Ian Wright names the two changes Mikel Arteta must make to his Arsenal line-up vs Villarreal



Former Arsenal ace Ian Wright has taken aim at manager Mikel Arteta on the eve of their UEFA Europa League semi-final second-leg against Villarreal, urging him not to repeat his decision of playing Granit Xhaka at left-back.

The Gunners head into Thursday evening’s second-leg 2-1 down from last week’s first meeting in Spain, meaning they have a huge challenge to overcome in their quest to reach their second Europa League final in three seasons.

Last week, the Gunners found themselves 2-0 down inside the opening 30 minutes thanks to goals from Manu Trigueros and Raul Albiol, meaning they had a mountain to climb to get back into the contest. Although they didn’t complete a comeback, they did secure a vital away-goal thanks to a well-taken penalty from Nicolas Pepe.

But even with Pepe’s third goal in as many Europa League outings, Arsenal could have entered the second-leg even further behind, with Villarreal failing to take several opportunities that came their way.

A common theme in the first-leg was seeing Nigerian winger Samuel Chukwueze looking to run at stand-in Gunners left-back Granit Xhaka. Having deputised for the injured Kieran Tierney in that position for four matches ahead of the tussle with the La Liga side, Arteta opted to keep the Swiss international in that position.

However, the defensive-midfielder struggled up against the skilful and speedy Nigerian ace, meaning Arteta was soon criticised by supporters and pundits for his decision-making.

Now, ahead of the second-leg at the Emirates Stadium, Wright has urged Arteta to take Xhaka out of the firing line, move him back into his rightful home in midfield and allow Cedric Soares to slot in at left-back, although Tierney could return if deemed fit enough.

“Ideally for me, you play Cedric Soares at left-back and put Xhaka back in midfield because he can keep the ball safe and give that pass that we need,” Wright told Ringer FC’s Wrighty’s House podcast.

“It does not make me comfortable seeing Xhaka at left-back. It’s not his thing, that’s not where he should be.

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“Cedric was bought and signed for four years to play at either right or left, play him! Play Xhaka where he should play and then it’s out of Saka or Pepe to be on that side.”

As well as wanting Xhaka to move back into the middle, Wright also wants to see Mohamed Elneny deputise for the suspended Dani Ceballos.

Wright added: “Go with the strongest team. [Dani] Ceballos doesn’t make my team, I would rather have Mohamed Elneny in there.

“I know he scored the other day but he’s got a drive and a determination about him. You cannot dislike his output.”





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