Arsenal blow Slavia Prague away to set up Unai Emery Europa League semi-finals reunion

Bukayo Saka of Arsenal (hidden) celebrates with teammates after scoring their team's third goal during the UEFA Europa League Quarter Final Second Leg match between Slavia Praha and Arsenal FC at Eden Arena on April 15, 2021 in Prague, Czech Republic. Sporting stadiums around Europe remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors.
Arsenal cruised into the semi-finals of the Europa League (Picture: Getty)

Arsenal thrashed Slavia Prague 4-0 on Thursday night to book their spot in the semi-finals of the Europa League, where they will meet former manager Unai Emery.

The Gunners had failed to beat the Czech outfit at home in the first leg, meaning they needed a positive result in Prague, but they were simply sublime in the first half an hour as they blew the opposition away to secure a 5-1 aggregate win.

Goals from Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette and Bukayo Saka all came in the first 25 minutes, putting the tie to bed before the half-time whistle was blown, before Lacazette added a fourth in the second half for good measure.

With Emery’s Villarreal seeing off Dinamo Zagreb 3-1 on aggregate, there will now be an intriguing reunion between Arsenal and their former boss.

Emery guided the club to the Europa League final but was dismissed midway through last season, with Mikel Arteta replacing him.

While Arteta guided his side to FA Cup and Community Shield wins, this season has been a major struggle and Europa League glory looks to be their last hope of playing European football next season.

Unai Emery, Manager of Villarreal CF reacts during the La Liga Santander match between Villarreal CF and C.A. Osasuna at Estadio de la Ceramica on April 11, 2021 in Villareal, Spain. Sporting stadiums around Spain remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors.
Emery will face his former side (Picture: Quality Sport Images/Getty)

A top-four spot in the Premier League is all but gone – ninth-placed Arsenal are 10 points behind fourth-placed West Ham with just seven games to go – and even Europa League qualification appears unlikely, with Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur Leicester and Everton among the teams above them in the table.

But if they get past Emery’s side in the semi-finals, they will get a shot at direct qualification for the Champions League in the Europa League final, which would be a remarkable achievement in an otherwise unremarkable campaign.

There were notable absentees from the squad, with captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – who announced he has contracted malaria – and Martin Odeegard among those left out, but it was the youngsters who once again led by example as the Gunners advanced to the final four.

Arsenal thought they were ahead after Emile Smith Rowe followed up a Bukayo Saka shot that was turned onto the post but the goal was disallowed for offside.

It did little to stop the Gunners in their tracks. Moments later, Nicolas Pepe latched on to a smart through ball from Smith Rowe, rounded the goalkeeper and put his side in front.

The excellent Saka was involved in Arsenal’s second. He was felled in the Slavia box and Alexandre Lacazette stepped up to double their lead.

Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal celebrates with teammates after scoring their team's second goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Europa League Quarter Final Second Leg match between Slavia Praha and Arsenal FC at Sinobo Stadium on April 15, 2021 in Prague, Czech Republic. Sporting stadiums around Europe remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors.
Arsenal were at their best (Picture: Getty)

Saka then grabbed a goal of his own. Cutting in from the right-hand side onto his left foot, he fired low into the bottom corner, with the goalkeeper watching helplessly on.

With the win all but confirmed by half-time, the second half was a less thrilling affair.

But Lacazette thumped home a fierce left-foot strike with 15 minutes to go to put a layer of gloss on the victory.

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