Over on Arseblog, Lewis Ambrose has put together an excellent tactical look at Thursday night’s Europa League opposition, Slavia Prague. Check it out here.

To give us even more perspective on the challenge that lies ahead, we have the thoughts of Franz, an Arsenal fan in Prague who supports Slavia.

Thanks to him for this insight.

Current situation

Slavia sit comfortably at the top of the Czech league table, 14 points ahead of Sparta Prague (who have two games in hand), heading for a third league title in a row. This weekend they also set a new Czech record by prolonging their unbeaten run to 37 league games without a loss, drawing 0-0 against weak side Brno, but having to play almost 70 minutes with 10 men.

Style of play

Slavia like to play what their coach Jindrich Trpisovsky described as “Total football” when he was appointed back in 2017. It means high octane football where every player defends and every player attacks, with relentless running for the whole match. They covered the most distance in the Champions League group stages last season. I think their style is very comparable to that of Leeds in the Premier League. They are very physical and have a lot of tall and strong players in their ranks. They also commit high numbers of light and smart fouls, especially in the attacking third. You just hate to play against them.

They love to press high to force turnovers at the entire width of oppositions half. They usually play a very high defensive line trying to squeeze the opponents as much as possible and force them to play through the lines. They are a very compact side and always try to have what the coach describes as “small pitch” (defensive and attacking lines close to each other).

They always try to build from the back and play down the lines, with overlapping, very attacking minded fullbacks, often trying to cut back for second runners from midfield to finish. They are also quite dangerous on set-pieces, with Romanian playmaker Nicolae Stanciu very capable of scoring from free kicks (look at his goal against Rangers).

Strengths

Pressing, compactness, team spirit, self-belief, physicality, tactical preparation.

Weaknesses

Playing such a high defensive line, the central defenders are often left exposed to play 1v1 at the back. This can be exploited by Arsenal, especially if Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe are available.

Another weakness in comparison to Arsenal is technical inferiority. Arsenal definitely has much better technicians than Slavia and if they are able to beat Slavia’s pressing, then the Gunners can hurt them in the final third.

Stars

The biggest star of Slavia is their coach. He was able to create the strongest Slavia team in living memory and is called the Czech Klopp! The players love him and always follow his instructions to the smallest detail. They are able to execute his tactical plan to perfection and he is really good at exposing oppositions weaknesses (So expect Xhaka to be under huge pressure after he receives the ball from defenders). Most of the players just get better and better under this coach- just look at what Soucek and Coufal, both from Slavia, did with West Ham this season.

I think the biggest weakness of Czech sides in Europe was what I call the ‘Big team intimidation’. Any time we played a big team we were scared and unable to show what we were capable of. But it has changed with this guy, and right now Slavia are truly fearless, full of self belief and looking to hurt any opponent without any respect.

Best Players

CB – Kudela (missing)
At the moment Slavia has 3 of their 4 CBs on the sidelines, with the only fit being a 20 year old guy, playing his first full professional season.

GK – Kolar (most likely missing)
This is a terrible loss for Slavia, as Kolar is absolutely integral to their style of play, not just in build-up, but he also plays the Neuerisque sweeper style behind the high defensive line. Slavia’s reserve keeper is also injured, so there will probably be an 18yr old guy, who will make just his 3rd professional appearance.

CM- Provod
This guy made a huge progress in the last 12 months, and right now I would say he would make the starting 11 in Arsenal’s midfield). Very quick, very strong, can shoot with both legs and is technically very secure.(and he just scored against Belgium in the WC qualifiers)

Wingers: Olayinka and Sima- both African wingers are very dangerous, Olayinka for his pressing and ball carrying skills, Sima for his great finishing.

Conclusion

If Arsenal can enforce their style of play and demonstrate their technical superiority they will be on track to the semis. It would be smart to press high, because Slavia will be sorely missing their 1st choice goalkeeper and center-backs.

But there is a big task ahead for Arsenal – they can’t switch off for a second, they mustn’t commit any of their stupid mistakes and they have to play the full 180 minutes – otherwise Slavia will take advantage.

I think the odds would be 65 to 35 for Arsenal, but if Saka, ESR and Xhaka wont make it, then it’s more like 60 to 40. Arsenal are clear favourites in this encounter, but they have to hide the self destruct button and, hopefully, not touch it at all!

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yen

Czech Gooner living in Prague over here. Was hoping for this matchup for years as the idea of walking for 20 minutes to see the Arsenal play is just lovely… freaking covid.  Anyway, wanted to take a second to walk you through the crazy events of the second Rangers – Slavia game and its aftermath, as I do have access to both British & Czech media, Twitter etc. and find it quite fascinating how it was reported & perceived very differently – maybe some of you might find it interestsing as well and would love to hear your thoughts on… Read more »

bobbyp

Thanks Bro. Always interesting to hear a different, more expansive viewpoint.

