Mikel Arteta was enamelled with the way Arsenal brushed aside Slavia Prague as his players rollered up their sleeves to paint the Czech capital red last night.
Walking on eggshell after the first leg, the Gunners made a blistering start. It was all killer, no filler.
Despite Emile Smith Rowe’s primer being ruled out by VAR, the Gunners netted three times in six minutes to render the tie dead before half time.
There was no flaking or fading after the break. Instead, Alex Lacquerzette added a gloss to proceedings with his second of the game. The Frenchman, on a hot streak, showed real colour instinct.
After his players found a way to solvent a tricky problem against an abrasive opponent, the boss said:
“I am really pleased because we are through and I think we are through in a really convincing way. In this round, 4-0 isn’t easy. They haven’t lost at home in almost two years and they are a tough opponent, but we had some big individual performances and then collectively we understood the game really well and we were very efficient.
“In Europe more than any other competition, games are decided in both boxes and we were ruthless in both of them. We kept a clean sheet and we scored four goals and could have scored more.””
Emulsions ran high before kick-off as the Gunners took a knee to protest against racism in football.
Prior to the match, Slavia’s Ondrej Kudela was banned for 10-games for ‘racist behaviour’ towards Rangers’ Glen Kamara; a former Gunner.
“They asked me and the club that they wanted to take that initiative,” said Arteta.
“They had the right reasons for it, so the club was very supportive. I think it was a good gesture. We spoke with the club to make sure we could follow the rules of Uefa and we can do it in the right way.
“We decided to take that approach, which I really like from the players, and I must say Uefa was very supportive as well. The captains came to me and asked me to do that, and I just supported them like the club did.”
Have we reached our ceiling for the season? Gunners fans will be hoping that isn’t the case given we now face a blast from the pastel; former boss Unai Emery.
There’s no skirting over the issue, the clash with Villarreal is huge. Our Champions League hopes could varnish into thin air.
“We’re [now] going to face an opponent that has a big experience in European competition,” said Arteta.
“And a manager in Unai that has won it three times and is probably the most successful one in the competition, so we will look at them and see how they do, and after that, be us. We’re going to go there and be us.”
Successes in Europe have been hue and far between in Arsenal’s history. It’s a 27-year etch.
Perhaps we’ll right that this year. When Dulux in… 😜