Arteta: It’s an important win at a crucial moment

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Mikel Arteta was impressed with the way his players put Slavia Prague to the sword as Arsenal blitzed the Czech champions to secure a 5-1 aggregate win that sets up a semi-final tie with Villarreal.

After a tense first leg at the Emirates, the Gunners raced to a 3-0 advantage before the break thanks to goals from Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka and Alex Lacazette’s penalty. The French striker bagged a second in the closing stages to round-off a fine team performance that keeps our hopes of qualifying for the Champions League alive.

On how proud he is…

We started really well, in a really convincing way. We were aggressive in our high press, we looked a threat every time we regained the ball and were attacking. We scored the goal, it was disallowed and I really liked the reaction of the team because they wanted to go for the next one. We were really composed in our finished in the final third and we scored some great goals. The clean sheet is important because it’s the second one in two games and we need to build on that. I’m really happy tonight.

On his players showing conviction and courage…

Yes, obviously it helped the way we played against Sheffield United. The players were in high confidence, that’s why I wanted to repeat almost all of them. Then, when individual performances are so high, obviously the collective improves. And that’s what happened tonight. The boys were really at it from the start and they showed real quality.

On it being one of his side’s best performance of the season…

I don’t know. It’s a really important one in a crucial moment. It’s a team here who haven’t lost at home in nearly two years and that’s not a coincidence, it’s a real strong team here, so to win in a convincing way is credit to the players.

On the Holding and Mari partnership…

Partnerships are really important and we haven’t been able to repeat or have any consistency in our back four for all the issues and problems we’ve had through the year. If we can keep that obviously the team will feel more comfortable, communication will be better and the cohesion of the back four and the team will be better.

On his players showing to fans what they can do…

I hope they are [proud]. There’s still a lot to do in this competition and a lot of things that we can still improve even on today’s performance, for sure. But we have this real desire as a team to improve and be better every day and today in a big moment we produced a good performance which in my opinion meant the club can go forward.

On the semi-final with Emery being spicy…

It will be tough, they are a tough team. Unai is the most successful manager in this competition, he totally deserves that so we know the opponent we’re going to be facing. Now we focus on Fulham, we don’t have time to train, we just make sure the players recover and then activate them ready to go again.

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Naked Cygan

Finally, we show up for an important game and play smart. no complaints today. Very happy for Pepe!! Let’s just hope everyone stays fit and healthy.

SB Still

I was very skeptical of Arteta’s team selection but credit where its due.

I was sure it was going to be a very night but enjoyed it just after the disallowed goal, what a blitz.

We had to play the same way against Villarreal.

In other news, hope Mkhitaryan stops ManU’s run.

Hi-Jay

Kinda ironic if after Mkhitaryan missed the 2019 EL final for Arsenal due to ‘unfortunate circumstances’, he faces Arsenal in the 2021 final.

Spanish Gooner

It still makes me angry how overlooked Mkhi’s travel ban was in that final. For all his flaws he was a crucial part of Emery’s system (and imo a big part of our collapse after he and Iwobi were let go last minute) and if we’d had one of him or Ramsey available that game could have gone very differently

Daveo

Yeah me too, but he found the balance here. It was a great setup. I mentioned to my mate, as during the 1st 10 mins we were worried how isolated Pepe was with Xhaka behind him, but it launched much more down the right, which drew the defense away from Pepe and he became a direct threat, which is where he is most dangerous. It will be interesting with Odergaard back, because it would seem playing ESR, Odergaard and Laca might take away that balance a bit by not having enough directness, which may require changing Laca for Auba or… Read more »

allezkev

Credit to Arteta for his team selections and the aggressive tactics, good substitutions as well and against a hard working opponent who didn’t throw in the towel.
Just goes to show what a difference it makes when our finishing matches our approach play.

TOGooner

Arteta getting the team purring after losing Auba, Odegaard and Tierney really shouldn’t be overlooked, but they way he’s coaching these players to understand space and movement is what’s really incredible. Pepe is looking like a potentially world class talent, much closer to what we hoped for, and Saka and the grossly undervalued ESR (by non arsenal fans) are easily there with him. I really hope before this season ends, everyone is reminded Martinelli is there with them, because he has what it takes to be a 30 goal a season forward.

onenil

BBC says Auba is in hospital with malaria!
Strong reason for not being available.
Get well soon PEA!

Me from Here

Not saying it will be easy, but I won’t be surprised if we win Europa this season, just like the FA cup last season. Before now, Arsenal crumbles under pressure. Now, we respond to pressure when our back is against the wall. This tells me that our mentality isn’t soft but careless, which isn’t good either. We have players that turn it up at will. Arteta’s job is to have the players turn it on every game throughout the season. We are not a league-winning team, but we are performing way below our capacity.

Finsbury Park Gooner

I know what you mean, we seem to turn up a lot more these days in big games.

Danger Mouse

Excellent nights work. Give Arteta time, he’ll build something good here.

Haybe

I thought Pepe has been improving in the last few weeks. His decision making and his timing have both improved and his confidence is coming back as a result.

loose_cannon

Hoping this whole “playing with pace and energy” thing starts to catch on ;). When Arsenal perform like that, you really do wonder why we’ve had to endure so many poor performances this season. Surely it’s time to kick on from here.

Sauce

Just give these guys a break on Sunday, put on a totally different 11 if possible.
We couldn’t care less about the league now.
Leno
Bellerin-Holding-Gabriel-Soares
Mo-Ceballos
Willian-Odegaard-Martinelli
Auba

Replace Ø with ESR if he’s still injured

Eric Blair

In the country where I live, one commentator put it wonderfully. He said Arsenal are like a bottle of ketchup, nothing’s coming, nothing’s coming, then suddenly it all comes out at once.

Let’s hope the EL final will be one of those where you shake the bottle but the lid isn’t on properly and you cover yourself and the dining room in sauce!