AledoBren

Terrific balanced piece, thanks for giving us brits with some of the wortst newspapers in the world with some perspective on what happened.

Automatism

Very interesting and thanks for taking the time to spell all this out. I do take some issue with your disappointment at British coverage ‘overlooking Kamara’s violent response – hope we can all agree that violence isn’t the answer to racism’. By your own account Kamara’s reaction was to ‘go ballistic’ and start ‘screaming’ that Kúdela is a fucking racist — this doesn’t seem to me to be a violent or disproportionate response to what Kamara alleges Kúdela to have said.

AMN's cheeky grin

Allegedly, Kamara punched Kudela in the face after the match. That’s what he is referring to

Heavenly Chapecoense

Kudela covered his mouth and uttered some quick words. I believe Kamara 100%. What I am expecting and it hasn’t happened yet is that teammates of the offender denounce him and confirm he indeed used racist slurs. Remember Ashley Cole having to defend John Terry? It was sad.

AMN's cheeky grin

Yeah I believe Kamara too.

Not a chance that Slavia players will denounce Kudela though. It would probably tank their career at the club, if they call out one of their most important players and got him banned.

Simon Deli was close by when the comment was made, and may have heard it (he notably didn’t defend Kudela on the pitch at all when the scuffle broke out). But sadly it’s probably expecting too much for him to stick his neck out and condemn his teammate.

David Hilliers Arm Cast

There have been hundreds of false/fake racist incidents over the last year, where the accuser was proven to be wrong and in most cases committed the atrocity themselves. It is important that we don’t believe somebody without looking into the incident and gathering all the facts. It sets a dangerous precedence if we take every accusers word for every incident instead of looking at all the evidence first.

A Different George

“Hundreds of false/fake racist incidents”? Here’s a small question: why would Kamara make this up at the end of the match? What did he have to gain? That doesn’t prove he is right, but it is very significant evidence in his favour.

David Hilliers Arm Cast

Why would Jussie Smolett make up a racist attack? I don’t know the psychology behind people doing these things. But just taking an accusers word for it every time is nonsense. I’m not saying he didn’t do it, we aren’t judge and jury.

You were probably happy with Cavani getting banned for saying something that was proven not to even be offensive, but because someone “took” offense to it it was deemed “racist”?

A Different George

The fact that you can think of no other example than Smolett is telling; neither can I. Everything we know about the incident with Kamara, what we see with the cupped hand, the moment in the match, his reaction, his own history, the fact that a teammate says he heard exactly the same thing, all these circumstances–all, I repeat, are strong evidence that he is telling the truth. As I said, this is not absolute certainty, but significant evidence. You are not willing to concede this, and you think this is somehow more objective or fair. But this is precisely… Read more »

David Hilliers Arm Cast

That was the most high profile one. You have blinders on if you fail to do your own research and use a search engine to find loads more.

Having a discussion with someone who’s mind is made up and is unwilling to see another side is pointless. Typical of today’s society.

David Hilliers Arm Cast

If you think EVERY player hasn’t been cupping their hand and talking to opponents and even friends you are mad. Again, blinders on to prove a point. Really sad that in 2021 people can be so ignorant.

Jib

Fuck off. What a falsehood.

David Hilliers Arm Cast

Google is your friend potty mouth.

Believe all “insert proposed victim here” is about as far from justice as one could get. Let’s believe evidence and facts and not judge somebody based on accusations. How insane is that?

Homer

So on what are you and the others basing your “I believe Kamara” punt, wishful thinking?

The ENTIRE point of that excellent comment by Yen – there is more to the story than there appears, and much of it unclear.

The whole affair seems ugly; there are no winners. The point is not to sit in judgment from thousands of miles away, whilst knowing ZERO about what happened.

Automatism

Thanks for clarifying.

Viv The 🐐

I had a similar problem with always wanting the Rapid-Arsenal matchup. And now also Prague …. I feel your pain. On your comment regarding Czech minorities and having little contact with people of other ethnicities: It is a very nice excuse, but it does not cover ignorance. And there is a lot of ignorance in this world. And so this narrative of not knowing how to deal with a person with dark skin colour is just the ignorance of treating people with Respect and dignity. It’s like with Copyright: No knowledge of rules and laws does not safe you from… Read more »

yen

Hi, just to make sure, definitely didn’t intend to defend any ignorance, rather point out where it stems from – the reasons of course do not condone it.

Joseph Kawooya

And how do u treat unprofessional conduct by a professional. Or you do not judge them, coz they got to find a way to win

allezkev

I saw brief highlights of the game and the assault on Slavia goalkeeper was Petr Cech level career ending.
Doesn’t excuse the comments aimed at Kamara though, but a good explanation of the whole scenario.

