Key change in formation, Pepe’s inclusion & more: Assessing Mikel Arteta’s decisions in epic Slavia Prague win

The Gunners have progressed to the semi-final in style and Arteta got his decisions bang-on!

Starting XI

In Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s absence due to malaria, Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette and Bukayo Saka absolutely decimated the Slavia Prague defenders.

It was a great call to start them together – as noticed by fans many times, they work better than when Auba is part of the XI.

Granit Xhaka once again started at left-back and the decision paid off – the midfielder even revealed how he’ll play anywhere if it means winning Arsenal the Europa League. We love to hear that!

Game plan

Now, let’s get to the good stuff.

Pepe started on the left wing, allowing Saka to play on his favoured right side. As a result, Nico could stretch the play – which is very important in Kieran Tierney‘s absence.

And it’s exactly what Mikel Arteta exploited – he took advantage of Nico’s ability to hold the width during the build-up play.

In addition, Emile Smith Rowe was a fantastic option for the attacking midfield role. He was unlucky to not get on the scoresheet but he had a role to play in our first three goals – not bad for a 20-year-old, eh?

Minor change in formation

Arteta deserves full credit for this one – during the game, it became evident that the Gunners were attempting to play with a back four diamond and just one man in midfield.

These were unconventional moves but considering how we attacked and played on the front foot, the risky decisions paid off. When was the last time we celebrated a 4-0 win away from home in a European competition?

Playing Nico and ESR

Despite all the clamour about the lack of game time, both players came on and did their jobs brilliantly.

Pepe now has nine goal involvements in eight Europa League starts while Smith Rowe made a strong case for another start.

Clearly, this Arsenal team has talent and it’s high time we see Arteta taking more of such risks – that’s the only way we can actually win the Europa League.

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