3 things Arteta must correct despite Arsenal sealing Benfica win

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Arsenal booked their place in the Europa League last-16, with a dramatic 3-2 win over Benfica in Athens, earning them a 4-3 aggregate victory.

After a fairly low key start, the Gunners got the all important opening goal through Pierre-Emerick Aubaemyang – although much of the credit must go to Bukayo Saka.

The youngster threaded an inch-perfect through ball for the skipper to chase on to and chip over a despairing Helton in the Benfica goal.

And for much of the first half, it was relatively easy going for the 'hosts', dominating possession without creating too many chances.

But their hard work was undone on the stroke of half time when Diogo Goncalves netted Benfica's away goal from a stunning free-kick.

It then went from bad to worse for the Gunners when Dani Ceballos' shocking header allowed Rafa Silva to round Bernd Leno and put them in front, leaving them staring down the barrel.

A thunderous Kieran Tierney strike levelled the scores with just over 20 minutes to go, before Aubameyang scored the winner in the 87th minute to earn them a thrilling victory.

Despite the win however, there were a number of issues that Mikel Arteta will still be concerning himself with on the flight back to north London.

Rotating in defence again

The Arsenal boss can’t decide on his best central defensive pairing and it is continuing to hurt the Gunners.

In the last two weeks, we’ve seen Pablo Mari, Rob Holding, Gabriel and David Luiz all play in a veriety of duos.

It creates a lack of cohesion at the back and on the few ventures forward Benfica had there appeared a distinct lack of organisation.

At some point, he needs to make a decision and stick with it. There Europa League campaign may depend on it.

Smith Rowe and Odegaard conundrum

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  • It’s easy to say in hindsight, but has the arrival of Martin Odegaard just blunted the early progression of Emile Smith Rowe?

    Gunners legend Martin Keown has often spoke of his “reservations” about Odegaard’s arrival and the impact it will have on the academy graduate.

    After all, he enjoyed a white-hot start to life in the senior team, predominantly playing as the No.10 behind Alexandre Lacazette.

    Odegaard’s signing has seen Smith Rowe shifted out wide and he doesn’t look quite as natural in that position.

    And for all of the Real Madrid loanee’s touches of quality he rarely looks for that killer pass when Arsenal hold the ball on the edge of their opponent’s box.

    What to do with Lacazette?

    When the Frenchman netted his second in the 4-0 rout against West Brom on January 2, his future with the club looked to have been given a new lease of life.

    That was his fifth Premier League goal in three games for Lacazette, who was flourishing with Smith Rowe playing in the hold behind him.

    However, since Aubameyang’s return his minutes have been severely limited.

    The debate over where to play Aubameyang is one that seems to rear its head on a monthly basis and Keown put his flag in the ground, claiming he should be moved wide left to accommodate the ex-Lyon star.

    He said: “Lacazette is a player the young players seem to really enjoy playing with, and Aubameyang, we’ve been through this with Arsene Wenger, he played him down the middle, put him on the right and put him back to the left for a reason.”

    Aubameyang's own performance will have quietened some of the debate but there is still a case for finding a place for Lacazette in the starting XI.

    • Europa League
    • Arsenal FC
    • Mikel Arteta

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