Why Iwobi and his Arsenal side can beat Atletico in Spain

Europa League By: Ambrose Udeme | 03/05/2018

Alex Iwobi, Arsenal FC

Arsenal face a big task at the Wanda Metropolitano when they take on Atletico Madrid in the second leg of their Europa League semi-final on Thursday.

The Spanish side have not conceded a goal at home in 11 games, but Arsene Wenger is convinced his side can end that run.


But when contemplating the task facing Wenger and his players on Thursday night, it only seems natural to reflect on a similar tie, in this same city, back in February 2006.

The game, against Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals, may have been a first-leg clash in a different competition, but there are similarities with the challenge Iwobi and his team-mates face this time round.

Against Real, Arsenal's chances of victory were rated at slim at very best. After all, no English side had ever won at the Bernabeu, they were facing the likes of Beckham, Zidane and Ronaldo, while their defence had been written off.

What followed was an unforgettable 1-0 win, made famous by Thierry Henry's winner but also by a defiant, resolute defensive display.

Arsenal, the lone English representatives in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase are unbeaten on their 2018 travels in Europe. They won four of their six autumn encounters to top Group H before knocking out European debutants Ostersund in the round of 32 then winning both legs against AC Milan – 2-0 in Italy and 3-1 in London.


Fast forward 12 years and Arsenal will need more of the same if they are to silence the Wanda and progress to their third European final under Wenger.

Creating chances wasn't a problem in the first leg against a 10-man Atletico, but is unlikely to be so easy this time around against a side that have not conceded a goal in 11 games at home.

Sime Vrsaljko’s suspension, combined with the absences of Juanfran and Filipe Luis through injury, means Atletico are without their three full-backs and these are loopholes Arsenal must exploit.

Lucas Hernandez is a converted centre-back and will play on the left, while midfielder Thomas Partey is expected to fill in at right-back. Atletico’s defence remains very solid, but they’ll play without any natural full-backs.

It is another sizeable mission in Madrid, but if Arsenal can summon the spirit of 2006, they can pull off another famous win.