A last gasp equaliser from Tomas Holes at The Emirates Stadium leaves Arsenal’s tie with Slavia Prague on a knife-edge heading into the second leg of the UEFA Europa League next Thursday.
Second half substitute Nicolas Pepe had given Arsenal the lead eight minutes from time on a chilly night in north London with a classy finish, keeping his composure to dink the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper and into the opposite corner after being played through by fellow substitute Pierre Emerick Aubameyang.
However, a late Slavia Prague equaliser will have the Gunners ruing the multiple glorious chances to put the tie to bed that they missed, despite the team being sub-par for large portions of the affair.
"All or Nothing", Arsenal edition
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta described the tie against Slavia Prague as “all or nothing” ahead of the tie, but his side started the game slowly, looking disjointed in attack as the returning trio of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Willian all took time to get up to speed.
Arteta’s side got stronger as the half wore on, but Rob Holding’s header tipped over the bar by Slavia’s goalkeeper was the closest that they came to opening the scoring as a dull half ended scoreless.
Arsenal emerged from half-time more brightly, hitting the post within minutes of the restart through a Willian free-kick. However, they quickly reverted to form, offering misplaced passes and overhit crosses.
Despite the poor performances, the chances were still all falling Arsenal’s way, Alexandre Lacazette’s run from the halfway line ending in the Frenchman hitting the crossbar despite having just the goalkeeper to beat.
It was a story of sloppiness for the Gunners on the night however, against a Slavia Prague side that looked there for the taking.
It was not until a late triple substitution from Arteta that Arsenal spluttered into life, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang shooting wide from six yards out with virtually his first touch.
Gabriel Martinelli went close moments later, his rising shot from the edge of the box tipped over the bar by the goalkeeper. The deadlock was finally broken by a moment of quality from Nicolas Pepe, who will be hoping that this will kickstart his Arsenal career.
His, and Arsenal’s jubilation was cut short however as Tomas Holes bundled in a late equaliser from a Slavia Prague corner.
Qualification may now be an uphill struggle for Arteta’s side, with the feeling that the manager’s future itself could be riding on his progression in this competition.
On paper, and on tonight’s viewing, Arsenal have more than enough quality to beat Slavia Prague and see themselves into the semi-finals of the Europa League, but turn in another performance akin to that of tonight, and they could find themselves unceremoniously dumped out.