AMN's cheeky grin

Interesting to get a thoughtful, balanced view on this – thanks! However, I think it’s unfair to say that the British press are jumping to conclusions. From watching the footage, I’m pretty convinced that Kudela said what he is alleged to say. One point you missed – it wasn’t just Kamara’s lawyer who relayed what Kudela said the next day, Zungu immediately said it on the pitch. The reactions (both during and after the game) and context seem pretty telling to me. How come Kamara instantly said Kudela had been racist, and then Zungu instantly relayed the racist comment, unless… Read more »

Goonerink

The roofe tackle wasn’t even that offensive, a high foot and the outcome is sickening but he is miles from goal and watching the ball the whole time, like not even an Özil sideways glance. Keeper rushes out and it’s terribly unfortunate but yen paints it as malicious. secondly criminal complaints were filed by both sides. Rangers immediately after the match, and slavia after finding out rangers had. Kamara might as well be called Kalmara from his demeanour and personality. For him to punch someone hours after an incident in front of other officials says more about the incident than… Read more »

Tomaury Bischfeld

Violence isn’t the answer to racism and I would never have encouraged Kamara to do what he did. However, if someone cowardly calls you an f-ing monkey, deliberately covering their mouth so that it isn’t picked up then cowardly lies that they didn’t do it in front of others, I honestly don’t condemn Kamara’s punch in the heat of the moment either. The story shouldn’t be about his reaction and if it’s a part, there’s no way it should bare equal weight. There’s no way the violence happens without the abhorrent abuse. I believe people should be given fair trials.… Read more »

yen

Hi, thanks for taking the time to write such reply! Some great points – especially how the story shouldn’t be about Kamara’s reaction. I wrote in a reply to previous comment how I think Kamara’s alleged punch should get more coverage as well (in order to point out the reaction he chose is not the way forward – although I too have much more sympathy for that than what Kúdela did), but you really made me think. Regarding the Slavia reaction, I think they did what they did because they seemed to be really pissed at Rangers, since – according… Read more »

yen

Hey there, first of all – thank you for taking the time to reply to my comment, it’s great we can have such mannered discussion on a rather explosive topic! You made some excellent points. If I were to state my opinion based on what we know, I’d incline to Kamara’s version as well, for many of the reasons you mentioned yourself – his immediate reaction, the alleged punch long after the whistle, as well as the fact he chose to file a criminal complaint. He’d be a lunatic if he went these lengths just because of a „normal” verbal… Read more »

jamesc

Another gunner living in Prague, will for sure be going to Eden on the 15th to try catch a glimpse! (Especially now that curfew will no longer be 9pm, ideal timing)

SarcasmB0t

Excellent write-up. I’m from Slovakia myself, and I don’t really doubt that Kúdela said what’s been alleged. Given the situation on the pitch, it tracks. You say Black Lives Matter is not a topic here – I disagree. Go to an online article about a BLM related issue and look at the comments. If you’re used to English-language discourse, the level of open racism is shockingly blatant. I’m not even talking about the tabloids here. In terms of football, look up the comments related to the recent kerfuffle with the Romanian referee who called Pierre Webo “the black one”. The… Read more »

Tomaury Bischfeld

Thanks for your perspective and reminding everyone that John Terry is a c*nt. It really can’t be emphasised enough. Would just point out that Kudela is actually 34, not 20, so youth is no excuse.

Homer

Comment of the day right here. Well said!

Seems on here that noone remembers the Zidane/Mattarazzi fiasco at the 2006 WC. I reckon half you weren’t even alive yet.

AMN's cheeky grin

Thanks for the interesting perspectives / experiences. Personally I think the Pierre Webo situation is quite different, and more complex. There is too much of a dichotomy in current discourse on race issues, something (or someone) has to be entirely racist, or not racist at all. IMO the 4th official in the Webo case should be taught that identifying players by race can cause offence and should therefore be avoided. But this doesn’t make him a racist, or make what he said racist abuse (as some have said). The situation was probably made worse by the fact that the Romanian… Read more »

SarcasmB0t

I agree that the situation is different and that there should be nuance. For the record, I don’t think the assistant referee is a racist or did anything particularly racially insensitive, and I’m aware of the Romanian language issue. I believe it was a misunderstanding more than anything. What I was referring to, however, was the reflexive desire to dismiss the case because of the reasons you have correctly mentioned, coupled with an unwillingness to acknowledge that it could cause offense or to change one’s behavior or speech so it isn’t seen as potentially offensive. The feeling I got reading… Read more »

yen

Hi there, thanks for your response! You made some excellent points (incl. reminding us all that John Terry is a c*nt!) Re Black Lives Matter note, just to clarify – what I was trying to say is that the conditions that gave birth to the BLM movement are not something Czechs would have first hand experience with, as its more of an ‘imported’ topic – that doesn’t justify any ignorance to it. I also didn’t try to imply there’s no racism over here – oh there is, exactly as you pointed out numerous times. I believe the comments on topics… Read more »

