, and this after a promising start.

Emery cannot realistically lay claim to improvement when his side are repeatedly capable of such performances on the road. 

And for all the talk of systems and formations, it remains the suspicion that personnel are the underlying cause of their dismal away form.

The likes of Mesut Ozil, Henrik Mkhitaryan, Granit Xhaka and Alex Iwobi aren’t the first names you would associate with resolution, sweat and tenacity, qualities often needed in a division where you have to earn the right to play away from home.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mesut Ozil and Co don't have the tenacity and sweat needed to play away

Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mesut Ozil and Co don't have the tenacity and sweat needed to play away

Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mesut Ozil and Co don’t have the tenacity and sweat needed to play away 

The league table on away results alone has Arsenal in ninth, beneath Crystal Palace, Watford and Leicester respectively, and each of their top-six rivals.

The 31 goals they have conceded from 17 games is one more than Cardiff and equal to Brighton, the two teams left scrapping it our for survival. That demonstrates the level they are at when removed from the cosy surrounds of the Emirates Stadium, where their home record is bettered by only title contenders Manchester City and Liverpool.

Wenger signed off last season after seven straight away defeats, the club’s worst run since 1966. It was not as if Emery was in the dark when it came to identifying flaws and areas for improvement.

He has tried four at the back and a three-man defence, using wing-backs to push forward and exploit the space created by their inside forwards. It is Arsenal, however, who have found themselves exploited.

The Gunners' soft underbelly during Arsene Wenger's final years still remains under Emery

The Gunners' soft underbelly during Arsene Wenger's final years still remains under Emery

The Gunners’ soft underbelly during Arsene Wenger’s final years still remains under Emery

They lost heart at Wolves after a decent opening in which they pinned the hosts in their own half but could not find a way through. Their passing became sloppy, decision-making unfathomable and application reduced, all trademarks of the away-day demise under Wenger.

It is this that will cost Arsenal a place in the top four and undermine Emery’s hopes of progression, especially given the loss of Champions League football as an attraction for would-be recruits.

Speak to Arsenal supporters and they say it is a lack of leadership that is their biggest weakness away from home. Where, they argue, are the standard-bearers whipping others into line when interest wanes as games slip away?

And that is why it comes back to personnel. Ozil, in particular, has come to define the wishy-washy nature of modern-day Arsenal.

There is no longer a fear-factor when the Gunners roll into town, the trepidation is all theirs.

Arsenal no longer have that fear-factor needed on their travels in the Premier League

Arsenal no longer have that fear-factor needed on their travels in the Premier League

Arsenal no longer have that fear-factor needed on their travels in the Premier League



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Could the pressure get to Man City and will Arsenal make top four? – TACKLE KEOWN

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Should Manchester United sell Marcus Rashford, could the pressure get to Man City’s players and will Arsenal make top four? – TACKLE KEOWN

  • There is a bumper weekend of action at the top and bottom of Premier League
  • Manchester City and Liverpool are going toe-to-toe in their battle for the title
  • Arsenal have suffered a blip and could miss out on a place in the top four 
  • Join us as Martin Keown answers YOUR questions in this week’s Tackle Keown 

Sportsmail columnist Martin Keown is back to answer your questions ahead of a busy weekend of action in the Premier League.

Manchester City and Liverpool are going toe-to-toe in the battle for the Premier League title, while below them teams falter in their challenge for the top four.

Martin’s old side Arsenal are one side who are going through a blip in form, and the Gunners are just one of the subjects being tackled by our columnist this week.

Scroll down to read through all of Martin’s answers to your questions…

If you are using the MailOnline app, please click HERE to view the live blog.



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Eric Bailly – Should Arsenal sign this Man United reject?

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When I first saw the Eric Bailly to Arsenal rumour my initial thought was no way, we do not want or need another Manchester United flop, however, on reflection, I am of the opinion that he may well be worth signing.

I watched Bailly against Paris St Germain and he was woeful but he should not be judged on just that one game because if that was the case we would have no team left after the games against Everton, Crystal Palace and Wolves.

The Ivory Coast international has clearly not had a great time with United since signing for them three years ago for a cool £30 Million but let’s be honest, they are a dysfunctional lot at Old Trafford and players that have failed up there over the last few years can be given another chance under the right circumstances.

United signed Bailly when he was just 22-years-old, well away from his prime and still a work in progress, he was bought for a significant sum of money and by all accounts was a success in Spain with Villarreal.

What this means to me is that we can sign a player that can easily recapture his previous form for a sum of money far less than what he is probably truly worth and that our manager is familiar with him from his time in Spain as the Sevilla manager.

We clearly need defenders I am not sure anyone would disagree with that and as Bailly is right now he is not an obvious choice but his age, raw talent and value makes him a player we should seriously consider buying.

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