The most important game of the season and there was a lack of urgency for 75 minutes. A team bruised by the mauling from Liverpool, too many returners (six), perhaps or fear of conceding an away goal?
The fates seemed against Arsenal – hitting the woodwork twice and the ball not running their way.
But mental fragility was to the fore. And shoot in the foot syndrome on display, letting in an equaliser with less than a minute of injury time left. That’s no clean sheet in 14 games.
There was some confusion in positioning – and like Liverpool, looked like some of the players didn’t follow Arteta’s instructions. To press or not to press – that was a question?
Tierney and Odergaard were out and were sorely missed; Aubameyang was on the bench; Smith Rowe, Saka, Willian and Bellerin returned.
For Slavia Prague, Zima was back with Holes a midfielder in defence.
A team that beat Rangers and Leicester and who have gone 20 games undefeated is not to be underestimated.
In the first fifteen, Arsenal played like a team with changed personnel and who had just been beaten. Slavia looked more confident, compact, and threatening.
Bah ran down the wing and the ball fell to Provod who fired just over the bar.
Arsenal’s first chance was on 24 when Saka curled in a free kick and Gabriel headed into the ground and wide.
Then it was fairly nip and tuck.
Willian lost the ball in the area and gave a hospital pass to Cedric. And Partey drove through and set up Lacazette who slashed it wide.
Holding set up Saka one on one with the keeper – but he sent it way wide. As said – he is not a natural finisher, more a chance creator.
Olayinka took a bouncing ball off Holding and shot – straight at Leno.
Cedric reached a byline ball and crossed for Holding who headed goalward – tipped over by the gladiator look-alike, Kolar.
After half-time Hromada was substituted for Sevcik.
Zima pulled down Saka, set away by Lacazette just outside the area. Willian curled a free kick on the outside of the post.
Boril was free in on goal on the left, fired at Leno – saved well.
Lacazette robbed Dorley on the half-way line and ran in on goal with just Kolar to beat but he opened up too wide and hit the junction of post and bar. Were the fates against Arsenal?
Saka sent it hard across the area but Lacazette got to it late.
The Frenchman sent it across the area, Saka sent it back to Partey who shot WIDE.
Arsenal were opened up when Cedric cleared a shot straight to Sevcik who shot wide.
On 76, Arteta gambled as Aubamayang, Pepe and Elneny came on for Saka, Partey and Lacazette.
Smith Rowe, Pepe and Aubameyang fashioned a chance but the Gabonese opened his foot up too far and it went wide.
Arsenal pressed. Aubameyang fought for it in the middle and set Pepe away in a foot race and he dinked it neatly to the side of Kolar and into the net, justifying some of his transfer fee at last.
But in injury time, Arsenal messed around with Gabriel, Cedric and Martinelli failing to clear on the right, leaving Provod to shoot hard and Leno to save off the post. Leno didn’t come from the resulting corner, the ball bounced off Pepe and Cedric wasn’t goal-side of Holes who headed it into the net.
Mikel Articutator indicated the problem was game management: “We had the game under control. We had some great chances. We played some balls we shouldn’t have. Their goal changes the mood.
“The subs made an impact. They are a good opponent and have beaten a lot of good teams. There were a lot of duels and man on man situations. If they win it, they are good in transition.”
Arsenal: 1Leno, 2Bellerín, 16Holding, 6Gabriel, 17Cédric Soares, 18Partey (Substituted for Elneny at 78’minutes), 34Xhaka, 7Saka (Substituted for Pépé at 78’minutes), 32Smith Rowe (Substituted for Ceballos at 88’minutes), 12Willian (Substituted for Martinelli at 73’minutes), 9Lacazette (Substituted for Aubameyang at 78’minutes)
Slavia Prague: 1Kolar, 5Bah, 3Holes, 6 Zima (Booked at 47mins), 18Boril, 7Stanciu (Substituted for Masopust at 84’minutes), 25Hromada (Substituted for Sevcik at 45’minutes), 17Provod, 19Dorley (Substituted for Lingr at 69’minutes), 12Sima (Substituted for Kuchta at 69’minutes), 9Oladeji Olayinka (Substituted for Traore at 85’minutes)