SarcasmB0t

I fully agree with the point about ignorance and unwillingness to learn. I firmly believe that it’s the number one source of this sort of thing. But that’s not to say there aren’t actual, dyed-in-the-wool racists in our countries. You need to look no further than certain ultras groups who will wish Hitler a happy birthday or send other teams’ fans to Auschwitz (Slovan Bratislava), regularly throw Hitler salutes (Sparta Praha, Slovan Bratislava, and many others), use monkey chants or racially derogatory language against players of color (too many to list). BTW, on the topic of BLM, I’ve just found… Read more »

gooner

I hate racism or anything remotely related to racism. I have never experienced it in my life though given the fact I come from a place where almost everyone is black but still I can’t tolerate it in any way. If the Slavia player did that horrible act then he should be given a lengthy ban possible. On the other hand nothing hurts the British press like a European result going against a Scottish team, the end of a Cinderella story. Arsenal fans will know first hand how Eduardo was treated in the media for a perceived dive and how… Read more »

Giuseppe Hovno

ahoj! nice write-up. Divided Czech/arsenal household for me so Thursday should be spicy!

Goonerink

apparently that 20 year old CB is their best player and up for a ballon d’ or if you follow Twitter arguments…

yen

Haha, he’s definitely not, but he’s a solid talent and a part of a defense that kept Leicester quiet for 180 minutes.

gus

if we cant beat these third rate teams it just shows how shocking we have become-
after nearing 1.5 years in the job artetas minimum requirement from me is to make the final -if we don’t do that with the easiest route we could have hoped for than he should sling his hook back to city and sit on peps chair for another 3 years for some inspiration into that non moving mullet.

Onenil

Obviously they are not third rate.
Also, the game has not been played yet, so you can’t use it as a stick to beat Arteta with.

Once a gunner

When are we going to destroy our self destructive button ?

Appels&Pere

Perhaps an auction to raise some funds?

bobbyp

Nice write up, thanks! ‘hide the self destruct button’ completely sums up Arsenal at this moment. Surely with a rookie keeper we have to get the ball to the forwards and have a pop at goal? .

Rich

They’ve knocked out both Leicester + Rangers, so must have something about them

Hopefully we can keep a clean sheet, and take a commanding lead over to Prague

Would be a nice change if we made light work of this….

After the weekend, I have a sneaky feeling Martinelli might get the nod, Aubameyang doesn’t look right, and he looks like the type of player we don’t want in our team when he’s sulking

Biggles

As we know our season succeeds or fails in the EL. Success will be as big a positive (European football next season/more attractive for potential signings/additional finance etc.) as failure will be a negative (very probably no European football next season/less attractive for potential signings/increased financial constraints etc.)

I would expect that, on balance, we’d overcome Slavia over the two legs, but I don’t think we should take anything for granted. There’s always that “self destruct” button, isn’t there.

allezkev

Thanks for that Franz, an interesting read, Sima looks very dangerous…

Franz

Pleasure mate 🙂
Yeah, Sima jumps like Michael Jordan .. and he allready showed some Henryesque finishes as well!

allezkev

Yeah, you can definitely see some similarities to the great man. 👍🏼

Franz

Yeah, but still very raw. Two weeks ago he recieved a deserved red for a silly tackle..
But I must say i would like to see him in Arsenal shirt one day 🙂

Fitzcarraldo

More of articles like these from educated fans. Different viewpoints and perspectives are really fun to see. Sounds like it will be a great game. Thanks for posting this.

Tombo

So they tick all the boxes of everything we don’t want in an opponent right now, could be a cracker.

AMN's cheeky grin

Kolar has travelled to London for tomorrow’s match, apparently. Don’t know if that means he’s fit to play.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.thescore.com/eng_fed/news/2148510/amp

Goonerink

Love how slavia press claimed safety concerns for kudela because they thought fans would travel through two countries whilst in lockdown to in danger their player. Really trying to paint him as a victim. I hope we smash em

miike

i mean bale came all the way from wales to smash his face with his elbow

Naked Cygan

Given how sh*t we are, I would be shocked if we beat them. I think half the teams in the Championship can beat us on our current tactics and lack of motivation from our players.

Franz

Kolar, the nr1 keeper declared fit to play. His start will depend on his feelings, went through full training session yesterday.
Also, the coach Trpisovsky specifically citing Tierney as the player he likes the most among gooners… Tells you a lot about what kind of players he prefers 🙂