The substitutes made the difference as Arsenal played out a 1-1 draw against Slavia Prague in the first leg of the Europa League quarter-final.
Arsenal were held to a 1-1 draw by Slavia Prague in the home leg of their UEFA Europa League quarter-final tie on Thursday. It was a disappointing result for the hosts, who now must score at least once in the second leg to have any chances of advancing through to the next round.
Much like the majority of the campaign, the Gunners found it difficult to breach the opposition line, especially without the services of Martin Odegaard in the final third while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was also missing from the starting eleven. It led to a lack of creativity and penetration as Slavia Prague looked to contain the rather ineffective Arsenal attack.
That said, the Czech outfit did venture whenever they were given the chance, but they, too, were wasteful in front of goal. In the end, it was Arsenal that broke the deadlock through an excellent counter-attack as Nicolas Pepe produced an equally brilliant finish.
The game, though, was far from over as the Ivorian’s hesitancy in dealing with a late set-piece from Slavia Prague trickled the ball towards Tomas Holes, who made no mistake in finding the equaliser and securing the away goal for his team. Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a look at the performances of Arsenal players in their disappointing draw with Slavia Prague this midweek.
Bernd Leno: 6/10
Bernd Leno mostly had to make routine saves as Slavia Prague looked wasteful in front of goal. He was worked once or twice, but definitely could have done much better to save the late effort from Tomas Holes. The header was straight at him, but the goalkeeper reacted very late, palming the ball inside the upper end of the net.
Slavia Prague have an away goal! 😳
In the closing seconds at the Emirates and Tomáš Holeš heads past Bernd Leno!
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 8, 2021
Hector Bellerin: 6.5/10
Hector Bellerin played his usual role as the defensive right-back. He impressed in his defensive contributions, making a few important interceptions and clearances. The Spaniard did not offer much creativity going forward but grew into the game as it progressed.
Rob Holding: 7.5/10
Rob Holding looked very impressive at the heart of the Arsenal backline. His imposing presence in the box made it difficult for the opposition to take advantage of the crosses or make inroads into the penalty area. In addition, the centre-back looked composed in possession, even creating a glorious opportunity for Bukayo Saka in the first half. Unfortunate to have missed out on the clean sheet.
Gabriel Magalhaes: 7/10
Gabriel Magalhaes had more nervy moments than Holding, notably losing the ball once in the second half, though he did recover brilliantly. For the most part, however, the former LOSC Lille star looked solid in dealing with the Slavia Prague pressure, while he was also a vital cog in Arsenal’s build-up play.
Cedric Soares: 7/10
Filling in for the injured Kieran Tierney, Cedric Soares did a good job on the left flank. He was defensively solid while also offering a lot of attacking support to Willian on the far side. His ability to whip crosses into the box really makes him a better creative outlet than Bellerin, although one could argue that the full-back should have done better in the equaliser.
Thomas Partey: 6/10
Thomas Partey struggled to impose his presence in the middle of the park, often lacking the sharpness on the ball you would usually expect from a top midfielder. Did grow into the game while remaining defensively solid, but he did not do enough to help Arsenal dominate Slavia Prague in this game.
Granit Xhaka: 7/10
Returning to the side after recovering from an illness, Granit Xhaka offered that stability Arsenal were desperately missing in the defeat to Liverpool. He was solid in possession and worked hard to prevent the opposition from dominating the game. Also deserves credit for the opener, as it was his pass that released Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Bukayo Saka: 8/10
Bukayo Saka wasted a golden opportunity to score for Arsenal in the first half, scuffing his shot wide in a 1v1 with the ‘keeper. However, he was still Arsenal’s brightest player nonetheless, offering a spark on the right flank with his forays into the final third. His pace, trickery and ability to beat players did indeed make life difficult for the opposition. A real asset for the Gunners.
🔎 | FOCUS
Arsenal drew 1:1 with Slavia Praha, with Bukayo Saka as our man of the match:
⏱️ 78' played
🎯 1 big ch. created
🔑 3 key passes (most)
↩️ 4/7 acc. crosses (most)
👟 22/25 acc. passes
💨 2/4 succ. dribbles (most)
⚔️ 7/10 duels won (most)
📈 7.5 SofaScore rating#UEL pic.twitter.com/Kj76jwoq3Y
— SofaScore (@SofaScoreINT) April 8, 2021
Emile Smith Rowe: 6/10
Emile Smith Rowe looked more versatile than usual, especially in possession as he tried to move around the pitch in search of a breakthrough. Unfortunately, the youngster simply failed to provide enough quality to the table and Arsenal were certainly missing someone like Martin Odegaard in the final third.
Willian was given the nod ahead of Nicolas Pepe, a move that did not really pay off for Mikel Arteta. The veteran winger was ineffective with his forays down the flanks, struggling to create any real opportunity for the home side. It eventually led to his substitution in the 73rd minute.
Alexandre Lacazette: 5/10
Alexandre Lacazette was tasked with the responsibility of spearheading the Arsenal attack, ahead of Aubameyang. The Frenchman worked hard, as usual, but looked wasteful in front of goal, notably missing a one-on-one opportunity when clean through on goal. He is a decent striker, but certainly not the one to take Arsenal forward.
Gabriel Martinelli: 7/10
Gabriel Martinelli was Arsenal’s first substitution of the game and one that did not quite disappoint either. He offered more flair on the left flank, notably attempting a shot on goal.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 7.5/10
Aubameyang was gifted an excellent goalscoring opportunity just moments after his introduction, but his shot was wide of the mark. Does deserve credit for assisting Pepe’s goal.
Nicolas Pepe: 8/10
Nicolas Pepe made a telling impact after replacing Saka during the final phase of the game. He linked up well with teammates while offering unpredictability and flair before an excellent run led to the opener.
Nicolas Pépé in the #UEL for Arsenal this season:
◉ Most goals (4)
◉= Most assists (3)
Making an impact off the bench tonight. ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/kxD3E2vBon
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 8, 2021
Mohamed Elneny: 6/10
Offered more energy after replacing Partey. Not much of an impact.
Dani Ceballos: N/A
A late replacement for Smith Rowe. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.