Chelsea and Arsenal collectively got the job done in their Europa League semi final second legs last night, completing an unprecedented week for Premier League football. Last nights’ results mean that both European finals this season will each have two English teams competing, meaning that for the first time in history four sides from one nation will compete in the two season ending European club finals. Not a bad advert for a league that boasts to be the world’s best.
Arsenal, despite some going a goal behind early on the night at Valencia, prevailed comfortably after a brilliant Pierre Emerick Aubameyang strike just six minutes later settled Arsenal nerves and by the end of an entertaining and eventually fiery encounter they had run out 4-2 winners on the night. With Aubameyang completing the second hat trick for a North London based player away from home in Europe in as many days. It was a result that Arsenal’s boss Unai Emery sorely needed after seeing his side essentially throw away a top four spot this season. Meaning all that eggs are now in a basket that Emery is extremely familiar with after his record breaking feats as boss of Sevilla.
Meanwhile, over in West London Chelsea staggered over the line with a 5-4 penalty shootout win over an unfortunate Eintracht Frankfurt after the tie finished 2-2 after two sets of ninety minutes and extra time. Despite being 3-1 down at one point in a typically nerve jingling shoot out, two saves from Kepa Arrizabalaga meant that Eden Hazard was given the opportunity to win the tie for Chelsea, with what many think will be his last kick of the ball at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea supporters will be wishing with all they hold dear that that isn’t the case as Hazard’s fellow attackers (bar goalscorer and ever improving Ruben Loftus Cheek) had yet another off day and the Chelsea board will have to navigate the summer extremely shrewdly if they do end up losing a man who will go down as a club legend whenever he chooses to depart.
For now though with Hazard still in their ranks, Chelsea will head into the Europa League final with London bragging rights also on the line (unless of course Spurs complete their fairytale journey) versus a side they have been closely competing with all season. Arsenal and Chelsea, separated by just four points in the league, both have managers in their first seasons desperate to prove their worth to their still relatively new employers. Maurizio Sarri may have recently achieved top four status this season but he will be ever eager to earn both his first trophy as a manager and also cement his position as Chelsea boss for next season, after what has been a rather rough ride of a 2019.
Meanwhile, as mentioned above Arsenal boss Unai Emery, by chopping and changing his side too much in the league run-in, has left himself in a position where he may not able to afford to lose on 29th May. Winning or losing in Baku is unlikely to directly effect his job security but missing out on the Champions League next term in such a painful fashion versus a direct rival, on top of the shambles that was their premier league run-in, could turn some still neutral Arsenal’s fans against Emery as his first season as boss draws to a close. In short, both managers can afford to lose this game but perhaps only just.
Though after equally tough seasons and a potentially crucial summers for both sides, each manager will no doubt relish their time in the sun before judgement is cast on their performance thus far. Both sides enough talent to blow the other away while also both possessing a level of vulnerability that makes it difficult to predict a victor. The margins will be fine and for the winner the spoils, though each manager may simply be looking to avoid spoiling a potential legacy at their prospective clubs.
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