Arsenal face injury crisis ahead of Europa League quarter-final clash with Slavia Prague


Mikel Arteta could potentially be without five key first-team players when Arsenal welcome Slavia Prague to the Emirates in a season defining Europa League clash.

The Gunners hopes of qualifying for Europe next season through the league were all but dashed, when they were dismantled 3-0 at the hands of Liverpool on Saturday night, leaving them 10 points adrift from the top four. It was a display that has become all too familiar in recent times, as they not only failed to test the visitors frailties, but more worryingly looked unable to carry out the managers game-plan.

Going into the fixture, Arsenal already had Granit Xhaka, Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and David Luiz all sidelined, with it later revealed that the veteran defender could possibly miss the rest of the campaign following minor knee surgery.

Matters only got worse when their only natural left-back Kieran Tierney, whose paramount to Arteta’s system, was substituted on the stroke of half-time. The 23-year-old endured an excellent couple of weeks with Scotland during the international break, claiming three assists in his last game, however it looks likely that his fine form won’t continue at club level for the foreseeable future.

Speaking after the match, Arteta provided an update on the injury situation on Tierney and was unable to say if any players could return on Thursday:

“He felt something in his knee. He was in pain so it looks like he will be injured but we don’t know how long for. I don’t know. Today I cannot answer that because I don’t know.”

He was also visibly frustrated and quick to say sorry for his sides showing against the reigning champions:

“First of all, I apologise to our supporters for the display and the show that we saw today that I am very, very disappointed about,” he told Arsenal Media. “When you don’t do the basics right against a team like Liverpool, you don’t have any chance even to complete in the game, which is exactly what happened.”

With it unknown whether any of the quintet will be available for their most important game to date, the Spaniard needs to learn from his sides short comings swiftly, as there is no margin for error this time around.

Consistency has been the bane of Arsenal’s domestic campaign, which is shown by their form of winning just two out of the last five outings along with two draws and one loss, hence why they haven’t been able to climb up the table after starting the season so dismally.

In the Europa League, they have showed some signs of improvement in this aspect, winning all of their group games and making it to the quarter-finals for the third time in their last four attempts. Arsenal are also the top scorers in the tournament with 27 goals and will look to build on that in order to take a lead with them when they visit the Sinobo Stadium next week.

This now acts as their only route back into the Champions League for next year, which mounts the pressure on Arteta, due to the implications missing out on Europe’s most elite club competition for the fifth consecutive year could have.

Slavia Prague come into the tie having beaten Leicester City and high-flying Rangers in the previous two rounds, while also sitting top of the Czech First League, therefore they could sense this as an opportunity to capitalise on an underperforming Arsenal team.

Although, Jindrich Trpisovsky is facing a similar dilemma to the hosts, with a number of first-team players especially in defence set to miss out. They travel to North London with only one recognised centre-back, after Ondrej Kudela was banned for one game by UEFA following an investigation into his alleged racial abuse of Rangers midfielder, Glenn Kamara.

The incident massively overshadowed the brilliant performances they’ve shown on the pitch in recent times, as they are currently unbeaten in 25 league games and are 14 points clear at the summit, in what has been an incredible season for them. Not many predicted them to reach the latter stages of the Europa League either, but they continue to defy the critics, and will be confident they can make the next round.

With the pressure mounting on Arteta at Arsenal, will his side be able to find consistency when it truly matters in Europe, or will the relentless Czech’s prove to be too much and come out on top?



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