On Thursday, Arsenal will face Slavia Prague in the Europa League quarter-final first leg in a game that is almost a must-win for the London club.
The Gunners have never won a major European trophy and have always flattered to deceive when it matters most. However, another false dawn would be devastating to their season.
Slavia Prague’s incredible unbeaten run
While Arsenal have endured a mixed campaign so far, their opponents are enjoying one of their best seasons in recent history.
Not only are Slavia Prague sitting at the top of the Czech Republican league, but they also hold a healthy 14-point lead over second-placed Sparta Prague.
What is even more impressive is their incredible unbeaten run. Slavia Prague haven’t tasted defeat in their last 21 matches in all competitions. It is a run that stretches to almost four months.
The last time they lost a game was on December 10 last year, when they were beaten 4-0 by Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League group stages.
It is fair to say Slavia Prague are in a rich vein of form, and this is what Arsenal are up against.
Arsenal’s struggles in focus
Slavia Prague’s form means they have momentum on their side ahead of their clash against Arsenal. Unfortunately, the Gunners are on the opposite path after a series of underwhelming results.
Mikel Arteta’s men have lost each of their last three games, with their latest defeat being a 3-0 drabbing at the hands of Liverpool. They are badly out of form, and mass player underperformance has become the order of the day.
Arteta admitted in his pre-match press conference (as quoted by Sky Sports):
"I think we have to respect every opinion and when there is criticism coming after that performance [against Liverpool] we have to take it on the chin because we fully deserve it."
"It's time to respond on the pitch and show what we can do. When we are at full gas we are a very good side. But the whole team and myself have to put in a better performance than we did against Liverpool.”
Indeed, Arsenal needed a response against Slavia Prague on Thursday, but their opponents are no pushovers. This is a side that has already eliminated Leicester City and Rangers from the Europa League and, on current form, will be going to the Emirates as favourites.