By Declan Taylor
Although the majority of people agree that Arsenal have the upper hand in their Champions League Quarter-Final against Villarreal, only the narrowest minority think the Yellow Submarine have already sunk.
Eight days ago the Spaniards took the lead through Marcos Senna at El Madrigal but saw Emmanuel Adebayor’s spectacular volley swing the pendulum back towards Arsenal.
Villarreal have since lost Senna to a hamstring injury but will travel to Emirates Stadium with little fear and everything to play for.
Once again we caught up with Inigo Gurruchaga of El Correo for an in-depth look at Arsenal’s opponents, the impact of Senna’s loss and a comparison between the Premier League and La Liga.
STORY SO FAR
“It’s a subjective thought whether they deserved more or not - the only thing that matters is the final result. They cannot say that Arsenal don’t deserve their draw; any team who can produce a movement that ends with their striker scoring that goal deserves something.
“I think the game was good enough for both sides and in the end it was a typical first leg of a Champions League Quarter Final with everyone trying to preserve their clean sheet. I don’t think anyone has room for complaints.”
“I think it would be very silly to think that Villarreal will come to the Emirates with the idea that they are out of the competition. I think that their 2-0 defeat at home to Malaga in La Liga at the weekend shows you that the team have their eye on this match with Arsenal.
“They are going to go for victory at the Emirates, probably for some players generationally it is their last chance to play a Champions League Semi Final too. I don’t think anyone at Villarreal is silly enough to think they’ll go to Emirates Stadium and win easily but they will try to play their game and it depends on the night’s events.”
“Senna is a massive loss, especially alongside Santi Cazorla who will also be badly missed. It’s not easy to replace two internationals just like that so it might be a big one. It’s obvious to me that Pellegrini is a very clever man and he’ll be trying to protect the goal with or without Senna.
“With Arsenal in the driving seat, Villarreal will have to open themselves at some point during the game. When they do that they will find that there’s one big hole in there that Senna would have filled. Also, as Manuel Almunia discovered, he has a very mean shot on him too. He’s a complete player and he’s very much the hub of their team – equivalent to Cesc Fabregas I would say.”
“It’s very difficult to make a judgement on tactics when the matches are poised in this way. We have seen managers going either one of two ways. For example Rafael Benitez would go for a bombardment in this situation, especially in the first 15-20 minutes. I think that’s very tempting for Pellegrini. It’s a very risky thing and I think he’s very aware of Arsenal’s youth and extraordinary power. They will last the 90 minutes in full flow. I think it’s very difficult to call but are Villarreal dreaming of playing attacking football? No way. I’m sure the manager has a few doubts about how to do it but it has always been like that - you have to make your decision.”
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
“I think that everyone agrees that the Premier League has become the major force in world football. The four top teams are just extraordinary really. In Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona have always been praised but there are other teams who have reached the latter stages in Europe. Valencia occasionally do well in the cups, Sevilla are very successful. Espanyol have done well at the Uefa level too. And now we have this surprise of Villarreal, a very small town, doing wonderful things with a good manager. I think there have always been other good teams in Spanish football.”
SILENCING THE CRITICS
“What has changed in the last few years in Spain, the game has become cleaner – it used to be quite dirty, negative and it made it difficult for teams to compete. Physically the teams are better prepared, perhaps as a result of the influx of international players from all over the place. Then there are all the Latin-American players who have come to Spain as well because of the money involved.
“If we are doing a comparison between La Liga and the Premier League – when you see some of the technical ball skills of the Spanish players, you don’t see that reproduced in England. But Juande Ramos made a valid point when he said ‘I would like to see them try and do their technical stuff at the speed of the Premier League’.”Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 15 Apr 2009