Football News

Unai Emery makes surprise decision to start Mustafi vs Valencia

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 19:30, 2 May 2019

Arsenal manager Unai Emery has opted to start the much-maligned Shkodran Mustafi in their Europa League semi-final first leg meeting against Valencia at the Emirates Stadium.

Mustafi has come under heavy criticism in recent weeks but has been deemed good enough by his manager who is looking to guide Arsenal to a first European final since 2006.

Who starts for Arsenal and Valencia? Five key things to know…

  1. Arsenal welcome Valencia for their Europa League semi-final first leg.
  2. Aaron Ramsey was ruled out in the build-up with a hamstring injury.
  3. It means there’s a place in the starting XI for Matteo Guendouzi, who last started for The Gunners in their 3-2 league defeat against Crystal Palace.
  4. There’s a start for ex-Arsenal central defender Gabriel Paulista in Valencia’s team.
  5. Alongside him is veteran Argentine centre-back Ezequiel Garay.

Missing from the Gunners squad is Aaron Ramsey, out with a hamstring injury, meaning he’s now played his final game for the north London club ahead of a move to Juventus in the summer.

As a result there’s a reshuffle in Emery’s midfield; Mesut Ozil starts alongside Granit Xhaka who is partnered in central defence by Matteo Guendouzi, who last started in Arsenal’s 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace.

Another big move comes in defence; Emery has seemingly gone with Mustafi — facing his former club — at right-back, where he’s been deployed before, ahead of him is Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

Valencia, meanwhile, feature an ex-Arsenal defender in the guise of Gabriel Paulista. He’s part of a back-three which includes veteran Argentine centre-back Ezequiel Garay. Marcelino’s men are currently on a two-match losing streak and find themselves sixth in La Liga.

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Arsenal fans react to Emery’s starting XI

To say Arsenal fans were not delighted with the presence of Guendouzi and Mustafi is an understatement.