Mikel Arteta may solely rue his staff’s naivety in conceding a stoppage-time equaliser to hand Slavia Prague a 1-1 draw and the benefit at the midway level of this Europa League quarterfinal tie. Yet absolutely the greater concern was his staff’s profligacy at the reverse finish of the pitch, permitting a sequence of probabilities to move them by on an evening when scientific ending may have masked one other underwhelming efficiency.
There was undoubtedly some logic to Arteta’s reasoning when explaining why Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang did not begin, highlighting the impression a late burst of tempo may have on drained legs.
“There were some big decisions to leave some players out,” stated Arteta, “but we decided to play the team who had the best chance to start the game well and as well have some key players to change the game when we need it.”
Their purpose got here from it. Aubameyang did properly to management the ball and launch fellow substitute Nicolas Pepe as Arsenal broke at velocity. Pepe held his nerve properly, lifting a sensible end over Slavia goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar.
Holes by the Arsenal defence — sounds about proper. Yet the Gunners have been solely in this place due to the profligacy that got here earlier than.
“What was missing is when you create big chances, you have to put them away,” stated Arteta. “And I think we made it much more than the result we got.”
Bukayo Saka side-footed horribly broad when despatched clear by Rob Holding. Willian hit the submit with a free kick simply after half-time. Alexandre Lacazette hit the crossbar when racing clear as Slavia defender Oscar Dorley was caught in possession as final man on the midway line.
Lacazette then fired broad from Saka’s back-post cross. Aubameyang missed likelihood of his personal, producing a tame effort when Emile Smith Rowe‘s right-wing supply got here throughout him in the six-yard field.
Aubameyang maybe had the excuse he wasn’t absolutely attuned to the recreation, having been launched lower than a minute earlier, however then once more he has been out in the chilly for a while.
The 31-year-old was a peripheral determine in Saturday’s 3-0 defeat to Liverpool, one member of the “little mafia” Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville advised had appeared completely disinterested in Arteta’s recreation plan. Arteta dismissed the severity of that characterisation in his pre-match information convention however his actions spoke louder than these phrases, dropping his captain for what’s the most essential recreation of the season to date.
He took Aubameyang off when shedding to Liverpool and did so once more at West Ham United. At London Stadium, Aubameyang was trudging round the pitch when Lacazette equalised, resembling a cheerleader fairly than a talisman. Retaining membership mascot Gunnersaurus for that job would have been a less expensive possibility.
Arsenal gave Aubameyang a three-year, £250,000-a-week deal for these moments, the video games that outline a marketing campaign.
Mesut Ozil turned a vastly costly downside, seen as a relic from a unique period, however Arsenal’s finest moments beneath Arteta have had Aubameyang entrance and centre. He was the game-changer in the FA Cup semifinal and last, persevering with a sample of ruthless ending to settle video games of high-quality margins in their favour.
Aubameyang might not be in that very same particular person type at current — and you’ve got to wonder if dropping the Gabon worldwide for final month’s north London derby has had a long-lasting impact — however who would you like these probabilities falling to: the striker you might be but to determine whether or not to promote this summer time or the one you moved heaven earth to tie down to a brand new contract lower than a 12 months in the past?
At the very least, change ought to have come sooner than it did in these 90 minutes. Aubameyang, Pepe and Gabriel Martinelli injected recent life into the residence staff as Slavia drained from a dedicated show in which they’d probabilities of their very own, Petr Sevcik firing broad from 16 yards when properly positioned in the field.
Arsenal’s issues in managing matches, defending leads and exhibiting enough resilience are well-documented, acquainted issues. Aubameyang’s function in the staff just isn’t, at the very least not till now.
All just isn’t properly. Aubameyang headed straight for the tunnel at full-time, exchanging phrases or glances with no person. Asked afterward whether or not Aubameyang understood why he had been omitted, Arteta was not precisely sympathetic in his response.
“Well, I cannot talk with everybody individually every week,” he stated. “We try to be transparent and communicate with the players as transparent as possible, for them to understand the role of the game that they have. When he came on he showed the right attitude.”
Arsenal could properly nonetheless discover a path to the semifinals. They are alarmingly inconsistent but nonetheless aggressive towards anybody when at their finest.
Until lately, these performances invariably contained Aubameyang. Whether they nonetheless do stay to be seen.