Mikel Arteta singles out former Spurs star as major threat to Arsenal’s Europa League hopes

Benfica midfielder Adel Taarabt
Taarabt has reinvented himself in a deeper midfield role at Benfica (Picture: Getty)

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has warned of the threat posed by Benfica midfielder Adel Taarabt ahead of the Europa League second leg clash between the two sides.

With the tie poised at 1-1 at its midway point, Arsenal hope to take care of business on Thursday and book their place in the last 16 of the competition.

Taarabt will be among the clutch of former Premier League players in action for the ‘away’ side at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Greece.

The former Tottenham and Queens Park Rangers playmaker was written off as a lost cause on more than one occasion in his career but has reinvented himself in deeper midfield role where he has been thriving.

Speaking ahead of Thursday’s tie, Arteta praised the 31-year-old for adding discipline to his game, recalling the talent he saw when he came up against the Moroccan on the pitch during his playing days.

Mikel Arteta and Adel Taarabt
Taarabt and Arteta battling at Loftus Road in 2012.

Asked if he remembers his duels with Taarabt, Arteta said: ‘Yes, he used to play as a No 10 and he was a super talented and very creative player.

‘He had a really good season in the Premier League and it was very hard to play against him, because I played very close to him a few times.

‘He was a player with an enormous talent. He’s changed his position a little bit and a bit with his discipline too. It’s nice to see him back playing.’

Arsenal, meanwhile, were caught offside 10 times in last week’s first leg clash with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang straying on four occasions.

Arteta expects another tough battle against Benfica’s experienced backline that includes former Tottenham and Manchester City stars Jan Vertonghen and Nicolas Otamendi and expects the same traps to be sprung on Thursday.

‘They have a really aggressive backline and I don’t know if we can expect a back three or a back four tomorrow,’ he added.

‘I don’t know what they will try to do but it’s been a key principle in their way of playing that they manage those situations really well. We were offside on many, many occasions. Credit to them as well for how they deal with those situations.

‘Regarding the game and what we expect, again, a really tough game against a really aggressive team that want to come at you and I’m expecting them to do the same again.’

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