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Pitch perfect performance required for Arsenal against Atletico

| 02.05.2018

Arsenal face a daunting task when they travel to the Wanda Metropolitano on Thursday night.

Europa League semi-final opponents Atletico Madrid boast a formidable home record.

The La Liga side have won 10 of their last 11 matches at their new home. They’ve not conceded a goal there in 1007 minutes of football.

That presents a problem for an Arsenal side that are far from impressive on their travels.

Arsene Wenger’s men have lost their last six matches away from the Emirates in domestic competition.

However, their European form offers hope.

The North Londoners have lost just once on the road in the Europa League this season – and that was in a dead-rubber away at Koln.

Their victory over AC Milan at the San Siro should give Gunners fans particular cause for optimism.

Arsenal were given little to no chance against Gennaro Gattuso’s charges.

But they rode an early storm against the Italian giants and emerged with a 2-0 success, which in truth could have been even greater.

It’s a similar scenario facing the North Londoners in the Spanish capital.

They’ll need to display a level of resilience and discipline parallel to that which they showed in Italy against a better standard of side in Madrid.

To do that, Wenger should consider retaining the defensive partnership of Calum Chambers and Konstantinos Mavropanos.

The pair gelled well together in the Gunners’ 2-1 defeat against Manchester United at the weekend.

Despite the lack of familiarity between them, the duo played above and beyond their years, with Mavropanos, in particular, shining on his full-debut.

Whether the pair get the nod ahead of Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi, remains to be seen.

In-front of them, Granit Xhaka will need to exemplify in 90 minutes the form he showed in the second-half at Old Trafford on Sunday.

The Swiss commanded the midfield in the second-45. He’ll need to do so again alongside Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey if the Gunners are to quell the advances of Saul Niguez and co.

Diego Costa and Antoine Griezmann represent two further problems up-top for the hosts.

The Brazilian knows how to get under the skin of the Arsenal defence. If they’ve learned anything over the past two or three years, they should finally know how to deal with the ex-Chelsea man.

But what Thursday night’s showdown really boils down to is whether Wenger’s men have grown as a team.

Can they remain disciplined throughout? Can they take their chances when they come?

And do they have the belief and willpower to drag themselves through against a superior side in Atletico Madrid?

If the answer to those questions is yes, then Wenger will have his opportunity to go out on a high in Lyon later this month.

If the answer to those questions is no, then the Frenchman can kiss goodbye to a perfect final farewell.

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Nick Murphy

Nick is a graduate of the UEA where he doubled up as the sports editor of the student newspaper. He supports Dagenham & Redbridge and previously edited the matchday programme at Victoria Road. Darts and Horse Racing are among his other favourite sports.