Slavia Praha 0-4 Arsenal – Arsenal run riot to advance to the Semi Finals

Arsenal travel to Czech Republic for their 2nd legged Europa League tie, where they can’t afford anything else than to advance.

The game is heavily in the balance at 1-1, where an early goal could be truly decisive for the Gunners, to cancel out the away goal.

Slavia are lethal at home, keeping 8 clean sheets in their last 13 European games and being unbeaten in 30 on their turf.

Slavia have got to this stage of the competition by squeezing past Leicester, beating Rangers.

Arsenal have squeezed past Benfica and got through Olympiacos, the team who knocked Arsenal out last year.

Judging off the first leg, I would expect Arsenal to go through comfortably enough, but it’s easier said than done.

Team news:

Koler isn’t in the greatest conditions after receiving a boot to the face but is fit enough to start.

Kudela’s horrible antics means he’s out for 10 games. Holes who scored late on in the first leg starts again.

The manager before the game indicated only 1 of Sima & Olayinka are fit enough to play with the other on the bench – and it’s Olayinka who does, with Kuchta replacing Sima.

Ševčik is fit enough to play after a knee injury, so he starts with Olayinka as the wide men.

Arsenal have their most effective front 4 starting, with Lacazette in front of Saka, Pepe & Smith Rowe in the 10 slot who’s recovered from injury.

Ødegaard remains out while it’s announced Aubameyang has contracted malaria, which explains his absence. Speedy recoveries to him.

Mari & Holding start together off the back of the clean sheet on the weekend.

Arsenal persist with the same setup used on the weekend. Xhaka as a LB, Ceballos as a LM & Partey controlling the midfield.

The game is decisive to any attempt of European football, but that won’t need to be repeated.

Kick-off:

15 minutes gone; Arsenal put the ball in the net. Saka went on a great run and hit the post, with Smith Rowe tapping the rebound in. Unfortunately, it was just offside.

A promising start which continued. Smith Rowe the creative masterpiece again as he threaded in Pepe, who kept his composure to resist the contact and put the ball into an empty net.

Brilliant dribbling from Emile to evade the challenges and great decision making.

A huge start and such an important away goal which gives Arsenal the lead on the night.

A few minutes later, Arsenal counter again and Saka tries to dribble from receiving the ball off Smith Rowe but gets clipped. Penalty!

Lacazette sends Koler the wrong way to give the Gunners another crucial away goal!

The quick-fire goals don’t stop there! Some good play once again has Saka driving at the heart of Slavia and wrong footing Koler!

Such an intelligent and phenomenal goal which wraps the tie up in less than 30 minutes.

The attitude today and performance in general has been sensational, with no one putting a foot wrong.

Real intent shown today and it’s so pleasing.

A more pragmatic approach with a countering plan, which sees Slavia continuously torn to shreds.

The discipline was really good as well, sitting compact and not giving any stupid free kicks in dangerous areas away.

A brilliant half of football where Arsenal haven’t felt threatened and have dealt with anything thrown at them.

The sign of intent from Slavia seems clear, as star players including Boril & Stanciu are subbed off considering the league and damage limitation.

Lacazette added a brilliant 4th with another Pepe assist, the Ivorian has been superb.

Martinelli nearly added a fifth with a brilliant solo run, but ultimately that was that.

Balogun got a few minutes amid him being on the verge of signing a new deal, which is huge for the club’s future.

A brilliant display to a man, another clean sheet and an overall resounding and convincing performance.

A matchup with Emery it is.

Man of the match:

One of the most complete & convincing performances from the Gunners and as a result anyone can be picked here.

I will try narrow it down to the front 4 & Partey.

Partey had a really big role of controlling the midfield without Xhaka who’s filling in at LB and was superb again.

He won the ball well, was aggressive, passed really well in transition on the counterattack and generally was superb.

Lacazette kicked on from the weekend with another brace and made up for a poor performance last week.

His role in this system is so influential, sitting deep, allowing Saka & Pepe to run in behind.

He held the ball up well, linked play effectively and was clinical. A huge performance from an inform man.

Arsenal have won 10/12 games with Smith Rowe has started centrally and you can see why.

Recovering in time for this tie was so huge and tonight showcased just how good he is.

His awareness, close control dribbling utilised for Pepe’s goal partnered with his decision making was top quality.

He was unlucky not to score, defended really well, played off Lacazette and in general had a brilliant game.

The 2 men on either flank, the 2 players I’ve narrowed it down to for MOTM.

Nicolas Pepe continues to thrive and have his best Arsenal spell.

He showed great composure for his goal, showcased his passing abilities with his assist and all-round game.

He was a constant threat, made some great runs in behind and was so hard to deal with on and off the ball.

The man who just beats him to the award for me, the mesmerising Bukayo Saka.

Deadly all evening, 12 G/A in 15 games in Europe this season and you can see why.

He occupied the wide spaces really well, was really direct and felt untouchable at times, scored a great goal and won the penalty.

My MOTM, who just edges Pepe tonight.

A truly special player who is right up there with the best youngsters around.

Manager rating:

10.

Arteta was completely spot on in every department tonight.

He persisted with the winning formula vs Sheffield United and set his team up well.

Arsenal always had the options to play out from the press and did so effectively. In transition, they were superb, exploiting open spaces.

Saka & Pepe had a lot of space and freedom and with Smith Rowe in the side partnered with Lacazette dropping deep, it just clicks.

Arteta’s side were very disciplined and were never feared. In a game with such high importance Arteta got it bang on and the score line reflects that.

Player ratings:

Leno – 6

Chambers – 7.5

Holding – 7

Mari – 7

Xhaka – 8

Partey – 8.5

Ceballos – 7.5

Pepe – 9

Smith Rowe – 8

Saka – 9 (MOTM)

Lacazette – 9

What next for Arsenal? 

Arsenal face Fulham in the Premier League.

Off the back of 2 clean sheets and good away form, Arsenal will want to translate that to home, where the Gunners haven’t been quite so effective.

Fulham sit 18th and face an uphill battle to stay up, winning only 5 this season.

Arsenal started the campaign off against the fellow Londoners by winning 3-0, so a repeat of that would be ideal but Scott Parker has got Fulham competing in games but just falling short.

Fulham will be desperate for points so you would expect a good game from the Cottagers, but you would expect Arsenal to have too much.

The game is on BT Sports at 6:30pm this Sunday, where we find out if Arsenal can climb the table for a more respectable finish to a very dissatisfying campaign.

Thanks for reading as always, I hope you continue to enjoy these.