1pt Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to score anytime and Arsenal to win at 2/1 (Betfair)
Mikel Arteta suffered at the hands of his mentor on Sunday afternoon, with Manchester City more comfortable at the Emirates than the 1-0 scoreline suggested (xG: ARS 0.40 – 2.07 MCI).
Arsenal had previously won in the Premier League, though, delivering an emphatic performance against Leeds, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netting a hat-trick on that occasion.
Momentum was therefore on Arsenal’s side when travelling to Italy to take on Benfica in the first leg of the Europa League Last 32.
However, the Gunners were held by the Eagles at the Stadio Olimpico, although Arsenal would have felt aggrieved at the draw, impressively limiting Benfica to just 0.32 non-penalty xG.
That was a more than respectable defensive display, and they’ve performed well at the back so far on their Europa League campaign, conceding an average of 0.84 expected goals against (xGA) in the competition.
They’ll fancy their chances of recording a clean sheet if Benfica arrive in a similar vein of form - but the question still remains, where will Arsenal’s goals come from?
Aubameyang has casted an increasingly frustrated figure this season, failing to build on his excellent 2019/20 campaign where he scored 22 goals from 16.07 xG.
Despite the 31-year-old squandering a golden chance (47%) against Benfica in the first leg, there have been recent glimpses of quality from Aubameyang in front of goal. As mentioned, his hat-trick against Leeds was outstanding, and he also scored a brace against Newcastle at the Emirates.
Interestingly, when Arsenal crashed out of the Europa League last season to Olympiakos, Aubameyang missed a glaring opportunity in the dying embers which would have put the Gunners through.
One year later, he can atone for that costly miss against a vulnerable Benfica defence.
Arsenal should be able to provide Aubameyang with adequate service, and it would be fitting to make amends in Greece where the game is being staged, of course the country where Olympiakos, last season’s opponents, hailed from.
This game could be the perfect moment for Aubameyang to rediscover his most prolific form, and with the away goal on the board, Arteta’s side have the initiative in this clash.
Their quality should prevail if they’re able to coax Aubameyang into goalscoring positions, and consequently, the 2/1 available for AUBAMEYANG TO SCORE AND ARSENAL TO WIN makes great appeal. Benfica offered minimal attacking output in the previous meeting just last week, leading me to believe the Gunners can edge this game.
Score prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Benfica (Sky Bet odds: 6/1)
Odds correct at 1500 GMT on 23/02/21
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