Mikel Arteta stood firm in his decision to rest Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Arsenal’s Europa League tie against Slavia Prague. He believes his team will advance after a poor 1-1 draw in the first leg on Thursday. Read more details on Arteta Backs Arsenal below.
Following Saturday’s 3-0 defeat to Liverpool, club captain Aubameyang was listed among the substitutes and did not appear until the 78th minute against Slavia, when the game was still goalless. Eight minutes later, the Gabonese international set up Nicolas Pepe for Arsenal’s opener, his 100th goal participation for Arsenal in all competitions since joining Borussia Dortmund in January 2018. Arsenal, however, were unable to complete the win on home turf, as Tomas Holes headed in a 93rd-minute equalizer, leaving the Gunners needing at least one goal in the return leg in the Czech capital next week.
About the fact that Alexandre Lacazette missed a glorious opportunity when playing clean through on target, and Bukayo Saka also failed to score from a decent spot, Arteta believed he chose the right starting lineup against Slavia.
“I think the players I chose stood up and gave everything. We played a well-managed game. Today, we were even more competitive, and we generated some major opportunities. I felt it was the best time to make the substitutions. Who knows if I could have done it sooner or later,” he said at the post-match press conference.
Arteta Happy With Striker Performance
Arteta announced ahead of the game that Aubameyang was rested for tactical reasons, and he was delighted with the striker’s performance this season, with 14 goals in 33 appearances.
“When he signed on, he had the best mentality. I can’t meet with anyone separately every week, but we do our best to be as open as possible,” said the Spaniard.
Holes’ late equalizer was his first in big European action in his 14th start, and it leaves Arsenal with work to do in next week’s make-or-break clash in Prague.
Arsenal has now gone four games without a victory and has struggled to hold a clean sheet in any of their last 14 games in all competitions, but Arteta is confident his team can make the semi-finals for the third time in four seasons.
“I believe we will go there and win the game. We must win the game. The goal is to win the game. We must score. We’ve done it before, and we’ll do it again,” he told BT Sport.
The tie on Thursday was Arsenal’s first home draw against a Czech team, but visiting manager Jindrich Trpisovsky admitted that Slavia had to ride their luck, even though they had four shots on goal to their opponents’ two.
“We weren’t our usual self tonight. We gave them the ball a lot of the time without a contest. We’ll have to see how Arsenal adapts to our pitch. Theirs is excellent, while ours is not. Tonight was a lucky night. They had opportunities but did not capitalize. We made errors and kept missing the ball, but we were fortunate and stole the tie,” Trpisovsky said.