Arsenal’s hopes of sealing a comfortable passage to the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League were rocked last night, playing out a 1-1 draw with Slavia Prague in the first-leg of their quarter-final at the Emirates Stadium.
The former Lille winger used his pace and athleticism to get the better of the Slavia defence, get in behind and dink the ball over goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar.
Those inside the stadium and those watching on TV at home thought that was the game won; a crucial lead to take into next week’s second-leg.
Slavia, though, had different ideas as they equalised deep into stoppage time through defender Tomas Holes, who headed home at the back-post after connecting with a corner from the right-wing.
It was pure jubilation for the Slavia players, who raced away in delight to celebrate, whilst Arsenal’s players and manager Mikel Arteta were left to reflect on what might have been, meaning they must travel to Prague next week needing to score to stand any chance of progressing to the last-four to lock horns with either Dinamo Zagreb or Villarreal.
Although there may be a sense of frustration and disappointment within the Arsenal camp at this moment in time, the Gunners remain the favourites to get the better of Czech giants and reach the semi-finals.
That is because, according to analytics website FiveThirtyEight, Arsenal have a 46 per cent chance of winning the second leg, with Prague being backed with a 27 per cent opportunity. A draw, which could be enough to send the Gunners through, depending on the scoreline, is also backed at 27 per cent.
FiveThirtyEight come up with their percentages and probabilities by taking an array of statistics into account, including adjusted goals, shot-based expected goals and non-shot expected goals.
The three metrics are combined to help generate a team’s SPI [Soccer Power Index] rating and its chances of winning future matches.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s overall predictions for the remainder of this season’s Europa League, Arsenal have a 33 per cent probability of reaching the final whilst Slavia have a probability rating of just 13 per cent, despite Dinamo Zagreb or Villarreal waiting in the last-four.
The summer transfer window is just around the corner.
And the rumour mill is already starting to pick up speed.
Arsenal will not have a huge amount of money to spend, but Mikel Arteta will be hoping to make a number of moves, with loanee Martin Odegaard high up the list of priorities to bring in on a permanent deal.
But who would you sign? Get involved in our transfer window debate here.
Overall, Manchester United, who defeated Granada 2-0 in the first-leg of their respective quarter-final last night, are the favourites to go all the way and win the competition.
FiveThirtyEight insist United have a 99 per cent chance of reaching the semi-finals, a 65 per cent chance of making the final and a 41 per cent of winning the trophy.
Arsenal, meanwhile, have just a 14 per cent probability rating of winning the tournament.