The Gunners had just fluffed their lines in the first leg of the quarter-final. As Mikel Arteta threw away his water bottle, Granit Xhaka could be heard screaming:
“Just clear the ball! Why not just clear the ball?!”
Arsenal were wasteful on the night, but their lack of concentration at the back after Nicolas Pepe had put them in front is what eventually cost them in the game.
The Ivory Coast international opened the scoring with only four minutes left, but the Gunners allowed Slavia Prague to get back in the game, with Tomas Holes netting the equaliser at the death for the visitors.
Mikel Arteta still doesn’t have a fixed starting XI
Arsenal have gone four games without a win, and their hopes of reaching the semi-finals of the Europa League now hangs in the balance.
The players usually get the blame when things go wrong, but Arteta has equally been culpable for the team’s slump in form. The Spaniard has rarely maintained the same starting line-up for consecutive matches.
Aside from Bernd Leno, the other ten on-field players have had to endure uncertainty in their positions. For instance, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s struggles are a result of Arteta’s constant tinkering of his starting XI.
The Gabonese striker returned to form briefly when he was playing as a No.9, scoring in games against Burnley and Benfica, only to be shifted out wide again. Arsenal’s back four has also rarely remained the same for successive matches.
It appears Arteta is yet to figure out his ideal starting XI despite lasting over a year on the job. This was again the case on Thursday against Slavia Prague.
Inconsistency in line-up selection not good for Arsenal
There is no doubt that Arsenal have lacked consistency in recent weeks, but how can anyone expect the team to be consistent when the manager keeps changing the line-up?
Arteta attempted to defend his team selection, but he ended up only exposing his own volitions. Should Arsenal get eliminated from the Europa League, there’ll be no excuse for the Spaniard’s failure.
The Arsenal boss said (as quoted by Arsenal.com):
“It was a big decision to leave some players out but we decided to play the team who had the best chance at the start of the game, and as well have some key players there to change the game when we need it.”
“I think when they came on they had a real impact, which was very necessary in this competition and they did what we expected them to do.”
Arteta has been given the benefit of the doubt despite Arsenal’s unimpressive performances. Now, though, he needs to start getting things right, and that must begin with making up his mind on a consistent starting line-up.