Arsenal vs. Slavia Prague: Five Things We Learned
- Credit: PA
1. Whilst Slavia Prague lacked the quality required to break down Arsenal when playing out from the back, they did so courageously and must be commended for their efforts. With the Czech outfit insistent upon building from goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar, who looked nervous with the ball at his feet, it was a surprise to see the home side sit off to such a large degree when the opportunity to press never looked more inviting. Such persistence and belief in their system meant that a stoppage time equaliser was no less than they deserved.
2. Mikel Arteta’s substitutions changed the course of the contest. Shortly after Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were introduced, the latter set the former through on goal, who made no mistake with a dinked finish of deadly accuracy. Gabriel Martinelli produced another highly energetic cameo to stake his claim for a starting spot in next week’s return fixture, the front three injecting some much needed pace and potency into the Arsenal attack.
3. Once again, Arsenal were wasteful when opportunities did eventually present themselves. Bukayo Saka spurned their best chance of the opening period when he inexplicably stroked the ball wide of the post after being played clean through. Alexandre Lacazette then hit the bar having run half the length of the pitch and, despite scoring, Arteta will be immensely frustrated that his players were unable to put the tie to bed after dominating proceedings in the first leg.
4. Just as a clean sheet looked to be within reach, the Gunners let it slip from their grasp. A late concession against the run of play means the north Londoners have now gone 14 games in all competitions without a clean sheet since a 0-0 draw at home to Manchester United on 30 January. A strong point at the start of the season, Arsenal’s defence has gone from resembling the sturdy pillars of the Parthenon to the Leaning Towers of Pisa, which must be addressed if they are to get anywhere close to European qualification come the season’s end.
5. Arsenal find new ways every week to become consistently inconsistent. Individuals looked unsure of their roles and responsibilities in and out of possession which, coupled with a nerviness when building from Bernd Leno, resulted in their failure to ever gain a proper foothold in the game. Consequently, Arteta and Arsenal can have no complaints about conceding a last-gasp leveller, knowing they must discover a ruthless streak before any hopes of salvaging this season escape their grasp.