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Arsenal player ratings: 5 key performances assessed after emphatic Slavia Prague win

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The Gunners cruised through to the semi-finals to set up a reunion with former boss Unai Emery and Villarreal

Arsenal will meet former manager Unai Emery and his current side Villarreal in the Europa League semi-final after inflicting an emphatic 4-0 defeat on Slavia Prague.
The Gunners had the ball in the back of Slavia’s net four times in the opening 25 minutes, although the first of those efforts, converted by Emile Smith Rowe was disallowed for the tightest of offside calls.
A whirlwind of goals followed that near-miss, though, with goals from Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette and Bukayo Saka in the space of six minutes giving Arsenal an unassailable aggregate lead.

Further gloss was added to the scoreline 13 minutes from the end when Lacazette struck again, this time from open play, to cap a perfect night for Mikel Arteta‘s team.

Here is how Arteta’s key performers rated on the night.

Emile Smith Rowe

Had Emile Smith Rowe enjoyed this sort of breakthrough at any other point over the past decade, there would be a clamour for him to be England’s wildcard at a major tournament. As it is, he is up against Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Jack Grealish, Jesse Lingard, Jude Bellingham and others for a seat on the plane.
Smith Rowe is on track to receive senior international recognition before long if he continues his development, though, regardless of the intense competition. The 20-year-old was unfortunate to have a goal ruled out but set up Pepe’s opener with a rarely seen double-nutmeg

Rating: 8/10

Bukayo Saka

An immense performance from a player who is making an extremely strong case for a role in England’s squad for the European Championship. Saka was immense from the first minute.
Still only 19, Saka is already one of Arsenal’s most important and decisive performers. It was Saka who was brought down for the penalty which doubled Arsenal’s advantage and it was Saka who put the game beyond Slavia with a low strike that oozed confidence and composure in equal measure.
Muscular injuries have threatened to halt Saka’s irrepressible progress, but fortunately, Arsenal’s healthy lead on the night ensured that Arteta had the luxury of taking him off early and resting those legs ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Fulham.
Rating: 9/10

Alexandre Lacazette

Since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joined the club in January 2018, Lacazette has always been the Robin, rather than Batman, to Arsenal’s attack.

But for the first time during the pair’s time together, he is the main man. The Frenchman continued his rich vein of form by calmly stroking home his spot-kick to make it 2-0 on the night, before lashing in another in the second half. He now has seven goals in his last nine games in all competitions.
Important as the goals were, Lacazette’s leadership was even more so. It was his defiant taking of the knee in front of Slavia Prague’s players before kick-off that will go down as the defining image of this tie.
Rating: 8/10
Calum Chambers
Injury problems and loan spells away to Middlesbrough and Fulham – both of which culminated in relegation from the Premier League – have restricted Calum Chambers’ involvement at Arsenal.
But some seven years after signing in a big-money deal from Southampton, Chambers finally appears to have nailed down a starting spot in Arsenal’s first-team, as a marauding right back, no less.
Chambers provided an assist for Saka’s goal and offered an outlet on the flank throughout. He is deservingly ahead of Hector Bellerin in Arteta’s pecking order.
Ratings: 7/10
Nicolas Pepe
Perhaps it is because the standard isn’t quite as high as the Premier League or perhaps it is because the football isn’t quite so rough-and-tumble.
Either way, Nicolas Pepe seems to enjoy himself on Thursday nights. Pepe scored his fifth goal in the Europa League this season, matching his total in the Premier League in almost half as many minutes, with a composed finish from close range.
And then he set up Lacazette for the fourth with an accurate cut-back from the left. Pepe has played a significant role in Arsenal’s march to the semi-finals, now is the time for him to translate that form across to the Premier League.
Rating: 8/10
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