As Arsenal prepare to face former Manager Unai Emery and his Villareal
side in the semi-finals of the Europa League this evening at the Estadio de le Ceramica, their former left-back, Nigel Winterburn is weary of how big a part injury to the Arsenal squad could have on the outcome of the result, but remains hopeful for The Gunners’ Europa League chances.
“I’m slightly concerned by our injury list at the moment but if we perform like we did in Prague then we have a great opportunity to be in a European final, Winterburn told Bookmakers.co.uk in an exclusive interview.
“Obviously, you come up against the stronger teams the further you go into a competition and that level of performance has to be consistent over two legs, you can’t let it drop.
“We got away with it in the last round with our first leg performance, which was flat, but we’re going to have to be somewhere closer to the level we showed in the second leg for most of the semi-final tie.
“In Unai Emery, they’re coming up against a manager who is a specialist in this competition.”
Nigel Winterburn, also in the interview with Bookmakers.co.uk Winterburn warned Arsenal that unless inconsistent performances are ironed out then the North London side will fail to attain Champions League Football for some time and admitted that a summer shake up is required at the Emirates in order for the club to become recognisable again.
“They’re going to have to make a few more changes to the squad. How much they’ll do, I don’t know,” Winterburn told Bookmakers.
“If I’m honest with you, I think there’s still a huge amount of questions to be asked about the team and Mikel Arteta would probably say so himself if he was asked at the end of the season.
“There are times when you see glimpses of how good Arsenal can be, and then there are times when you feel as though it’s just not the club we all recognise.
“The levels can vary from week to week and that inconsistency is a big problem for me. Until they find a solution, Arsenal are going to struggle to get back into the top four.”
Unfortunately for The Gunners, Winterburn highlighted a number of
issues that need addressing in order for Arsenal to become competitive again, from poor performances to contract renewals; and if it wasn’t for the young players coming through, the Highbury legend said that things for Arteta would be a lot worse.
“Points wise they’re not a million miles off but the performances suggest, to me, that we’re still way short of the mark.
“We still don’t know who our best centre-half pairing is, the right-back position looks as though it will need to be filled, we don’t know about the futures of [Martin] Odegaard and [Dani] Ceballos.
“And then there’s Lacazette closing in on the end of his contract, Aubameyang has had a poor season.
“Really, when you look at it, the young players have kept everything going this season as far as I’m concerned.
“The young players coming through and performing to a high level
have enabled the fans to be slightly more patient than they would be
under normal circumstances.”