Mikel Arteta leaves firepower on the bench for vital Benfica clash


Mikel Arteta leaves firepower on the bench for vital Benfica clash

Lacazette and Pepe on bench

Mikel Arteta has only made one change from the first-leg, with Kieran Tierney returning in place of Cedric Soares for tonight’s vital Europa League last-32 clash with Benfica in Athens.

Arsenal hold an advantage thanks to Bukayo Saka’s ‘away’ goal in last week’s 1-1 draw in Rome, but, in a game in which it could be argued Arsenal’s season is on the line, their second and third top goal scorers this season,  Alexandre Lacazette and record signing Nicolas Pepe, are both on the bench. They are joined by Thomas Partey, as he works his way back from a hamstring injury.

Martin Odegaard once again gets the nod to start following his recent arrival, despite being yet to register either a goal or assist for the Gunners.

Season saver

Mikel Arteta gained a lot of respect for winning the FA Cup in his first season as Arsenal boss, and fans were no doubt hopeful that the club were set to push on this season. Unfortunately, this has since not proven the case, as the north Londoners have crashed out of both domestic cups, and currently sit in the bottom half of the Premier League.

Mikel Arteta leaves firepower on the bench for vital Benfica clash

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta on the touchline during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London. (Photo by Andy Rain/PA Images via Getty Images)

The Europa League therefore represents Arsenal’s last chance of silverware this season, and probably their only realistic shot at securing entry into the Champions League, a competition they used to be a mainstay of.

With so much at stake, it seems surprising that Lacazette especially has been left on the bench, whilst Pepe has displayed arguably his best form this season in the Europa League.

Should Arsenal fail to position themselves in Friday’s draw for the last-16, the pressure will likely increase on Arteta.

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This article was edited by Conor Laird.

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Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 Manchester City FC 25 35 59
2 Manchester United FC 25 21 49
3 Leicester City FC 25 17 49
4 West Ham United FC 25 10 45
5 Chelsea FC 25 16 43
6 Liverpool FC 25 11 40
7 Everton FC 24 4 40
8 Aston Villa FC 23 11 36
9 Tottenham Hotspur FC 24 10 36
10 Leeds United 25 0 35
11 Arsenal FC 25 5 34
12 Wolverhampton Wanderers FC 25 -6 33
13 Crystal Palace FC 25 -14 32
14 Southampton FC 25 -12 30
15 Burnley FC 25 -12 28
16 Brighton & Hove Albion FC 25 -6 26
17 Newcastle United FC 25 -17 25
18 Fulham FC 25 -11 22
19 West Bromwich Albion 25 -36 14
20 Sheffield United FC 25 -26 11
Player Team Goals
Salah, Mohamed Liverpool FC 17
Fernandes, Bruno Manchester United FC 15
Kane, Harry Tottenham Hotspur FC 13
Son, Heung Min Tottenham Hotspur FC 13
Bamford, Patrick Leeds United 13
Calvert-Lewin, Dominic Everton FC 13
Vardy, Jamie Leicester City FC 12
Gundogan, Ilkay Manchester City FC 11
Wilson, Callum Newcastle United FC 10
Watkins, Ollie Aston Villa FC 10
Rashford, Marcus Manchester United FC 9
Sterling, Raheem Manchester City FC 9
Barnes, Harvey Leicester City FC 9
Zaha, Wilfried Crystal Palace FC 9
Maddison, James Leicester City FC 8
Ings, Danny Southampton FC 8
Lacazette, Alexandre Arsenal FC 8
Aubameyang, Pierre-Emerick Arsenal FC 8
Soucek, Tomas West Ham United FC 8
Mane, Sadio Liverpool FC 7

Source: 101greatgoals.com