After struggling to create a lot of offense against Slavia Prague in leg one, Aubameyang, Pepe, and Martinelli came on in the second half to re-energize the attack. While the substitutes may have been delayed, they were effective and thanks to a great feed from Aubameyang and wonderful finish from Pepe they found the breakthrough. To concede late was deflating as well as frustrating to give up an away goal, but Arsenal can correct the issues from the first leg.
That starts with the confidence boosting weekend win over Sheffield United. Arsenal have struggled for goals this season, and regardless who they were facing, needed a performance like Sunday. That attacking line should return, with the addition of Aubameyang, if he has recovered.
Over the weekend Slavia Prague won 2-0, making five changes with their focus set on this upcoming Europa League home leg. The winner on Thursday will advance to meet the winner from Villarreal and Dinamo Zagreb, in which Villarreal has a 1-0 lead. We could be heading for a showdown against Unai Emery in the semi-finals. But first Arsenal need to make the most of their chances in Prague.
- Alexandre Lacazette
- Eddie Nketiah
- Martin Odegaard
- Emile Smith Rowe
- Reiss Nelson
- Mohamed Elneny
- Dani Ceballos
- Calum Chambers
- Mat Ryan
- Karl Jakob Hein
- Left Out: N/A
- Out: David Luiz (knee) & Kieran Tierney (knee)
- Pablo Mari and Rob Holding looked solid on Sunday. While that was against a struggling Sheffield United attack, that partnership should be carried over to Thursday. After getting a rest at the weekend, Cedric returns at left-back and Hector Bellerin on the right.
- Granit, can play anywhere for Arsenal, Xhaka continues to be the focal point in midfield. Dani Ceballos had a great game on Sunday, but Thomas Partey’s physicality wins out for me for this road leg. Arsenal need to leave four forward in attack as much as possible, with each fullback joining in at times. Xhaka and Partey provide the best combination of coverage for Arsenal’s backline and forward passing.
- Based on the latest reports it looks like both Saka and Martinelli should be ready to go for the second leg. The energy that Martinelli brings is exactly what Arsenal needed last week, and he got to remind everyone what he offers on Sunday. We are all fully away that Aubameyang doesn’t function out wide anymore. If he is fit, having him tie up the center of the Slavia Prague defense, while Martinelli and Pepe (leads Arsenal with 4 Europa League goals) threaten from both flanks, and Saka floating around the attack sounds exactly like what the fans want to see on Thursday. Now add in some overloads with Bellerin and Cedric and more clinical finishing that the team lacked last week and Arsenal can easily put this tie away in the first half.
- If Saka ends up being unavailable to start on, and Smith Rowe and Odegaard likewise remain out, then I’d expect Willian to start. Likewise, if Aubameyang misses out due to illness, Lacazette continues starting up top. With Pepe, Martinelli, and possible Saka, running in behind Slavia Prague’s defense, the attack can still thrive with Lacazette connecting play and finishing chances.
- If Smith Rowe is available, he could start in place of Martinelli. But he didn’t have a great game in the first leg and Martinelli brought the energy this attack has really lacked at times this season. Arteta should see if Martinelli and Pepe can repeat their strong performances after the weekend, going to Smith Rowe in the second half if needed. Even if Saka can’t start, I’d expect him to travel and be on the bench, but if Smith Rowe and Odegaard fail make the trip, then Joel Lopez (for left back coverage) and Miguel Azeez (for another attacking midfield option) earn another spot on the Europa League bench.
How to watch
Thursday (4/15) at 3:00 pm ET / 12:00 pm PT on Paramount+.
Arsenal - 2
Slavia Prague - 1
Arsenal advance 3-2 on aggregate.