Today is when the rubber meets the road. Time to get down to brass tacks. To put up or shut up. Arsenal’s season is down to tonight’s Europa League Quarterfinal second leg away to Slavia Prague. It’s 1-1 on aggregate, so the Gunners have to score — 0-0 sees Slavia through, 1-1 sends the tie to extra time, and 2-2 (and all other draws) put Arsenal in the Semifinal. Of course, winning outright also puts Arsenal through.
I expect Slavia Prague to put on a better showing than they did in the first leg. They’ve been quite good at home this season, and honestly, it would be hard for any team to play worse than they did last Thursday. They were abject at the Emirates, and Mikel Arteta’s somewhat conservative lineup choices did not exploit Slavia’s defensive fragility.
Slavia will once again press hard and high (in the first leg, they had one of their highest “pressure event” totals for the season), but Arsenal did a good job until right at the death of handling the pressure. The Gunners’ ability to break the press created multiple opportunities to get in behind Slavia’s high line, which Arsenal did. Unfortunately, the Gunners did not turn those opportunities into goals. Hopefully Mikel Arteta sets out a plan and the personnel to exploit that vulnerability today.
Mikel Arteta will have both Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe available for selection tonight. The former recovered from the dead leg suffered against Sheffield United, and the latter from his ankle problem. Gabriel Martinelli, who turned his ankle against the Blades but was able to continue, has also declared himself fit. Martin Odegaard misses out with the ankle problem picked up on international duty, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is also unavailable with his mysterious illness. David Luiz and Kieran Tierney are both still out for several weeks.
Slavia still have a centerback crisis. Ondrej Kudela was suspended for 10 matches for racially abusing Glen Kamara and is not available. Nor are Simon Deli and David Hovorka, who both missed out on the first leg as well.
Arsenal - Leno, Chambers, Holding, Mari, Xhaka, Partey, Ceballos, Pepe, Smith Rowe, Saka, Lacazette
Slavia Prague - Kolar, Boril, Zima, Holes, Bah, Hromada, Olayinka, Provod, Stanciu, Sevcik, Kuchta
WHAT: Arsenal at Slavia Prague
WHERE: Sinobo Stadium, Prague, Czech Republic
WHEN: Thursday, April 15th 12 PM PT | 3 PM ET | 8 PM BT
US TV: Paramount+ and FuboTV streams in English. TUDN USA for Spanish broadcast.
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