Image source: Football365
Unai Emery has defended Mikel Arteta after the Arsenal boss was criticised for not fielding a natural striker against Villarreal.
The Gunners boss decided to start Emile Smith Rowe as a false nine for the first leg of the Europa League semi-final, marking the first time the 20-year-old has played that role this season.
This decision was partly forced on the Gunners boss in light of Alexandre Lacazette’s thigh injury and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang only recently recovering form malaria.
However, starting Gabriel Martinelli on the bench caused a stir. But Emery insists his compatriot’s decision to start without a recognised striker was what he expected.
“I’m nobody to question Mikel Arteta’s decision, we had the idea that it would approximately be this line up,” said Emery when quizzed on his opposite number’s team selection after the match.
“They had several injured players, Aubameyang hadn’t played for a while, I think it’s normal. The first [starting] XI was more or less what we expected.”
Arsenal are set to welcome Villarreal next week in the second-leg of the Europa League semi-finals.