The stress was presupposed to be on towards Slavia Prague however inside 25 excellent minutes, the Gunners have been in cruise management.
Final week’s 1-1 draw at Emirates Stadium had left the Gunners with a quite simple equation going into the second leg of their Europa League quarterfinal within the Czech capital: rating a purpose.
Arteta’s facet knew failure to discover a manner via a Slavia facet that was unbeaten at dwelling in all competitions this season would ship it crashing out of the match and go away an already disappointing season in tatters.
Critical questions have been being requested of the gamers after the best way wherein they threw away a lead within the closing phases of the primary leg handy Prague the benefit going into Thursday evening’s return fixture.
However within the area of six scintillating first-half minutes, these questions have been answered in emphatic fashion.
The good Emile Smith Rowe had already had a purpose dominated out for the tightest of offside calls earlier than Nicolas Pepe gave the guests the lead on 18 minutes, thus canceling out Slavia’s away purpose.
Alexandre Lacazette then struck from the penalty spot three minutes later to make it 2-0 on the evening earlier than Bukayo Saka added a cultured third purpose – all inside 24 minutes of the sport getting underway.
It was sport, set and match Arsenal earlier than we had even reached the half-hour mark.
This was a serious assertion from his facet and one other instance of why there’s real perception inside the membership that issues are on the right track below the Spaniard.
The abject performances all through November and the vast majority of December might have led to a massively disappointing Premier League marketing campaign, however the enchancment since Christmas has been plain.
Since beating Chelsea 3-1 on Boxing Day, Arteta’s facet sits fourth within the kind desk, with solely Manchester Metropolis, Manchester United and West Ham choosing up extra factors.
And now the Gunners have booked their spot within the Europa League semifinals, the place they are going to meet Unai Emery’s Villarreal.
Clearly, there’s nonetheless a lot for Arsenal to enhance on and failure to go on and win the Europa League will greater than seemingly go away it going through as much as a season with out European competitors for the primary time in 25 years.
For a membership of Arsenal’s stature, that’s not adequate, however there are nonetheless loads of causes for optimism they usually have been all on present as Prague was blown away in its yard.
Arsenal’s homegrown kids have been the catalyst for the advance since Boxing Day and one once more they led the cost – with academy graduates Smith Rowe and Saka proving far too good for the Czech champions.
Instantly after seeing a purpose dominated out for offside, Smith Rowe waltzed via the Slavia protection earlier than working the ball to Pepe, who confirmed fantastic composure to attain his fifth Europa League purpose of the season.
Saka then took middle stage, profitable a penalty, which was transformed by Lacazette, earlier than scoring the third himself with a tremendous end from the sting of the field.
At that time, the sport was completed and dusted. Arsenal had completed its job and it cruised via the rest of the quarterfinal, with Lacazette placing the gloss on a superb evening’s work with a fourth purpose on 77 minutes.
All eyes now flip to the semifinal towards Villarreal and the return of Emery, the person Arteta changed simply over 16 months in the past.
Emery led Arsenal to the Europa League ultimate in 2019 and now he’s the person standing of their manner of repeating the trick two years later.
A return to the Champions League is now inside touching distance for Arsenal. Simply three video games stand between the Gunners and a seat again at Europe’s high desk.
They went to Prague with their season on the road they usually return to London with the dream nonetheless alive.