Saturday, May 8, 2021

Xhaka shouts at Pepe as Mikel Arteta hints his favoured Arsenal back four


It was indeed a great night for Arsenal as they put up an assertive display over Slavia Prague. They defeated the Czech team by 4 goals in the 2nd-leg of the Europa League quarter-finals. A brilliant defensive, as well as offensive demonstration, left the hosts struggling for a reply.

It was a completely different Arsenal side as compared to the 1st-leg performance. Their single goal lead was cancelled out by the visitors in the injury-time at the Emirates Stadium. It was meant to be a difficult task for The Gunners given their position then, however, they put up such a performance, that goals were only being scored by them. By scoring 3 goals in just 6 minutes, Gunners had already finished the job.

Having cleared off another obstacle from their path, Arsenal will be facing Villarreal in the semi-final stage of the Europa League. It is going to be one interesting match to watch as Arsenal will be having a reunion with their old boss, Unai Emery. Both of them will be having a point to prove to each other as their adieu was not a happy one.

The Gunners will be back in action in the Premier League this Sunday. They will be facing Fulham who are also fighting to survive in the League as they are 6 points behind the safe zone. Arsenal on the other hand will be looking to continue their brilliant form for the remainder of the season.

Their hopes for a European competition also lie in their results in the remaining 7 matches as they are 9 points behind the closest spot. Unless they have the guarantee of winning the Europa League, they have got a lot to fight for.

Granit Xhaka showcases his passion during the game:

Granit Xhaka was a proud player who had an equal involvement in the team’s victory. The Swiss midfielder had to play in a position that was not his strength. Kieran Tierney’s injury has left the left-back position empty and Mikel Arteta had to improvise. In their win against Sheffield United last week, Xhaka appointed that position. And he did a great job.

Although the coach did mention that the decision was only made for that match, the Swiss was again doing the full-back duty. And he did his job well with another firm display. He recovered the ball a dozen times, despite playing in a different position. If he keeps delivering like this, he might as well be considered as a temporary solution till Tierney returns. Xhaka was able to influence the whole team despite being at the back. He was also seen shouting orders at Nicolas Pepe when the team shifted defensively. However, it was not all angry shouts as he was the first one to also reach and praise him after he scored the opener saying, “yes nice one!”.

When asked about his transition in position, he gave a reply that showed how dedicated he is. “If we win the Europa League like this, I don’t care which position I play! If I have to help the team there, I have to help. I’m the guy who will do everything for the team.”

Mikel Arteta hints at his favoured defensive Arsenal line-up:

Arsenal were ruthless when it came to attacking. They were untouchable with the brilliant passage of the ball. Their counter-attacks were also on point as they left their opponents searching for answers. The attack deserves all the praises, however, the thing that shouldn’t go unnoticed is the defensive work.

Arsenal scored 4 goals. True. But if we are to compare between these 2 teams statistically, it was Slavia Prague who were surprisingly dominant. They had over 60 percent possession and 7 shots taken. But their 0 shots on target is what Arsenal requires praise for. Their defence was solid and didn’t give opposition an opportunity to trouble the goalkeeper.

This was a completely different back 4 as compared to the one that played the 1st-leg. The 2 centre-back positions have seen a lot of changes. But it looks like Arteta has finally found the perfect pair. In a comparison made between the pairing of Gabriel Magalhaes-David Luiz and Rob Holding-Pablo Mari, it shows that the latter has better points per game average of 2.4 as compared to the former’s 1.7.

“You need somebody at the back to make those players better and to get those surroundings and the collective understanding the way it should be. The same happened with the backline. I think today we looked really solid. I don’t think we conceded a shot on target. That’s merit from a little bit of continuity as well and a little bit of help and understanding in these moments.” – Mikel Arteta told after the game.


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