Arsenal meltdown following Slavia Prague draw is embarrassingly premature

Arsenal FC v Slavia Praha UEFA Europa League Qua 8b98b206f90375805c07f2af267cda5b
Arsenal FC v Slavia Praha UEFA Europa League Qua 8b98b206f90375805c07f2af267cda5b

Arsenal's UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg ended in disappointing fashion but despite the online meltdown, the calls from some for Mikel Arteta to be sacked and the general toxicity that seems to follow every defeat – the Gunners still stand a great chance of progressing to the last four.

It was a night of missed chances and, frustratingly for the club's faithful, that's been the story far too often this season.

Bukayo Saka spurned a guilt-edged opportunity in the first half from which he shot wide and Alexandre Lacazette, despite racing through on goal with what seemed like all the time in the world, struck the crossbar.

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They weren't the only chances Arteta will look back on with regret, but having finally made the breakthrough four minutes from time via substitute Nicolas Pepe, Arsenal's poor game management saw them concede a needless corner from which Tomas Holes scored the dreaded away goal for the visitors.

The domestic performance this season has been unacceptable and as such, generally, patience with the boss is running thin.

That's undoubtedly contributed to the seismic reaction that followed Slavia's equaliser – but what did the boss actually do wrong last night?

When you set up a team that creates more than enough chances to win the game and for the most part, defend effectively, as a manager – surely you've done your bit? At what point are the players held accountable for their inability to manage the game and inefficiencies in front of goal?

Arteta's biggest call on Thursday night was to leave his captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out of the starting lineup and, granted, the 31-year-old made a positive impact when introduced providing the assist for Pepe's goal, but at a time when the game was stretched.

Nicolas Pepe, Ondrej Kolar
Nicolas Pepe finished brilliantly to put Arsenal in front | Julian Finney/Getty Images

Jindrich Trpisovsky's team played with a surprisingly high line and perhaps in hindsight the Gabonese forward would have been better suited to running in behind but regardless, Lacazette still had the chances to put Arsenal in full control of the tie.

The armchair managers will tell you otherwise and insist the team wasn't set up right, completely glossing over the fact many of these players simply aren't good enough. That's the reality of the situation we find ourselves in but without the funds to drastically overhaul the squad immediately, what's Arteta to do?

? "You're not going to have 10 chances. When you have those big chances you have to put them in the net."
? Watch the full interview with the boss after tonight's #UEL action ?

— Arsenal (@Arsenal) April 8, 2021

To sell, you need to find somebody willing to buy and for the right price – which as we found out last summer, isn't always as straightforward as we'd like it to be. It would be great if our owners were to open the cheque book and make a 'Chelsea-like' investment in the squad during the next window but the chances of that happening are zero.

Therefore when people refer to 'the process' it isn't just a 'buzzword' or 'good PR', they are referring to the replacement and upgrading of players who will forever let us down. Financial constraints make it a slow and painful process.

That's the reality, as much as some might not want to believe it.

Despite Thursday night's disappointment, it would be foolish to rule Arsenal out of progressing from this tie and the Europa League still represents an opportunity to save our season. There's plenty of football to be played and so postponing the meltdowns, at least until next week, is probably the sensible thing to do.

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