Villarreal is a small town just North of Valencia on Spain’s Balearic coast and from memory its a pleasant but unremarkable Spanish town. In 2006 however it became a site where Arsenal made history. 1-0 up after a professional display against Manuel Pellegrini’s men at Highbury, we had put ourselves in position to reach our first ever Champions League final.
I was in a good mood. A sunny day and messy evening spent in Valencia followed by a jaunt up the coast to El Madrigal. Before any match there are nerves but what followed was 90 minutes of excruciating football as the Spaniards bombarded the Arsenal goal. Near miss after near miss and it felt like it was going to be our night. Then Villarreal had a penalty, in front of their fans, with Riquelme a pro from the penalty spot. Riquelme went right, Lehmann went right. SAVED! The pandemonium in the away end will live with me until the end.
Tomorrow we have a chance to reach another European final. Another shot at glory. With the legs reversed this time around the imperative thing is to score. If we don’t take an away goal back to the Emirates we won’t go through. It’s that simple for me. Boosted by the potential return of Aubameyang, Lacazette and Tierney we have enough attacking threat to do just that.
A return to face an old manager is something only Arsenal fans of a certain age have experienced. Tomorrow as we face Unai Emery again, it will be telling to see how both teams setup. I don’t feel like Emery left on bad terms but there may be personal scores to settle. If you don’t think one of his motivations will be to get one over us then you’re very much mistaken.
I’m not going to guess the line up, or make any sort of predictions. We need to leave everything on the pitch tomorrow and make sure we’re very much in it next week.