Slavia Prague v Arsenal: Five Things We Learned
- Credit: PA
The five things we learned from Arsenal's 4-0 victory over Slavia Prague to bag a spot in the Europa League semi-finals.
1. So much was at stake, yet the Gunners played with the handbrake off. They were absolutely rampant against the Czech side, storming into a 3-0 lead after just 25 minutes. Goals courtesy of Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette put the tie to bed before half time, as Arsenal ran riot. Lacazette then doubled his tally 14 minutes from time, to make it seven goals in nine games for the in-form Frenchman, who has really started to hit his stride with a second successive brace.
2. Energy was essential to the visitors’ success. Both in and out of possession, Mikel Arteta’s men demonstrated their desire to progress to the last four of the Europa League for the second time in three seasons. Exemplified by the young duo of Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, the north Londoners buzzed and bounded around the park more eagerly than they have done in quite some time. With the 2020-21 season reaching its climax, Arsenal are hitting their mark at just the right time.
3. A direct approach from Mikel Arteta paid off. Often targeting the wide channels, the electric pace of Pepe and Saka was used to full effect, with balls down the line causing problems for Slavia Prague time and again in the opening exchanges. Roaming freely in a front three behind Lacazette, Saka in particular profited from this strategy, scoring the pick of the goals with a sumptuous strike from 20 yards, as well as winning the penalty that put Arsenal out of sight.
4. An Unai Emery rematch is in the diary, with Arsenal’s reward for advancing to the semi-finals a tie against Spanish side Villarreal. Having won this competition three times with Sevilla, before guiding the Gunners to the showpiece event of the Europa League in 2019, Emery has an excellent track record in this event. This is something that Arteta and Arsenal will be extremely wary of, acutely aware that the job is far from done.
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5. In comparison to their dogged, disciplined showing in the first leg, where they were fully deserving of a 1-1 draw, Slavia put in a paltry performance. Bidding to make their first semi-final in Europe for 25 years, they offered precious little throughout, well below the standard that manager Jindrich Trpisovsky would have expected for such an occasion. In fact, they were so lacklustre that Trpisovsky decided to make four substitutions at the interval, underlining the one-sided nature of the encounter from first minute to last.
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