Bet of the Day: Aubameyang to score as Arsenal progress in Europa League

14th September 2021

To match the last two nights of European action, tonight’s Europa League games are going to have to be something really special – which might be bad news for Arsenal, who seem to have the job of qualifying for the final more than half-done. They face off with Valencia this evening at the Spanish side’s Mestalla ground, and – weirdly, for Arsenal – a solid first-leg performance has them in the ascendancy, leading by three goals to one. Both Ajax and Barcelona have learned painfully in the past two evenings that even a three goal cushion isn’t impenetrable, so could Arsenal become the third team this week to blow a first-leg lead in a European semi-final?

The answer to that question, of course, is “Yes, they definitely could; it’s Arsenal, they could be four goals up and you’d still wonder if it was enough”. However, in Europe this season the Gunners have performed more consistently and done what they needed to do more reliably than on the domestic scene. Unai Emery – who won the competition with Sevilla three years in a row – is potentially 180 minutes away from winning it four times in as many attempts, having been involved in the Champions League with PSG in the intervening seasons. He knows what to do in this position – but what our Bet of the Day analysis seeks to find out is whether his players are also up to speed.

Expect a goal-heavy week to continue in the same vein

Liverpool entered their match on Tuesday night needing four goals to progress, while Spurs went into the second half of theirs last night needing three. Both teams, against the odds, managed to overturn seemingly insurmountable deficits. Comparatively, Valencia have a simple task on their hands, needing only to score twice. There’s room for skepticism over how easy they’ll find that – although they occupy fifth place in La Liga, they’ve scored 46 goals in 36 games, and six of that tally came at already-relegated Huesca this past weekend.

At some stage, “The Bats” will need to get on the front foot and play an attacking style that doesn’t wholly suit them if they are to make the final. They do have an away goal in their favour, but that doesn’t even begin to count until they score a second on the night; and given that they conceded three in the first leg even when playing their standard, defensively rigid, style, they may have their work cut out to avoid leaking goals at the other end. With Coral, you can get 4/7 on there being more than 2.5 goals in the game – which seems like a bet worth taking in the circumstances.

Arsenal’s fragility and Valencia’s urgency could make for a fun game

Although the Gunners are in the driving seat for a place in the final, their recent results on the domestic front don’t speak of a team that’s about to win top-level honours. At the weekend, they faced Brighton knowing that a win would give them a live chance of a top-four league place. Their opponents were playing mostly for fun, having seen their Premier League spot secured by Cardiff’s relegation a day earlier. When Arsenal went 1-0 up inside ten minutes, anyone watching would have assumed the stage was set for three points, and perhaps a hefty margin to buff up their goal difference. What actually happened was eighty-plus minutes of nervy faffing about, and an equaliser scored by Glenn Murray. Arsenal’s Champions League prospects now rest on this tournament.

If Brighton, who can barely score when it actually matters, are capable of landing a blow on Arsenal, then Valencia should be confident of getting among the goals. Indeed, it’s reasonable to expect them to score early on, given the urgency of the matter. The fly in the ointment is that, playing against attackers of the pedigree of Aubameyang and Lacazzette, they’ll likely concede too if they overcommit for even a moment. Betway’s price of 11/4 on both sides scoring in the first half seems almost too good to be true, and we’d certainly take the opportunity.

Arsenal’s attack looks reliable in Europe

It’s easy to mock Arsenal’s tendency to throw away chances when it seems easier to win; they’d been doing it for years under Arsene Wenger and although Emery has brought his own tactics and changed up the squad, the old fragilities remain. Let’s make no mistake – there is a significant possibility of the North Londoners being two goals behind on the night, and facing elimination, before half time in this game. However, this Arsenal side does have the aforementioned strike pairing of Aubameyang and Lacazzette, two players with a knack for putting the ball in the net.

With Valencia needing to make up a deficit there’s no getting around the fact that they will leave more spaces at the back, and Arsenal have the players to take advantage of such gaps. In particular, Aubameyang just needs a half-chance, and if Arsenal can grab a goal then the complexion of the tie changes entirely. 888 have a price of 33/20 for the Gabonese striker to notch here, and while the tie could have innumerable twists and turns before the final whistle, you can feel confident in one of the best strikers in Europe taking one of the chances we expect to fall his way this evening.

Bet of the Day

Lacazzette to score (888, 33/20); Both sides score in first half (Betway, 11/4); More than 2.5 goals (Coral, 4/7)

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