Arsenal thumped Slavia Prague in the 2020-21 UEFA Europa League quarterfinals in what manager Mikel Arteta called an “important win in a crucial moment” as they swept aside the Czech side to qualify for the Europa League semifinals.
The Gunners produced one of their best performances of the season to turn a potentially difficult night into a comfortable away victory.
Arsenal were poor in the first leg as they only managed a 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium in North London. They turned things around instantaneously in the second leg as they scored 3 goals in the opening 24 minutes itself to take control of the tie.
The Gunners could have had another as well but the goal was ruled out by the VAR. The 3 goals inside the half hour mark had sealed the deal for the English club and there was no chance of the Czech side mounting any sort of comeback.
This win has kept Arsenal’s hopes alive of qualifying for the Champions League next season as they are all but surely out of contention for a top 4 spo t in the Premier League.
“The boys were really at it from the start,” Arteta said. “We won in a convincing way, so credit to the players.”
Nicolas Pepe found his name on the scoresheet as he squeezed one in at the near post to open the scoring in the 18th minute for the Gunners before Alexandre Lacazette scored from the penalty spot just three minutes later, following a foul on Bukayo Saka.
Saka, who was Arsenal’s best player, much like he has been all season, made it 3-0 as Arsenal tore their Slavia Praha’s defence apart in the 24th minute.
Arteta’s side controlled the game as Lacazette bagged his second goal of the game in the 77th minute to make sure that there was absolutely no chance of a magical comeback for the Czech side.
The North London side will now face Villarreal – managed by former Arsenal boss Unai Emery – in the last four.
We could have an all-English final in the Europa League – much like in the UEFA Champions League that could see Chelsea and Manchester City facing off in the final – as Manchester United meet Roma in the other semi-final after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side comfortably beat Granada.
This was Arsenal’s biggest game of the season and this tournament is the most important for the club given that they have nothing else to compete for. A Europa League title will save the side from complete failure this season.
Emile Smith Rowe was fantastic for Arsenal as they scored three goals from just five first-half shots. Before the match, you would’ve though that the away side would struggle without captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has been diagnosed with malaria.
Slavia had already knocked Leicester and Rangers out of this year’s competition but at half-time they seemed to have thrown in the towel already as they substituted 4 of their key players.
It has been 25 years since Arsenal, who currently sit 9th in the league, failed to qualify for either of the European competitions and this win means that they can still dream of qualifying by winning the cup.
Unai Emery, who took Arsenal to the Europa League final in 2019, is all set to face off against his former club as Villarreal will look to upset the English giants. Emery won the tournament three times as manager of Sevilla so has tasted great success in this competition already.
“It will be really tough and Unai Emery is probably the most successful manager in this competition,” Arteta said.
“We started really well and were aggressive in our high press.
“We looked a threat all the time. I really like the reaction of the team to the goal being disallowed.”
Pepe impressed on the left side for Arsenal and now has five goals and four assists in this season’s Europa League.
Arsenal now face Fulham in the Premier League on 18th April followed by Everton on the 24th, before facing Villarreal in the Europa League semifinal first leg.